Yesterday, as Luci and I were riding near the University toward her preschool a driver passed us.

The driver swung wide giving us about 10 feet, but also sped up going much faster than the speed limit.

When the driver sped past, something I had been mulling over clicked. I prefer a driver who goes slow with reasonable space over a driver who speeds, but gives me a lot of room.

Clearly it doesn’t matter how fast a driver is going if they pass too closely, say less than three feet, but I’d rather they give me three feet passing at 25 miles per hour than five feet going 40 miles per hour.

The challenge is that many roads get wider and wider, which tends to encourage drivers to go faster, but they often provide more room for cyclists.

Narrow streets tend to slow drivers down, but have less dedicated space for cyclists.

Obviously I’d like slow drivers and lots of room, but if I had to pick, I’d like to slow driver down.

What about you?

8 thoughts on “Speed vs space: Which is more important?”
  1. The penalty pass….I think that is how I have heard it described when someone stomps on the accelerator as they fly by you at high speed, usually too close.
    A time trial specialist gave me a good pointer when I thought cars were passing too closely…Take The Lane.  Don’t take the whole lane, but if there isn’t a bike lane, DON’T ride directly on the white line.  Riding on the white line is dangerous because you don’t give yourself escape room if there is an obstacle you need to avoid and it also gives drivers the impression that there is enough room to pass you without leaving the lane.  If there is a close call with opposite direction traffic, they are going to naturally err into the cyclist as opposed to the high speed head on.  
    Ride 2-3 feet left of the line and you remove the temptation to pass when they shouldn’t and give yourself escape room.  This may lead to a little more anger from drivers, but it much safer for everyone overall.

  2. There’s a definite correlation between speed and perceived passing distance. A pass of 50 mph at 5 feet will feel like 2 feet. So it’s hard to separate the two factors. But if forced to choose, give me the extra space. I’d like to see the Legislature increase the legal passing minimum from 3 feet to 5 feet. Not that it would ever be enforced in non-collisions, but it would be a nice statement.

  3. I think I would have to vote for lower speed – just a personal preference. I’m fine with riding close to traffic through downtown or on UA campus where most speeds are pretty slow. The bonus is that if either of us make a mistake, the consequences are likely to be less.

  4. I will ALWAYS prefer space to speed. Chances are very high that injuries sustained will negatively impact ones life much greater than being taken out at a high speed. Just make certain YOU are legally correct(following the rules), as your heirs will appreciate. This way the ones that love you, won’t have to feed you.
    Zero tolerance, and mandatory jail time would work very well.

  5. I’d also take the increased space. I regularly ride roads with +40 mph speed limits and don’t mind as long as I’ve got a decent sized bike lane.

  6. Speed. Tell a driver to drive XY mph around a cyclist and they might actually be able to comply (most cars have a working odometer). Law enforcement can measure vehicle’s speed with their equipment. Distance on paper is an objective measure, however on the road it is entirely a matter of the subjective perception of the driver/cyclist. It cannot be measured, therefore it cannot really be complied with or enforced. Higher speed = more injuries. Limit the speed of drivers.

  7. Give me space, lotsa space, since not all drivers are as adept at spacial reasoning. River Road gives me the willies with some very narrow bike lanes, but speeds are lower than Sunrise which has more space. Ad we all know how that turned out recently. Bicycle issues, such as safe distances, bike taking lanes, etc. need to be included in drivers license exams and testing. One can’t expect drivers who don’t ride to understand what it’s like to be passed too close  by a speeding car, let alone a truck with debris flying out of the bed on River Road. Motorists need to be educated.

  8. Reducing the odds of being hit is the goal and increasing space does that much more than speed. Speed is a subjective thing: the closer something is, the faster it seems to be going.  Could also be that drivers are less attentive at slower speeds.

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