'THINK! Cyclist' safety poster campaign returns after DfT deems first run last year a success

Poster campaign to run in five cities, but did it change driver behaviour first time round?

by John Stevenson   March 24, 2014  

think cyclist

Last year’s ‘THINK!’ safety poster campaign is to be repeated after what the Department for Transport claims was a successful run last Spring.

The posters, which warn cyclists and motorists to look out for each other, will run for four weeks in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester.

The campaign originated in London last Spring before being rolled out from October in the five cities where statistics show the highest rates of traffic collisions involving cyclists compared to population.

The DfT seems to judge the success of the campaign on analysis that showed that almost two-thirds of drivers agreed the adverts reminded them about the importance of looking out for cyclists.

However, the DfT has presented no evidence that the posters actually changed anyone’s behaviour.

In London, where the campaign started, 14 cyclists died on the roads in 2013, the same as in 2012. While the number of deaths is too small to provide a reliable metric of cycle safety, the ratio of cycle journeys to collisions causing serious or fatal injury in London has worsened in the last several years.

The choice of cities intriguing as it combines two towns at opposite ends of the spectrum of UK bike use. In Cambridge, an estimated 18-20 percent of all journeys are made by bike (aka modal share, jargon fans), so it’s not surprising that it has a high rate of collisions involving cyclists relative to its population.

Leeds, on the other hand, has a cycling modal share estimated at around 0.5 percent. For it to be in the top five cycling collision black towns implies a staggeringly high rate of crashes in the motorway city of the seventies. Leeds is also, of course, host the the Grand Départ of the Tour de France, which is likely to be the only time in living memory anyone riding a bike round the town centre will feel safe.

Announcing the renewed poster campaign, Cycling Minister Robert Goodwill said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world but one cyclist’s death is one too many and we are determined to make our roads safer.

“This new poster campaign builds on the success of last year’s work to remind drivers to take care around cyclists and remind cyclists to be extra cautious around vehicles. This message is especially important as the weather improves and more people take to their bikes.”

23 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

I actually liked these. They're simple, to the point and without gimmicks ("think horse").

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
24th March 2014 - 17:57

136 Likes

Actually, I'm going to break cover and suggest that these posters are not a bad idea. In particular, the "Cyclists. Ride central on narrow roads." (take note, Clarkson) and "Cyclists. Ride a door's width from parked cars." - more because they're good information (from an offical source) for drivers.

However, if we want to make roads safer, there's a clear and simple route to doing this; we (and by 'we' I mean all of us, whatever our mode of transport) are already pretty well protected by legislation - it's just not enforced. Enforce the law, take away licenses from people that show that they aren't competent to have them (permanently when they show that repeatedly), stick people who drive while banned in jail, and the number of KSIs on the road, amongst all groups, will plummet. Strict liability would help, too.

Do that and more people will start cycling, and that will make cycling even safer. Everyone wins - especially the NHS (and, by extension, all of us that pay tax).

adamthekiwi's picture

posted by adamthekiwi [51 posts]
24th March 2014 - 18:02

149 Likes

be ace if you could actually see the posters!

posted by fast as fupp [12 posts]
24th March 2014 - 18:09

124 Likes

posted by dave2041 [22 posts]
24th March 2014 - 18:38

125 Likes

As safety posters go these are up there with the best.

Simple, clear and non-judgemental.

posted by levermonkey [378 posts]
24th March 2014 - 19:25

140 Likes

ta monkey! Kiss

posted by fast as fupp [12 posts]
24th March 2014 - 19:33

122 Likes

Successful or not (I think it's a bit much to expect some posters to cure everything), I think they're pretty sensible, and a better use of a bus shelter than as advertising space for bubblegum.

Having something 'official' in the public domain may legitimise riding a bike in the eyes of those who don't feel cyclists belong on the roads; in that they're a sign from the 'higher powers' (the ones that so kindly spoon-feed us pretty much all our views) that cycling is an official, legitimate part of the road system; that cyclists aren't just some unapproved vigilantes abusing it.

They give people on all forms of transport a common reference, and I think people may feel more dutiful to 'obey the sign they saw earlier' than consult their own ignorant, self-serving, fantasised opinions about how the roads work - if they happen to have any.

It's not a big leap anywhere, but I don't feel it's a bad addition to the public space. Sensible advice generally doesn't do much harm.

posted by Quince [155 posts]
24th March 2014 - 19:41

118 Likes

They are good but its a shame they had a "stop at red" one for cyclists. There was no similar obey the traffic laws, like speeding, for cars which would contribute massively to safety. It feels like they just continue to propagate the myth of all cyclists jumping reds. We do know that the vast majority of car drivers break speed limits.

posted by paulrbarnard [136 posts]
24th March 2014 - 20:53

134 Likes

Only ever saw these posters on bus stops whilst waiting for a bus in london, so was never interested in what they had to say as someone else was driving.

posted by mrkeith119 [86 posts]
24th March 2014 - 21:45

121 Likes

These are good. Basic rules of the road that will be unknown to the majority of motorists, plus an RLJ bone to quieten the mouth-breathers.

nowasps's picture

posted by nowasps [256 posts]
24th March 2014 - 21:52

116 Likes

paulrbarnard wrote:
They are good but its a shame they had a "stop at red" one for cyclists. There was no similar obey the traffic laws, like speeding, for cars which would contribute massively to safety. It feels like they just continue to propagate the myth of all cyclists jumping reds. We do know that the vast majority of car drivers break speed limits.

The think campaign has a whole category for speed, it's just not treated as a cycling specific issue.

http://think.direct.gov.uk/speed.html

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
24th March 2014 - 22:29

118 Likes

Most of these need to be on the back of the busses, not at the bus stops.

And national

posted by gazza_d [235 posts]
24th March 2014 - 22:30

127 Likes

bikebot wrote:
paulrbarnard wrote:
They are good but its a shame they had a "stop at red" one for cyclists. There was no similar obey the traffic laws, like speeding, for cars which would contribute massively to safety. It feels like they just continue to propagate the myth of all cyclists jumping reds. We do know that the vast majority of car drivers break speed limits.

The think campaign has a whole category for speed, it's just not treated as a cycling specific issue.

http://think.direct.gov.uk/speed.html

The point of the posters surely is to educate drivers about the things they do that increase their danger to the cyclists. So how does an admonishment of cyclists for jumping red lights fit into that? Even the two posters informing cyclists to take the lane and ride wide of door zone are really informing car drivers that this is acceptable actions by cyclists not them "getting in the way". The whole red light thing does not contribute to the safety argument, it simply panders to the car drivers belief that cyclists jump red lights despite statistics, even from that lawless hell hole London, showing that more car drivers jump red lights than cyclists. Like the helmet debate it is something that has been latched on to by people to absolve their own bad behaviour. It is disappointing to see an otherwise good initiative stoop to gerrymandering.

posted by paulrbarnard [136 posts]
25th March 2014 - 0:54

125 Likes

gazza_d wrote:
Most of these need to be on the back of the busses, not at the bus stops.

And national

they need to be on a sticker inside the bus driver's cab just above his eyeline so it's always there to remind them... and on stickers on the sun visors of white vans/HGVs/taxis

posted by Paul_C [197 posts]
25th March 2014 - 4:45

114 Likes

paulrbarnard wrote:
The point of the posters surely is to educate drivers about the things they do that increase their danger to the cyclists.

Nope, the campaign was aimed at cyclists and motorists. Of the six posters it's a 50/50 split, the last three are all instructions to cyclists. As you've noted the punctuation isn't advising motorists that cyclists may ride central, it's telling cyclists to ride central etc.

I think poor positioning is a bigger safety problem today than RLJ, so it's quite right that they should aim such advice at cyclists. These posters were developed for TfL, and RLJ has been a problem at specific junctions in London. TfL have also run safety campaigns targeting drivers who amber gamble based on the same surveys.

posted by bikebot [645 posts]
25th March 2014 - 4:55

119 Likes

'its a shame they had a "stop at red" one for cyclists'

??????
mental.

posted by andyp [966 posts]
25th March 2014 - 8:24

117 Likes

Why isn't this a national campaign? (I'm assuming lack of budget)

The DfT ought to take out full page ads with the 6 posters in motorist specific magazines such as Auto Express to ensure correct targeting.

posted by usedtobefaster [102 posts]
25th March 2014 - 8:58

121 Likes

usedtobefaster wrote:
Why isn't this a national campaign? (I'm assuming lack of budget)

The DfT ought to take out full page ads with the 6 posters in motorist specific magazines such as Auto Express to ensure correct targeting.

or insert them into Top Gear in between items on the show, on screen for 5 seconds ... but seriously an old fashioned Government Information campaign on TV would be good

posted by RedfishUK [58 posts]
25th March 2014 - 13:20

107 Likes

The posters are good and we need more ads on telly as well. The particular problem that needs addressing is a mis-match between safe cycling positioning (taking the lane and staying out of the door zone) and what some drivers believe cyclists should be doing. ie rather like Clarkson they think you being out in the road is not where you should be and that you are being either inconsiderate or a deliberate arse.

I have found that once that positioning is explained it's accepted . The penny drops.

So it's good.

Cycling is like a church - many attend, but few understand.

posted by oozaveared [662 posts]
25th March 2014 - 14:58

112 Likes

Your commenters miss the central point raised in the article.: there is no evidence of any positive effect.

There never has been in over 70 years of "road safety" posters, however good the message. Unless backed up by enforcement and appropriate sentencing, plus a culture change which involves seeing the issue as reducing danger at source, it won't.

A central part of getting this culture change is to oppose the drivel from the "Road Safety" Minister about Britain's "safe roads". This is calculated from overall numbers reported hurt or killed and is often the opposite of having a safe road environment.

For example, if you have a far higher proportion of people cycling as in Holland, even with a lower casualty rate you get more people hurt or killed cycling per head of the population - which is the official "road safety" measure.

For measuring cyclists' safety, look at http://rdrf.org.uk/2013/11/15/if-we-want-safer-roads-for-cycling-we-have...

posted by ChairRDRF [137 posts]
25th March 2014 - 15:36

111 Likes

I think the positive comments reflect the pleasant surprise at a Government-led campaign which avoids the usual pitfalls: stereotyping of cyclists, victim-blaming, and/or pandering to the Clarksonite drivers' wish to see cyclists being castigated at every opportunity. That's certainly progress and deserves to be acknowledged.

However Bob D is also right that driver awareness campaigns alone cannot be expected to tackle the most serious problem behaviours. For that, enforcement is necessary too.

Moreover, the two should be seen as synergistic, delivering benefits that are greater than the sum of the parts - that is what we've learnt from c30 years of efforts to tackle drink-driving. Driver awareness campaigns help galvanise public support for enforcement activity, while the latter helps ensure that the message of the awareness campaign gets through to those who aren't susceptible to moral persuasion alone.

It would therefore be good to see more local authorities and police forces co-ordinating their efforts on other issues too (e.g. speed limits, mobile phone use, or - in this case, looking out for cyclists and leaving space when overtaking them). Joined up action? Let's hope so!

See CTC's campaigns briefings on:
* Driver awareness campaigns: http://www.ctc.org.uk/campaigning/views-and-briefings/cycle-awareness-ca...
* Roads policing: http://www.ctc.org.uk/campaigning/views-and-briefings/traffic-police-and...

Other CTC campaigns briefings are accessible via
www.ctc.org.uk/campaignsbriefings

Roger Geffen
Campaigns & Policy Director
CTC, the national cycling charity

posted by Roger Geffen [35 posts]
25th March 2014 - 22:18

101 Likes

Never mind the safety message - what about the war on adverbs? 'Ride central' indeed. My eyes...

Wink

posted by andyp [966 posts]
26th March 2014 - 17:14

96 Likes

These posters all seem harmless and inoffensive. With the exception of the one about cyclists and red lights (because I don't see one addressing motorists' tendency to jump reds at least as often due to failed amber-gambling, so it will reinforce motorists' self-serving belief that its only those cyclists who do it).

I agree with RDRF that they probably won't have much significant effect (as "education" is rarely the answer to anything, its almost always the cop-out response of those who don't really want to do anything at all about a problem).

But at least they aren't actively unpleasant and victim-blaming, which is a step forward by current standards.

posted by FluffyKittenofT... [699 posts]
28th March 2014 - 14:28

77 Likes