Cyclists: Use A Pool Noodle To Keep A Safe Distance From Cars

Cyclists: Use A Pool Noodle To Keep A Safe Distance From Cars

If your city doesn’t have bike lanes, it’s up to every car that passes you on your bike to determine how much space to give you. Despite tough new passing laws in some states, they often still suck at it. Cyclist Warren Huska solved this by strapping a pool noodle to his bike.

The noodle, as you can see above, sticks out a metre or so to the side of the bike to give drivers a visual indicator of how far away they should stay. This concept isn’t entirely new. In Europe, reflective spacers are common and cheap. These circular flags stick out to the side so drivers can see how close they’re getting.

Of course there are downsides to the pool noodle technique. They’re not exactly designed to mount to bikes, so if you don’t attach it properly, it could come flying off in traffic. It could potentially get caught on other objects or cyclists if you frequently use bike lanes. You’ll have to judge for yourself whether it will work for your cycling habits.

Most of all, it just looks silly. However, as we’ve learned before, being silly doesn’t negate being useful. As Huska himself puts it, “I’m unconcerned about looking good…I’m concerned about my safety most.” If you’re worried about any of the above concerns, you can always buy a proper reflective spacer, but if you go the pool noodle route, it’s still probably safer than trusting the visual judgement of every driver on the road.

Cyclist says his pool noodle makes Toronto streets safer for him [The Star]


  • I once saw someone reversing on a highway (100km/h zone) to retrieve a lost rear window grille. She was just over the top of a small rise and would have been very difficult to avoid, especially given the speed limit. I, luckily, was in the other lane and drove straight past her rather than a rear-end collision and probable death.

    If you lose your noodle, it’s only worth $3. Your life and hospital bills are worth much more.

  • What a dumb idea. Technically the noodle is now part of the bike and the motorist would legally have to be a further 1m away …

  • … it’s up to every car that passes you on your bike to determine how much space to give you.Not true, at least for Qld (never ridden in other states, so don’t know – anyone help here?).

    In Qld, it’s a minimum of 1m up to 60kph, and 1.5m over 60kph. Having said that, a lot of motorists still seem to have problems estimating how far one metre actually is.

    • … it’s up to every car that passes you on your bike to determine how much space to give you.Having said that, a lot of motorists still seem to have problems estimating how far one metre actually is. I think these two are saying the same thing

      • I think these two are saying the same thing

        That certainly wasn’t the intention. The first is a quote from the article is is just wrong for at least 4 states here (it’s another US article on Giz Australia). The motorist here has a legal requirement to give 1 or 1,5 metre clearance depending on speed.

        The second of your quotes was alluding to the fact that a lot of drivers seemingly have a great deal of difficulty estimating what 1 or 1.5 metres really is. Probably the real reason is either they don’t realise it’s the law, or they don’t give a flying fig about leaving room for cyclists.

        • Might be my reading of it. I read “determine how much space to give you” to mean they determine how much a metre is. The article is stating that 1m is the law so that was already covered.

        • I also read it as the motorist is responsible for the safe distance, but that doesn’t mean they’re any good at estimating it.

    • QLD, SA, NSW and ACT have similar laws. There’s a strong (but oh so slow) push to bring them to VIC and TAS, but for now we’re at the mercy of ‘reasonable judgement’.

  • there is no way this is a good idea in Australia, you’re just tempting fate with road rage

  • Yes, well – there are many ideas that SEEM good/great. As a somewhat experienced driver and coward, the bike lanes that were excitedly imposed on the long-suffering drivers in Queensland Oztralia, by the weird bikophiles (who obviously enjoy dicing with death and lung destruction), have really created a driving challenge with draconian penalties for line-crossing and the linemarking of roads barely qualifying as one lane each way with half a lanewidth bike lane.

    The result is well displayed by the rider in the photo – typically riding half a lane width out from the curb to start with………
    Then- as they now form gaggles – thanks to their newfound power – they think nothing of riding two abreast ……
    and creating a real challenge for the hard-pressed driver trying to avoid the oncoming unlicensed habib-wearing jousters, and vast bulk of others on medication and/or mothers driving 4-wheel drive behemoths which should require a special license because of the danger they pose to sane drivers et al……………

  • Problem if you need to ride on a bike path with other cyclists, or pedestrians. Nonetheless, points for ingenuity. A laser guide line is another similar idea, but battery life for daylight visible lasers as pretty bad.

  • Looking silly has a strong benefit. How do you get enraged about a pool noodle?? It’s also much easier to see than a lolipop or flag and more substantial looking. Someone said when he tried to pass Warren he was “forced” to move over and change lanes. This so called forcing is instinct/subconscious, not a logical thing. It just feels more appropriate giving more space.

    It will also help with distracted drivers who only occasionally look up or stop thinking how to respond on the phone. It’s called pattern breaking. And the more often drivers see and pass him, the more permanently they form the new habit of giving adequate space to be safe.

    This space is called the dynamic envelope. All vehicles have it. Drivers backing out of a narrow driveway where the buildings are so close together they need to pull in their mirrors need to make their dynamic envelope smaller by slowing down enough they don’t hit anything. Cyclists have a dynamic envelope where they need room to steer to correct their balance, to avoid potholes, puddles, debris, etc. They also need room to fall, in case that happens and it happens to all cyclists eventually. It’s not life threatening unless someone runs them over.

    One meter of space won’t kill you to give. Less than that will kill the cyclist. When you decide to pass a cyclist too closely, you choose how safe they will be instead of him or her. The noodle is a way to ask drivers not to do that.

  • As a pedestrian I fear for the safety of my kneecaps. Also he makes it impossible for another cyclist to either pass him or stop beside him at an intersection.

  • Until someone fixes it a bit too securely, it clips something, and takes them down, falling into traffic.

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