Motorists give cyclists with childseats wider berth, finds study

A study into road safety behaviours surrounding the overtaking tendencies of motorists has concluded that a wider berth is given to cyclists seen to be carrying a child.

Dubbed The impact of a child bike seat and trailer on the objective overtaking behaviour of motorized vehicles passing cyclists the research sought to understand what effect on passing motorist the carriage of a child had on passing distance.

Compiling data from 19 cycling journeys on a single road with variables including time of day, type of child seat or trailer, infrastructure provision and traffic density, the findings were very clear, with a mean lateral clearance over ten centimetres larger where a child was present. The mean lateral overtake distance with a child was 128.8cm, versus 117.3cm without.

Where a child seat was not present dangerous manoeuvres – those measured at sub 100cm – drastically increased, in particular during morning rush hour. It was shown that 35.3% of passes during this time were too close without a child present, while with child in a bike seat that fell to a still dangerous 21.8%, which was also measured where a child trailer was present.

In its conclusions the researchers tallied 25.3% of overtakes came in at below a metre, which is widely considered to be a minimum requirement for a safe overtake. This somewhat accounts for sudden movements from the cyclist should a pothole or piece of debris require dodging. It was therefore recommended that police take steps to monitor safe passing distances as part of their patrols, educating motorists of the distancing requirements where necessary.

The study was carried out with input from Bas de Gues, Romain Meeusen, Ian Walker, Toon Ampe and others.

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