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Overtaking parked vehicles:

Driving around town would be much easier if it wasn't for parked cars everywhere. On most roads they restrict the width so that it is difficult to pass oncoming traffic. If you understand the negotiating procedure between you and the approaching drivers it can make things more predictable. I attempt to explain it below:

Early position, early view when overtaking a parked car

Position out early!

Parked cars on your side of the road:
As soon as you see the obstruction on your side of the road (photo above), check your interior, and right-side mirrors. Generally don't indicate to go around unless there is a specific reason such as someone trying to overtake you. Going past the parked car is the expected course of action, and you don't want someone who is waiting to pull out to think that you are turning right. Indicate to do the unexpected.

If someone is closing up rapidly from behind, and posturing to overtake, you have two choices: Either indicate right and pull out earlier than you would otherwise to block them (you must have plenty of room to do this): or, you can slow down to let them overtake before you get to the parked vehicle.

If there is any oncoming traffic you must be prepared to give way. Try to adjust your speed so that you don't get to the obstruction at the same time as anyone approaching. Timing is everything! There's no point trying to squeeze through a tight gap when you could slow down a bit, and have the road all to yourself.

Keeping a door's width away from parked cars
A door's width away and parallel to the car!

If it looks OK to proceed, move out into a road position that will enable you to pass the parked cars with at least a door's width clearance (photo above). The door’s width clearance is important – it doesn’t matter if you go over the white centre line. Try not to squeeze through without crossing the lines. Road markings don't hurt, car doors do!

Positioning should be done early on, so that you are as far out as you need to be and parallel to the car, well before you get to it. This also lets anyone coming the other way how much room you need. Be very aware at this point of any side turnings on the right that someone may pull out from. If there is, cover your horn, and use it if you see any vehicles moving towards you and not looking at you! 

looking for a reaction from an approaching vehicle
Look for a reaction from the approaching car.

If there is approaching traffic, be positive and try to hold an assertive position (photo above). If you can’t get through, ease back in slightly and hold back next to the white line. At a minimum 2 car length distance from the parked car. This is so that when you can go, you don’t have to steer forcefully to get around.

If you think that there is enough room, you must look for their reaction to your position. As the distance between you and the oncoming car closes, at some point you should see them respond. This will usually be quite obvious as they will move over to their left a little to increase the size of the gap. Once you get this reaction you know that they are assessing the gap as well. Sometimes the reaction is very late as the approaching driver may not be looking very far ahead.

Also look out for any movement in the parked cars that may suggest a door is about to open. Check that there is no-one walking out between the cars, and that there are not any brake lights or indicators on, or anything else that suggests a parked vehicle is about to pull away.

looking for a reaction from an approaching vehicle
If they haven't reacted- SLOW DOWN
and pull in a bit.

If you are in the process of going through (photo above) and you haven't got any reaction from the approaching cars, or the gap is getting too small, SLOW DOWN ! . Often you will find that if there are a number of oncoming vehicles, that the first one moves over to let you through, but some of the following ones don't. The natural instinct sometimes is to accelerate to get through more quickly, and out of the way. Generally this is a bad idea, because you just end up accelerating at what you're trying to avoid. Never accelerate into a closing gap!  Slowing down gives everyone more time to react.

Once you have slowed down, move gently to your left. Remember the adage "less space- less speed". So the tighter the gap, the slower you need to go. If you need to get within about half a metre to the door mirrors of the parked cars, you should be down to walking pace. Any closer means that you need to stop and wait. If you pull into a gap in-between parked cars, only move to the left as much as necessary to let the oncoming vehicles through. The further you pull in, the harder it is to get back out again!

On a left bend bend try to get into the overtaking position, parallel to the centre line and the parked cars, much earlier than you would normally - Early position, early view!. On a right hand bend it is probably better to stay in to the left for longer than usual so that you can see further around the bend.

Once you have passed the cars you may check your left mirror before pulling back in - but only do this if there is not another vehicle approaching. If the gap is narrowing you want to be looking at the oncoming car, not in your left mirror.

Parked cars on the other side of the road:
The same process should be going through the mind of the driver approaching you. However there are a number of drivers out there that will just force their way through. If you find one of these aiming at you, you will have to take evasive action such as braking, or pulling over to the left sharply. If you don't react they will just drive into you! Beware of white van man!

Parked cars on both sides of the road:
When there is parked cars on both sides of the road there is no clear right of way. Usually the first one into the gap has control over the situation, as the oncoming vehicle would end up blocking the road if they pulled in. If you are first in the gap, hold your position, and watch for any hint that the oncoming traffic is willing to slow down and let you through. Slow down, or stop, if necessary. You shouldn't force anyone coming the other way to stop, but you can encourage them to volunteer to stop!

A parked truck or bus:
Approach as described above but with extra care. initially try to look under the vehicle to see if there is anyone working behind it, then check along the left side for pedestrians that may walk out. Then, as soon as possible, move out to the right so that you can see past. "Early position, early view".

If you see something approaching you can always pull back in again. But if you pull out late, you may pull out into something you can't see. As you approach be certain that it hasn't got a tailgate partially down. A tailgate may stick out towards you 2 metres and be almost impossible to see if it is at your eye level.

As you get alongside, slow down and be prepared for anyone walking out around the front of the vehicle. Cover your horn.

Overtaking a parked truck - out early and wide to see past

Overtaking a parked truck - out early and wide to see past

Come out wide, then decide!

Buses deserve special consideration as they usually only stop briefly. If you see one pull up, try to see how many people are waiting to get on. A number of people getting on will take some time to pay their fares, unless they've got bus passes! People getting off will normally do so quite quickly. When you go past a bus, go slowly, and be especially careful of people walking around the front of it. The longer it's been at the bus stop the more likely this is.

Because buses have automatic gearboxes (some are semi-automatic) the driver will sit with his foot on the brake to stop it creeping forward. When his brake lights go off he is probably about to pull away. He is likely to then indicate as he begins to move. If you see a bus about to pull away, let it go if you can. But, you don't have to. Just be aware it may go anyway, even with you alongside it.

Pedestrian crossings:
Always be very careful near pedestrian crossings (especially at night) and be very sure that there is no-one near the crossing, or about to cross. Rather than just react if you see someone, try to use a positive method of approach and prove to yourself there is no-one waiting to cross before you continue.

A good driver assumes there could be someone crossing until they see there isn't, a bad driver assumes there is no-one crossing until they see there is! Expect the worst!

Aproaching a zebra crossing watching out for pedestrians
Scan both side of the crossing on approach;
pedestrians leaving the shops either side may
get to the crossing before you do!

If there are any areas that you cannot see either side of the crossing, because of parked cars, or hedges, or traffic on the other side of the road - SLOW DOWN. There may be a pedestrian about to walk out that you cannot see (photo below)!

View of the zebra crossing blocked by a white van

View of the zebra crossing blocked by a white van
View of the zebra crossing blocked by a white van!

If there is a traffic queue on the other side of the road and you are approaching a crossing you may need to stop anyway just to make sure that there isn't a child beginning to cross between the queue of cars. It's better to stop unnecessarily, than run a child over.

If there is any chance that a pedestrian near the crossing may be walking towards it - SLOW DOWN. It is better to hold up the traffic behind, than run someone over!

if you are overtaking a traffic queue on a two lane approach to a crossing be sure not to overtake the lead moving motor vehicle within the zig-zags - it's illegal.

To summarise the law:
You must give way to any pedestrian that steps onto the crossing before you reach it. Also on the approach to a pedestrian crossing, within the zig-zag area, you can overtake a cyclist but you must not overtake the lead moving motor vehicle. Or any vehicle (cyclist or otherwise) that has stopped to give way to pedestrians. And you must not park on the zig-zags either side of the crossing.