Recently, a driver buzzed by me, leaving just a couple of inches between my handlebars and his car. It was very scary.

In general, how can I prevent cars from passing me too closely?

Please cite sources.

  • 3
    Boudica spikes?
    – alex
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 1:44
  • just memorise the number plate and report it to the police :p If it happens in a major crossroad signal with CCTV cameras, the police generally gives him a caution or worst, a fixed penalty ticket for driving without due care and attention. What did you do? did you not stay away of the traffic's way when you cycled? Please provide more details to what you were doing before that? I know sometimes people are "Jerks", and seems like that has happened with you.
    – ha9u63a7
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 6:29
  • I think the context how this happened is irrelevant, since the question is "In general, how can I stop cars from passing me too closely?"
    – Uooo
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 7:00
  • It is relevant as he needs to know what TO DO and NOT TO DO in the future.
    – ha9u63a7
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 7:30
  • Dear close voter: Why do you feel that this question is "bad subjective" instead of "good subjective"? Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 19:35

6 Answers 6

  • Use proper positioning. This is most important. Unless the outermost lane is as wide as two SUVs, ride in its center. When it's safe, reasonable and necessary to let drivers pass, kindly move over; but always leave at least 18 inches (0.5 m) between you and the curb. The driver behind you may have to wait a minute or two, but they'll survive. If they've waited a few minutes, be nice and pull over. (Adapted mainly from Wikipedia citing Cyclecraft.) Paradoxically, correct positioning will stop most drivers from buzzing you. Correct positioning can be scary, but does get easier.

  • On rare occasions, drivers may still buzz you. To prevent this:

    • Use a safety flag. A spring-mounted one: e.g. a Flash Flag. (Source.) It must be spring-mounted, so that it can bend easily if hit. (If you can't afford a flag: Maybe you could use a dollar-store pool noodle plus a washable marker pen. See here.)

    • Or use a doll. Put a baby-sized doll in a trailer or rear-mounted carrier.

  • About attempted murder: If a driver ever intentionally endangers your life, note down the license plate number, location, time, and date. If you value your safety, don't touch the driver's car. Contact a cop: preferably immediately; but better later than never.

This post is marked as community wiki. Please add to it.

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    @hagubear: What prevents the driver overtaking him politely if he is riding in the lane centre? Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 11:24
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    First, and most important, by "claiming the lane" you are not blocking traffic. You are merely slowing it down. Also, the OP asked about preventing dangerous overtaking. Riding in the middle of the lane is one of the ways to do this: if there's no space to safely overtake, by claiming the lane you are making the drivers behind aware of that. Of course, when you see that they can safely overtake, you move to the right to allow them to. Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 12:36
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    @jimirings: Can you quote one law, from anywhere, which you believe makes it illegal? When you read legal statements such as "slow-moving vehicles must stay as far right as practicable", keep in mind that "practicable" doesn't mean what you think it means. :) Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 17:04
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    @jimirings: Your state's bike laws aren't as clear as they could be. Still, RSMo 307.190 lists "when the lane is too narrow to share" as one of the exceptions to the rule. The consensus is that any lane narrower than two SUVs is "too narrow to share". See also this MoBikeFed article. Are you convinced yet? Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 18:43
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    @jimirings: Wikipedia cites the AASHTO, which is national. If you are indeed brought before a judge, then citing case law from other states can indeed help convince a judge that 13 feet is too narrow. But the risk of being brought before a judge is extremely remote. In my province, I've been practicing vehicular cycling for years, and I've heard of anyone being brought before a judge for it. As for you: Have you ever heard of anyone being brought before a judge for center-of-lane riding in your state? Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 19:31

Cars overtaking too closely is often down to the width of the road (ref):

For a cyclist to be safely overtaken, the width required depends upon the width of the overtaking vehicle but in general a lane width of 4m is needed. For widths of between 3 and 4m the cyclist will be 'squeezed'. Road widths less than 3m ensure the overtaking vehicle must wait behind the cyclist.

There's a more detailed discussion of road width and overtaking on humantransport.org. The diagram below shows distances in feet:

enter image description here

If you can choose a route with wide roads then you're unlikely to be overtaken in a dangerous manner. Roads with (at least) 2 lanes each way usually work well if the lanes are narrow enough that cars have to change lane to overtake you.

On narrower roads you can discourage dangerous overtaking by positioning yourself correctly (see this question on Claiming The Lane). If you position yourself at least 0.5m from the edge of the road you will have a little bit of room to manoeuvre if you are overtaken dangerously.


You can wobble strategically, or ride without a helmet and dress so as to appear as a woman from behind.

Sources: Linked above, as you can see. The summary from the British study, from the source.

  • 1
    +0: riding helmetless is too risky. But wobbling strategically could be helpful. Thank you for the links. Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 19:38
  • 1
    They sell high-vis tabards in the UK that say POLITE on the back. At first glance this looks like POLICE. Tends to put people off being especially dickish. :)
    – GordonM
    Commented Jun 24, 2013 at 22:53

You won't be able to stop this completely. There will be always car drivers how try to pass you, no matter what. However, there are things you can do about this.

Most car drivers usually let enough space between you and the car, if possible. So they will likely pass you closer when:

  • The road is narrow
  • There is oncoming traffic

Now, you have a few strategies to encounter this situations:

  1. Riding more in the middle of the your lane so the car behind you can't pass you unless there is more space or no oncoming traffic
  2. Riding very right (when right-side traffic, otherwise left) so cars can pass you without problems
  3. Stop and let the car pass

Personally, I prefer option 1 in the cities, because cars will have enough time to see you and slow down. You still have enough space to ride to the side in risky situations to increase the space between you and the car.

2 is more risky in cities because it kind of invites cars to pass you close. I usually to this on broad highways, because there most cars newer slow down to wait to pass you (at least in my experience).

I do option 3 on narrow roads with oncoming traffic. These are usually side roads with few traffic anyway. I don't like to stop, but in the end I will get hurt if a car hits me.

  • I would not ride in the middle of the street, unless it is a one way narrow road - then the driver will not have any choice. +1 for no. 2 and 3.. Although I am from the UK, no. 2 is what we do by staying at the leftmost area. Yes it is true that no. 2 is risky but depends which cities or even countries you do it. Riding in Europe using no. 2 is what people do anyway. Don't know about North America. No. 3 is also well-prescribed using the oncoming traffic example.
    – ha9u63a7
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 7:24
  • @hagubear sorry, I meant more in the middle of your lane, not of the whole street. I corrected that ;-)
    – Uooo
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 7:41
  • Cool...that is something that I would do happily....and make sure I report anybody who try to run me over :p
    – ha9u63a7
    Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 8:48
  • Thank you for your answer. What are "broad highways"? Are they residential roads? Arterial roads? Freeways? What's the speed limit? Are you suggesting riding on the paved shoulder? Cheers! Commented Jun 13, 2013 at 18:14
  • @unforgettableid I mean streets like this one, where cars can drive in both directions. Speed limit is in my country up to 100km/h (62 mp/h). If there are sidewalks with noone walking on it, i prefer riding on it (don't want to annoy anyone). However they seem rare to me...
    – Uooo
    Commented Jun 14, 2013 at 4:29

When I ride, I usually wear a little rearview mirror attachment on my glasses that allow me to see traffic behind me. If I see a vehicle approaching and I don't get the sense that they see me, I'll actually crane my head around so it's very obvious that I've spotted them. Most drivers will notice you if you do that.

(obviously not to take away from the very thorough and technical answer by @unforgettableld - just a trick a friend taught me).


If the car road section you need to use is short, take the full lane.

I understand this should not be done on a longer section, but it still seems the safest way to pass the small roundabouts and other similar places where your bicycle lane may temporarily converge with the car lane.

I always look back to check if there is no car too close/too fast/looking too determined that may not give a lane and show a wide arc with the hand over the side of the road I will use in its full width. Recently, the entry mouths containing both a car lane and a bicycle lane have been narrowed in some roundabouts so as not to create the wrong impression that two lanes continue in parallel inside the roundabout as well.

The roundabouts I talk about limit the speed of the car to 35 km/h or about just by their curvature, so there is no significant loss for them anyway.

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