Thursday 15 December 2011

My Most Popular Video - Analysis

For some reason the video below has recently become my most popular video on YouTube by far. Over the last month it has been viewed 9,308 times.

Why, I'm not sure. It seems to be the haters that have latched on to it. I'm getting lots of abuse for not cycling in the cycle lane, for my reaction to the driver, and quite a few suggest that the pass wasn't close. So I thought I would explain the video in detail here. Hopefully some of my haters might even get to the bottom of this page! :-)

First lets look at the road and lane layout of the road on google map (see here).

It's a dual-carriage way with a 30mph limit on it. It has two wide lanes (approximately 3.5 metres wide each). There is an intermittent cycle lane that ends abruptly, a good distance before the lights. It's width varies along its length, but it is never wider than about 1 metre.  There are a number of junctions along the length, including the one that the aggressive driver turns into. This is a car park for some local shops.

A recent publication by Transport Scotland points out that the absolute minimum width of a cycle lane should be 1.5m and that the desired width should be 2m. This lane falls well short of even the minimum requirements. The following text from the Transport Scotland document makes interesting reading:

Sub-standard width or poorly located cycle lanes can provide a false sense of security for both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers and encourage poor lane discipline from both. In many cases, a narrow cycle lane can encourage close proximity overtaking by motor vehicles (Parkin, J and Meyers, C (2009)). Limited space alone is not a reason for providing sub-standard width cycle lanes. Alternative solutions should be sought at such locations.

So on this section of the road I choose not to use a cycle lane that falls well below the absolute minimum standards for a cycle lane. Which, as I have pointed out in a previous blog and is backed up by the Transport for Scotland (Cycling by Design), the lane encourages close passes.

Of course, staying out of the lane in this instance did not discourage this particular close pass. Why not? The problem here is that the lanes are quite wide. About 3.5 metres wide. In fact where the close pass took place, the width of the the left hand lane, excluding the cycle lane is about 3.1m.

In this video I was probably cycling about 20cm outside the edge of the lane. When on my bike I am probably about 60cm wide. So within the lane that leaves 2.4 metres of lane to my right. When the close pass occurs the car remains just within the left hand lane (there is a car in the outside lane).  Looking it up on the internet a Honda Civic is about 1.7m wide. That leaves 60cm between me and the Honda Civic. It is generally accepted that the minimum distance you should give a cyclist when passing is about 1 metre. That is of course a minimum.

Of course, how close a pass that is acceptable depends to some extent on the speed of the passing vehicle, which in this instance was undertaking the vehicle in the right hand lane. Using google maps and relating that to where where the car passed me, and noting the time it took to get to the end of the cycle lane (4 seconds approximately over a distance of 76m) the car was travelling at approximately 43mph. Remember this is a 30mph section of road. Also note it is probably a little less than 4 seconds, so I have probably underestimated his speed.

So, lets recap so far. I was out of the lane as it was poorly designed and below minimum standards, he passed me well below the minimal acceptable distance for a car to pass, and he did so, whilst undertaking another car and travelling in excess of the speed limit (remember that's a limit not a target).

So what could he have done to prevent it? He could have slowed down and waited to pass when it was safe to do so at a safe distance and within the speed limit. It's a big ask, I know, but for anyone with reasonable car handling skills it should be pretty easy to do. So he is wanting to turn into the shops. Perhaps his safest option would be to wait behind me for the distance. Now that will be totally unacceptable to some! Lets look at how long he would have been delayed.

He reaches the back of the queue at about 41 seconds. I reach him at 46 seconds. Now lets assume he is a good driver and he left a 2 second gap behind me, so he would have been delayed by 7 seconds. He would have reached the queue at 48 seconds in the video. the car in front doesn't start moving until 50 seconds into the video.

So had he waited behind me he would have been delayed for the grand total of...........

Diddly squat. Zero. Nill. None. Nada seconds.

What could I have done to prevent it. According to the 'collected wisdom of YouTube' (is there such a thing?!?) I should be in the lane. Would that really prevent a close pass? Or, would the driver just pull out less and leave me the same amount of room, or possibly even less? I think this is likely here.

Do I have any other options?

Yes I do, but I suspect that the haters would not like it. Cycle further out into the lane. Cycling further out would 'close the door' and would leave no gap for a pass. By cycling 90cm or more from the edge of the cycle lane, there would be no space for his car to fit. The driver would either have to wait behind (in blind rage no doubt) and look for a safe gap to overtake (in the outside lane that the council have provided for the purpose) or run me over.

Would he run me over? I very much doubt that. For all the bravado and testosterone that is on display in the comments section of the video which would suggest that 50% of drivers would run cyclists over in this situation, I have yet be be run over.

So thanks guys for making me revisit this video. Having taken the time to look at it in detail and take into account your comments, I now know what to do to prevent this type of driving again.

Cycle further out in the lane.


  1. Excellent summary! At the end of the day defensive cycling can only try and mitigate close passes, I suspect even if you had taken the lane and ridden slap bang in the middle the driver probably wouldn't have used the second lane to pass.

  2. It's the classic "punishment pass" with a driver using his car to make a futile point! :(

    But if somebody had said "Yer fanny!" I don't think I could have kept a straight face ;)

  3. That was clearly reckless driving. There was justifiable reason to endanger another person like that, even if you had been in the wrong place (and there is no evidence of that), it is not a justification for reckless endangering another persons life. That sort of person should not be allowed to hold a driving licence.

  4. Drivers do seem to want to make a point when it comes to passing many riders. I've seen recent studies however where a road cyclist that looks professional (clothing etc) is likely to be passed much closer than a leisure cyclist who has less of an aura of controll about them. Maybe its time for us all to dress like newbies and ride an older mtb!

    There will always be motorists like this. All we can do is get a good Uber Cool Bike Helmets - The Best Cycling Helmet lots of bright clothes, lights and get on with our commute. A BC membership is also a recommendation for legal cover

  5. I just can't be arsed with all the hate that I get on youtube sometimes. I block the users that give it to me, delete their comments and if a particular video is getting lots of it, then i'll making comments approval only.

  6. I really don't see too much wrong with this driver, past his speed, which isn't particularly unusual compared to many other cars anyway.

    He is all the way to the right of the left-hand lane, which if you were on the very edge of the bike lane markings, would give you plenty of room on both sides, and you are far more aggressive to him than he is to you.

    You shout at him, you shout plenty of expletives, are accusative, gesticulate… all he does is call you a fanny and tell you to use the bike lane. It's a bit of a no contest on the "aggressive response" stakes.

    You can't give cars the full width and a bit more of a car where there is a bike lane and expect them not to pass you. Either stick inside and give them more room, or hog the whole lane so they can't pass.

    There are always a couple of drivers that annoy me when I'm on my bike, but I choose not to make things worse by swearing, gesticulating and accusing. It only makes it worse. And what do you gain? Next time they see a cyclist like me, they'll remember you and drive closer to me to "prove a point".

  7. I'm wondering what real benefit you get out of making videos and posting on the internet to get as you said yourself insults to death threats?

    Before all the defensive bangwagon happens this is only to Tom himself to answer.

    Also i dont really understand the reason for then questions and somewhat winding people up afterwards. I mean 99.9% of drivers are hardly going to say sorry to you are they? Your smart enough to know that by now it seems all it is doing is winding them up more?

    I seem this as a somewhat pointless quest to wind people up and post on youtube and a blog, would you not rather be doing something else like pounding a nice woman or in your case ripping the head off it to the new bikes in dales cycles?

  8. Interesting topic :-)
    I think you're exaggerating the driver's intentions though tbh, and what he did wasn't anything out of the ordinary in my experience. As has been said previously you're best bet in many cases is to completely 'take the lane', otherwise you'll end up just forcing drivers to pass you without leaving a safe gap.
    If I was as angry as you appeared to be in the video, my fist would have connected with his jaw when I pulled up along side him, so to a degree I think you were playing to the camera a wee bit by screaming and shouting.

    Has your behaviour altered, for better or worse, since using a helmet cam, I wonder?

    It's a difficult balance to get right, for sure. Riding in such a way that forces drivers to give you adequate space, but without making them try and squeeze past in a frustrated rage when you've slowed their journey down by a few seconds :-/

  9. Seen a few of your videos. I ride my bycicle mostly but also a motorbike and car. It seems you have quite the aggression problem yourself. Time and time again you carry on - yes someone may have done something a bit stupid but thats what it is like on the roads nowadays no matter how you commute.. You'll have alot more fun if you stop escalating the problem all the time and ignore bad drivers / riders. for every 1 you tell off theres another 40 in the same suburb.

  10. Its not your cycling that winds folk up but your whining and greety "im reporting this to the police" patter. Be a man about it and offer him out of the car.

  11. Noelinho is, I'm afraid, spot on.

    There were alternative steps you could have taken to avoid this conflict but didn't.

    'Boycotting' the cycle lane (which would have given you and the driver of the Honda an extra metre's width) purely because it doesn't meet with Transport Scotland's minimum guidelines was ill-advised and put you in unnecessary extra danger.

    If you're on such a road and can tell a driver is itching to overtake, I'm going to suggest the Honda was certainly not adhering to the two second rule given his impatient overtaking manoeuvre, then give yourself as much room as possible. This may or may not include using a cycle lane that is less than ideal.

    In terms of calling the driver aggressive, a certain proverb regarding 'glass houses' and 'stones' springs to mind. You're a PR nightmare for cyclists in many of your videos. You are aggressive, confrontational, abusive and discourteous on far too many occasions. In some, you're the architect of your own downfall. In the 'Agressive (sic) Dangerous Driving - Repeat offender (SG07ZPK)' contribution, your cycling was nothing short of dangerously incompetent. To 'name and shame' the driver as being at fault is laughable and rather highlights your unshakeable belief in your infallibility.

    Please stop posting videos, the cause of making roads safer for cyclists is a noble one and should be backed by every road user. It certainly deserves a better 'frontman; than yourself.