enforcement of highway code rule 163

can anyone explain why the police don't enforce highway code rule 163 which states that all road users should be given the same space as a car when you are overtaking them?

It seems a little unnecessary to me, i don't feel i need that much space. but... if it was routinely enforced then there would be no need for a huge amount of the infrastructure we campaign for to make cycling safer, as we would effectively have a 1.5-2m dedicated safe area just by virtue of our being on the road.  Ironically, this actually gives us more space than a lot of cycle paths.

It's not something drivers take seriously now, and argue the toss even though most cyclists only complain when they pass at about .5m.  surely with a bit of enforcement our lot could be vastly improved.  it feels like a really easy win, and something which is obfuscated by the continual call for changes in road planning. At the moment, motorists get away with thousands of admittedly minor infringements which taken together make the roads perilous and occasionally terrifying for vulnerable road users.  And still, the prominent discourse around cycle safety and law enforcement (and adherence) is the rather stale RLJ debate, not the fact that the vast majority of drivers routinely break the law and it seems to be tolerated.

we have some of the rules to make us safer already (speed limits, rule 163, advanced stop boxes, ban on mobile phones while driving,) what's the point in arguing for expensive infrastructure when all that really needs to happen is for the police to bother to enforce these?  Currently they seem either unwilling or unable to actually do their job in this respect.

I am turning into a bore.  I recently boringly sent a video of motorists failing to indicate left turning out of a junction onto Denmark hill to our safer neighborhood team.  they didn't respond. i sent another. they didn't respond.  similarly, i gently complained about a police sergeant who misquoted rule 163 to me, suggesting that he read his highway code.  Again, this wasnt taken seriously in the slightest.  When i pulled up  next to a motorcycle straddling police officer at a red light, i asked why he wasn't doing anything about the guy in the black Mercedes he we had both witnessed crossing into a ASB at red (which counts as a red light offense, that's points).  The police officer thought i was talking about the kids smoking weed a few meters back and was taken aback when he realized i cared about the RLJ motorist (the guy who i felt post more threat to me.)

I do wonder whether more mass pressure instead of my slightly ridiculous green pen writing tactics might actually get them to do their jobs, instead of messing about setting up 4 man RLJ sting teams for cyclists, or those bizarre 20 man bus fare evader teams they occasionally station at elephant and castle round about (presumably a mix of transport police, real coppers and PCSOs.)

I would be very interested to hear what other people think about this.  I'd also like to know whether there is appetite to try and get the police more willing to adopt more rigorous enforcement

Replies

"can anyone explain why the police don't enforce highway code rule 163":

  • Lack of political will
  • Cut backs in the number of police officers
  • The difficulty of defining how close is too close
  • The difficulty in the definition of 'plenty of room' (rule 212)
  • The difficulty of stopping drivers who are considered to be breaking rule 163 if the officer is on a bicycle.
  • Getting officers on bicycles
  • The likelihood of drivers breaking rule 163 in the case of passing an officer of the law.

 

https://www.gov.uk/using-the-road-159-to-203/overtaking-162-to-169

  • By Luke at 12:00pm 21 December 2012

I know anecdote is no way to prove a trend but here is mine; I stopped at a traffic light recently (in Hammersmith) next to a Police Officer on a bike. There was an ASL at this traffic light. A bus pulled up right next to me in the ASL. I turned to the officer and asked him if he would have a word with the driver telling him that he should not be in an ASL. The Police Officer shrugged his shoulders (I kid you not) and said 'what's the point, he'll only do it again'

I wish I had taken hi number and reported him. Would it have mattered if I had?

The police round our way don't even use lights on their bikes when patrolling. They'd look rather hypocritical if they started picking drivers up for driving "too close".

 

 

Because the give plenty of space section of 163 is only an advisory ("you should") rule; not a compulsory ("you must") rule (the compulsory section of 163 is a slightly ridiculous taughtology - overtake only when legal...).

So rule 163 can only be enforced if an overtake is not legal (rule 165) or when it would could be considered dangerous/careless/etc. driving (so far as a court is concerned, I have no idea what legal tests they apply to determine this).

Now I would love it if minimum overtaking space was enshrined in law. But it's not - that's neccessary before it can be enforced effectively (although I don't doubt that the police would have little will to enforce it even if it was law...).

It may be helpful to remember a bit of background about the highway code - it's not all explicity law, breaking the advisory rules is only illegal if it could be considered to meet some other offence (e.g. dangerous driving):

"Many of the rules in The Highway Code are legal requirements, and if you disobey these rules you are committing a criminal offence. You may be fined, given penalty points on your licence or be disqualified from driving. In the most serious cases you may be sent to prison. Such rules are identified by the use of the words ‘MUST/MUST NOT’. In addition, the rule includes an abbreviated reference to the legislation which creates the offence. See an explanation of the abbreviations.

Although failure to comply with the other rules of The Highway Code will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, The Highway Code may be used in evidence in any court proceedings under the Traffic Acts (see The road user and the law) to establish liability. This includes rules which use advisory wording such as ‘should/should not’ or ‘do/do not’." 

Also, if "local transport authorities, transport planners and local authorities" followed the recommendations of the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence that they SHOULD "ensure pedestrians, cyclists and users of other modes of transport that involve physical activity are given the highest priority when developing or maintaining streets and roads." there would also be no need for any cycle campaigning.

But unfortunately people don't seem to follow rules or recommendations unless:

1) they fundamentally understand and agree with the recommendation (e.g. if they feel a sense of duty and trust the source, or if they can envisage personal gain from following the recommendations, or if they have experienced or can imagine adverse consequences of not following the recommendations).

OR

2) they are financially rewarded for doing so (or punished for not doing so).

 

  • By Gardda at 1:31pm 28 December 2012

"which taken together make the roads perilous and occasionally terrifying for vulnerable road users."

 

Answer? Don't use the roads. If you are really slow and vulnerable use the pavements. I should think that is going Dutch cycling too. It is certainly French.

Cyclists be extra polite to pedestrians when using the side walk, due to road vulnerability.

It's also illegal (unless you are under 5 years old, or so)  and, if you do so, you fully deserve the penalty charge notice I hope a nearby police officer will hand to you.

  • By Ben at 8:17am 11 January 2013

It would be great if it could be enforced, but remember that it would also apply to cyclists filtering through traffic. Enforcement of a 1.5 to 2 metres gap for all overtaking would pretty much stop all filtering through traffic by cyclists. Is that what you want?

  • By paul at 1:15pm 11 January 2013

There is a big difference between a small vulnerable road user passing a stationery large one and a large vehicle passing a moving small vulnerable one. People walk alongside a train which has stopped but keep well back when one goes straight through a station.

@Ben: It would be relatively easy to word any legislation in such a way that that becomes a non issue.

e.g. "When passing bicycles no motor vehicle should pass within 2 meters of the cyclist."

That would only apply to motor vehicles passing cyclists, not cyclists passing motor vehicles.

@Paul & @N1 Cyclist... Totally agree.

It's like a car being driving close to the kerb (even at a slow pace); if you’re on foot near the edge of the kerb, you step back/move away. But if the car is parked, you wouldn't think twice about walking past it in close proximity. If the car is standing still, you will not go under it, if it is moving; there is a greater chance regardless of its speed.

Law 163 states "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you  would when overtaking a car".  When I overtake a car the gap between my car and another car is about the span of an opening door.  Say, two feet (.6m).

 

So the law says I should leave 2 feet.  Everyone is reading this law as "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders a car sized gap."

If it meant that it would say so!

 

Incidentally, one moron on here says why not cycle on the "side walk".  Please note the second word "walk", signifying that it is used for "walking".  In Britain it is a criminal offence to endanger pedestrians by cycling on the pavement.  Rightly so!

 

smartdave... Technicalities aside, why does the DfT accompany this rule on the website showing a car leaving ample room while overtaking the cyclist (i.e. a lot more than 2 feet)? The truth is, you are clearly not leaving enough room regardless of what vehicle you are overtaking. May I suggest you read the rest of the highway code! Or maybe I should introduce you to my friend whose 13 year old daughter who was crushed by a driver not leaving enough room. Try to tell her that 2 feet is enough!

This post was edited by MrCommuter at 9:15pm 7 October 2013.

Smartdave -

"Law 163 states "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you  would when overtaking a car".  When I overtake a car the gap between my car and another car is about the span of an opening door.  Say, two feet (.6m). So the law says I should leave 2 feet.  Everyone is reading this law as "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders a car sized gap."

May I suggest you stand 2 feet away from my car door while I open it into you? I agree that the wording is somewhat confusing, but the pictorial assistance given in the highway code clearly shows that cars overtaking cyclists should cross the white lane line. 

"Incidentally, one moron on here says why not cycle on the "side walk".  Please note the second word "walk", signifying that it is used for "walking".  In Britain it is a criminal offence to endanger pedestrians by cycling on the pavement.  Rightly so!"

It is indeed an offence to endanger pedestrians. However, that does not mean it is a criminal offence to cycle on a pavement. If doing so was dangerous, why are there 'cycle lanes' on pavements, and shared use pavements?

Hm, the phrase 'criminal offence' is an oxymoron, which is the only suitable combination for the letters 'm' 'o' 'r' 'o' and 'n' on these forums.

I cycle on the pavement, it's outrageous and illegal (unless the appropriate bits of paper have been issued by the appropriate highways dept so I 'share' it) and I wish I didn't have to do it.  I have also started the practise relatively late in my cycling life now that I feel more vunerable in limb.  As e.g., when Victoria Park is shut down at dusk in the winter months and I am faced with being a moving sleeping policeman along Old Ford Rd.  It's not a job I can be arsed with anymore so I cycle carefully westbound along the pavement of eastbound Sewardstone Rd.

Hopefully those of us in LBTH will gather sufficient momentum to do something from HC and borough transport planners tackling the same one-way problem on the north, and Hackney, side of the park.

Interestingly LB Tower Hamlets have a 'green grid' policy for using it's 'green spaces and parks' to develop cycling 'connectedness'.  A word that suffers from an i/d crisis and can't commit to 'route'.  However another section of the council has recently achieved standardising all park closures at dusk. Why bother with your R hand when you have no idea what your L hand is doing?

I meant to add that up to about ten years of age chidren can not judge the speed of a vehicle and should therefore in many circs preferably be on the pavement.  (And many people and therefore drivers are child unaware.)  Cycling on the pavement is illegal full stop.  Different police forces have different cut off ages for prosecution. 

  • By paul at 7:31pm 12 October 2013

Smartdave - the rule says "room" not "clearance" and the illustration shows that this is overall space. If you give a 2m car 0.6m clearance then that is  at least 2.6m of room; hence the need to change lanes. It comes as a shock in Germany to find drivers actually do that.

Paul, thats correct you need to give a cyclist as much room as a car which is misleading at best. Which is why people tend to argue that they give a cyclist as much room when in fact they're giving them far less room.

Personally when ovrtaking a cyclist in moving traffics I tend to straddle the middle line.

This aslo means that if you follow this rule it is impossible to overtake a cyclist at a pinch point, as pinch points are normally less that 2 cards width.

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