New ‘cyclist ‘safe zone’ does not represent a ‘real change’

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Following a high-profile Government announcement that motorists who pass within 1.5 metres of cyclists will be fined, a road traffic legal expert has claimed that there will be no real change in practical terms.

Palmers Solicitors partner and specialist road traffic solicitor, Jeremy Sirrell explained: “Despite the fanfare of the Government’s announcement, nothing has really changed.

“The police will still rely on enforcing section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 – Careless Driving – an offence that has been in existence in its current form for the last 30 years.

“Indeed, the police already punish offences of Careless Driving when they see it and may do so either by requiring the driver to go on a driver awareness course, offer the driver a fixed penalty of three points and a £100 fine, or they may take them to court and prosecute.

“The change here is simply that the police will be encouraged to use these powers when motorists pass cyclists, leaving less than 1.5 metres clearance. The 1.5-metre limit does not itself appear in legislation.”

Jeremy continued: “It is wholly appropriate that motorists who intimidate cyclists by failing to give them enough space should be punished. However, to impose a minimum distance regardless of circumstances might be regarded by many motorists as draconian and inflexible.

“It is all very well setting an ideal but an ideal is not necessarily always pragmatically achievable on Britain’s crowded roads. Cyclists should, of course, be given proper room, as should all road users.”

Jeremy advised that anyone who is stopped by the police as a result of the new initiative should listen carefully to what is put to them and then make a judgement as to whether they have passed too close.

He added: “Just because a motorist has driven within the magic 1.5 metres does not automatically make them guilty of any offence but rather it depends upon the particular circumstances at the time. Anyone in doubt should seek professional legal assistance.”

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