Do drivers pass closer to men or to women?

This story is in the news right now Bicycles, Gender, and Risk: Driver Behaviors When Passing Cyclists.

From the story, “Recent research here at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs shows that women have real reason to be concerned. In a field experiment, we found that drivers were significantly more likely to encroach—i.e. to pass closer than three feet—on a female cyclists than on male cyclists. Our study illustrate the scope and pervasiveness of the gender gap in cycling, confirms female cyclists’ concerns about safety on the road, and underscore the need for greater investment in safer facilities like protected bike lanes. “

That’s interesting and the authors speculate it might be part of the story about why fewer women ride bikes.

But’s also interesting because it contradicts other research on the same issue.

See our blog post from six years ago, Women cyclists, implicit bias, and helmet pigtails.

From that blog post, “Want to get more room on the road while riding your bike? Here’s one way. Have drivers judge that you’re female. Study after study shows that drivers give more room when passing female cyclists. They also give more room to riders without helmets but that’s another issue. The original study was done in England by Ian Walker.

“Research suggests drivers tend to believe helmeted cyclists are more serious and less likely to make unexpected moves … the helmet effect seen here is likely a behavioural manifestation of this belief. The gender effect could be the result of female cyclists being rarer than male cyclists in the UK, or it may again be related to drivers’ perceptions of rider experience and predictability.”

You can read about it here: results have since been duplicated in the United States. The US study found that on average drivers passed cyclists more closely when cyclists were dressed in “bicycle attire” and if the cyclist was male. The study was unable to determine the reasons on this passing behavior and the authors of the study speculated that, “it [was] possible that motorists perceived less risk passing riders who were in [a] bicycle outfit.”  You can read about this study here:

I’m going to dig a bit deeper and get back to you!

Blue sneaker, grey pants, a red dutch bike with white tires and fenders. Photo by Maxi Corrado on Unsplash .