I can't help but be baffled by the commonly held belief among folk in the UK that close overtakes from motorists, on cyclists, are 'careless', or due to 'not having to move out and taking the straight line'.
In my opinion this is complete nonsense.
I mean, lets look at some of them. Here's the first UK one I find by searching youtube, from userkmcyc.
That wasn't careless. It was an exquisitely judged act of aggression. You can't be showing no care or careless judgement if you're passing within a hairs breadth of a cyclist on the road - to do so requires much more attention than passing with a safe margin of error. This wasn't careless, it was an intentional close overtake. The motorist knew he would be passing the cyclist very close, and either intended to do so to frighten the cyclist or didn't care sufficiently that this would be the inevitable result - we can't even for an instant accept that any adult on the road would not understand that such is terrifying.
Lets pick the next one from a different user. This is a chap with the rather fetching youtube handle of
Again, is that careless? No of course it isn't - the motorist, in this instance one in charge of a dirty great big HGV, has accurately picked the location of the cyclist in the carriageway to within a few inches and chosen to drive something with a massive side wind, in wet conditions, so close to the cyclist that he feels compelled to stop. He's scared the crap out of the poor chap. Unless he's got absolutely no capacity to empathise with other human beings he knows that will be the impact of what he's doing.
This is the same pattern we see again and again with these incidents. The motorist maybe doesn't want to pull out further so consciously chooses to pass close to the cyclist to avoid being in to the other lane... The motorist maybe wants to teach the cyclist a lesson for being 'too far out'.... Possibly he's bored and doing it for his own entertainment. In effect it doesn't matter why the motorist has chosen to overtake like this (here an example from roadieeeee which also hilights how naff bike infrastructure can make this problem worse rather than better).
On every single example I see, the motorist has chosen to overtake closely. They're not forced to do so - the world doesn't end if they hold back a short while, he has consciously chosen to make the aggressive choice of overtaking within a couple of feet or even a few inches of the cyclist. Far closer than is reasonable - and as human beings they are fully aware of how terrifying this is. What do people tell you when you ask why they don't ride? Its not safe. Why isn't it safe? Motorists pass too close - this is perhaps the single greatest problem we have in getting greater uptake of cycling on our roads, intentional close overtaking of cyclists.
Lets be clear - the claim that this is careless or due to poor observation is not credible. They're carelessly but accurately judging nearly killing us? Pull the other one.
Lets get a bit of sense into this discussion - close overtakes are on purpose. Whatever the desire behind that intent may be, the act itself doesn't just happen because they're not paying close enough attention. This is, on every occasion, on every road, intentionally risking the lives of cyclists. Hey, Police, do not accept any excuse for this. Of any sort. Ever.