Is it just me [Overtaking Cars]

Is it just me or do motorized vehicles overtake with more distance if cyclist use a taillight?

Today I forgot my taillight the first time. I was overtaken by +100 vehicles. 90% overtook to close (< 1,5 m), 5% with perfect distance (> 2 m), 5% way to close (< 0,5 m). Normaly if I go out for a ride with acvitvated taillight it is rather: 70% OK (> 1,5 m), 15% perfect (> 2 m) and 5% (< 0,5 m) way to close.

By German law they shall overtake with a minimum ditance of 1,5 m in urban area and in rural area 2 m.

0,5m ~ 2 feet
1,5m ~ 5 feet
2 m ~ 7 feet

I wonder if you are expieriencing the same or if my perception was slightly off today.


I’m the US, I notice a big difference if I’m wearing high vis yellow compared to a dark jersey.

I haven’t ridden without a twilight in a long time but I noticed drivers giving me more room once I started using my Varia radar


Ive never put a number on it but your numbers @Tutank agree with what I feel. 5% of drivers are extra incompetent/ malicious and will overtake well below the standard acceptable regardless of a light but a large proportion of that 90% notice a light.


@Bhofstra I have a Varia but a 315 without light because I already got a super bright Lezyne Strip 300. I forgot it as well. Maybe my way of riding changes if I am using the radar.

@HLaB Those 5% are lost. :grinning: My hope are the 95%.


I’ve got the feeling it’s also a matter of how close to the edge of the road I‘m riding. If I’m giving the drivers enough space so that they’re able to overtake me (almost) staying in their lane, they overtake with less distance. If am riding more towards the center of the lane and “forcing” then to use the opposing lane to overtake, they usually give me more space.

Note: I’m not recklessly driving in the middle of the lane, it’s more a matter of a few centimeters.


Aside from just a basic increase in visibility, I have a theory that flashing lights trigger something psychological - seeing the flashing light triggers the driver to think “that person doesn’t want to get hit” rather than just seeing the bike as an object in their way they just have to get past.


I rather think it’s the fact that it’s harder to judge distance to a flashing light. So they give you more room because they are uncertain how close you are. Also, the human brain is wired to pay attention to motion. So a flashing light is essentially extra motion.

For these reasons, I use a flashing light that has a complex flashing pattern, both front and rear. Plus, I mount them on my helmet so they move with me looking around. That way I can look at cars approaching from the side and the light shines directly at the driver and they notice me.

I also use my Varia with light in flashing mode


I’ve noticed this over the years. There seems to be a psychological block about crossing the center line. If they can squeeze between you and the line then they will tend to do that versus crossing the line and giving you more room.


It’s just you


I haven’t noticed any meaningful difference.

Some cars may give you more space but some don’t. It only takes one idiot to ruin your day/life.

These days I ride pretty close to the gutter, if not in the gutter itself. The level of driving competence has steadily gone down since the rise of smartphones. The number of drivers who can’t stay in their lanes at any given moment is appalling.


Same experience.

I live right on a state line, my state in this area most of the roads are unlined in many places no center line even. Cars will move over to the point they are almost in the ditch on the other side.

Cross state lines, and the roads I’m on have shoulders, no one budges they just hold their line even in the places where the shoulder goes down to 12" or less.

Since it is rural where I am lots of farm equipment during certain seasons. People have no problem crossing a double yellow to finally pass a tractor that’s been slowing down 30 cars for 5+ miles, but when it is a cyclist they’ve claimed they are afraid to cross the double yellow or they’ll be fined. I offered to pay the legal fees of anyone who gets a ticket crossing a double yellow passing a cyclist. Haven’t had to open my check book yet.

As for blinking light, haven’t noticed a difference.


Well I was in an all black get up yesterday at midday with my Varia running and nearly got wiped out by a car turning into me… so I’ll be cautious about ever wearing that kit again.

New shoes are all black, and while it’s practical for cleaning, I’d rather have bright white moving around on my pedals.

Bought a Le Col kit with a proper yellow jersey (not hi viz) that will be one of my long ride go tos. I’m sure I’ll catch hell from people for wearing yellow but IDGAF. I want to be seen.

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And me.


If you are a young woman cars tend to give more space. I don’t know if a taillight helps male cyclists.

I feel like I get good space with my flashing red white blue taillight. I think the country folk love it! Lol
Agree with others and OP, I feel like riders respect me more when I’m using high viz apparel and lights.


Far too many cyclists that ride far too close to the kerb or gutter, and in my opinion they are endangering themselves, while falsely thinking they are making themselves safe.

I have seen three people hit their pedals on the kerb-stone and hit the tarmac, and two people come off hitting drain covers in the gutter, in recent years. Added to this I have seen multiple people swerve around drain covers in front of traffic, this is much more dangerous than holding a steady line further in to the lane.
Riding the gutter; not only this generally bad road positioning, that hampers visibility and brings other hazards in to play, it encouraging close passes. Riding further out in the lane gives you a bit of room to move toward the kerb should you need to.

Having said this, sadly you can make yourself as theoretically safe as possible, sometimes that is not enough, but be as sensible in any given situation as one can (at least think about if you are adding risk or reducing it) try to stack the odds in your favour and minimise the risks.

I know there are many roads with HGVs that it might seem to be safer hugging the kerb but I am not sure it really ever is.

UK Highway code, don’t shoot the messenger it is generally good advice (which might be irrelevant to some degree in other countries)

Rule 72

Road positioning. When riding on the roads, there are two basic road positions you should adopt, depending on the situation.

  1. Ride in the centre of your lane, to make yourself as clearly visible as possible, in the following situations
  • on quiet roads or streets – if a faster vehicle comes up behind you, move to the left to enable them to overtake, if you can do so safely
  • in slower-moving traffic - when the traffic around you starts to flow more freely, move over to the left if you can do so safely so that faster vehicles behind you can overtake
  • at the approach to junctions or road narrowings where it would be unsafe for drivers to overtake you
  1. When riding on busy roads, with vehicles moving faster than you, allow them to overtake where it is safe to do so whilst keeping at least 0.5 metres away, and further where it is safer, from the kerb edge. Remember that traffic on most dual carriageways moves quickly. Take extra care crossing slip roads.

A flashing light seems to help in poor light conditions, I don’t think I notice a difference the rest of the time, however positioning is paramount in my option. Bad positioning and a light or theoretically good positioning and no light (assuming decent visibility) I’d take positioning every time. Although both is better.


Thank you for this detailed explanation! Maybe I ride differently if my radar is on. Your rules apply (Besides driving to the left :smiley: ) also in Germany.

I used to be a bike messenger for a pharmacy as I was younger. Within urban traffic I exactly know how to move to avoid getting in an accident. And I can confirm that all of the mentioned points are valid.

But on rural roads I am still a newbie. Next time I am going out for a ride I will experiment with all of your inputs :slight_smile: Thank you for that!


As @Bbt67 says the best position is middle of your lane as per the highway code or at least 50cm from the edge.

I once did a personal experiment on a road I’ve had many fast close passes on. Same kit, day of week and same time of the day. Same fly6 ce light/camera on the back. Riding that bit further into the lane there was a noticeable decrease in close passes. I used to be too close to the kerb but I’ve got used to riding that but further out and it makes a difference as you’re maybe more in their field of vision and they can’t squeeze past.

There will always be some idiot drivers to contend with so always wearing brighter kit and having flashing lights is a good start. And I always share my current location with the wife and often joke that I do that so she knows where to come find the body.

I think the standard of driving has partly driven the increase in “gravel” riding in the UK and probably other places too.

Too many hateful drivers out there…


I also ride in Germany and since I ride with my Varia turned on (German edition, no blinking) I have had close to no stress with cars passing me too close. I usually turn my head to signalize I am aware they are approaching and maybe that has something to do with it.

I chose not to get the blinking Varia (international edition) so I don’t provoke the drivers who know we are not allowed to ride with blinking lights. I’m pretty sure there are many drivers out there who will pass us close, spray us and so on, just to prove a point. :upside_down_face:


Gotta love the logic of breaking the law to punish people they feel are breaking the law. Sounds a lot like where I live!