How do drivers overtake cyclists?
In Europe, the number of road crashes is steadily decreasing every year. However, the incidence of bicycle crashes is not declining as fast as that of car crashes. In Sweden, cyclists are the most frequently injured road users. Collisions between bicycles and motorized vehicles are of particular concern because the high speed and large mass of motorized vehicles create a high risk of serious injury to cyclists. In Sweden's urban areas, bicycle lanes keep bicycles separated from motorized vehicles, but on rural roads bicycle lanes are often absent, requiring drivers to interact with cyclists—usually by overtaking them. During this maneuver, drivers regulate speed and lateral position, negotiating with potential oncoming traffic to stay within their comfort zones while approaching and passing cyclists.
In this study an instrumented bicycle recorded 145 overtaking maneuvers performed by car and truck drivers on public rural roads in Sweden. The bicycle was equipped with a LIDAR and two cameras to assess how drivers approached and circumvented the bicycle. The collected data allowed us to identify four overtaking phases and quantify the corresponding driver comfort zones. The presence of an oncoming vehicle was the factor that most influenced the maneuver, whereas neither vehicle speed, lane width, shoulder width nor posted speed limit significantly affected the driver comfort zone or the overtaking dynamics.