Updated: "Oi! Cyclist! Get off the road!" DfT report highlights anti-cycling attitudes

Govt reports says there's a "failure of road-sharing culture"

by Mark Appleton   September 20, 2010  

When the red mist descends cyclists are more vulnerable

“They don’t pay road tax, they block the road, they are inconsiderate, they overtake, they are bloody slow . . . I pay road tax, so I should have priority.”

That statement may sound like it was made by road.cc’s new friend Councillor Lawrence Abraham, but in fact it came from an unnamed motorist interviewed as part of a just-released Department for Transport-commissioned report into cycling safety and the attitudes of other road users towards cyclists.

The report, snappily titled, Safety, cycling and sharing the road: qualitative research with cyclists and other road users does not make for uplifting reading and will confirm what many cyclists already know to be the case, i.e. that some drivers view cyclists as inconveniences at best and a road-using underclass who shouldn’t be there at all, at worst  (maybe "Oi Cyclist! Get off the road" might have been a more apt title - ed)

Tellingly, the report was released last Thursday with little attendant publicity indeed road.cc understands that a draft copy was prepared over a year ago, perhaps the DfT's reticence on the matter is because the report does paint such a depressing picture of the interface between cyclists and what it terms other road users (ORUs). Some of the main conclusions are:

• The evidence suggests a failure in the culture of road sharing, with a lack of consensus about whether, and how, cyclists belong on the roads.

• There was higher empathy for car drivers across all types of road user than for minority road users such as cyclists. There was also evidence of a stereotype of cyclists, characterised by failures of attitude and competence.

• Some infrastructure may create further room for disagreement about the norms of road sharing. Different types of cyclist also have differing, and potentially conflicting, needs from infrastructure.

• When it comes to encouraging cyclists to make themselves safer, it may be easier to promote visibility than helmet wearing. Promoting visibility could also be linked to the promotion of safer road-sharing.

• Cyclists in our groups used different behavioural approaches to manage perceived risks from ORUs, in the context of choices and limitations created by the bike.

• There were important attitudinal differences between adults and young cyclists. Children do not have experience of driving a motorised vehicle, and so lack an understanding of the perspective and needs of ORUs.

• Cyclists and ORUs explained the failures of road sharing in different ways, ranging from acts of aggression to failures of expectation or other situational factors.

The CTC said the report genuinely sheds light on detailed issues that are normally only dealt with in broad brush strokes.

“We feel this is a balanced report with the author taking a nuanced, well thought-out approach that is helpful in reflecting motorists’ attitudes towards cyclists,” said Chris Peck, the CTC’s Policy Coordinator. “It goes further than just casualty and collision figures, providing useful qualitative data that will assist us in influencing Government attitudes towards cycling in future.”

You can download a copy of the report here.

37 user comments

Latest 30 commentsNewest firstBest ratedAll

Most traffic delays in any industrialized country are caused by automobiles.

Not only are there not as many cyclists as there are drivers contributing to traffic jams at intersections, but often it is possible and legal for cyclists to operate alongside cars, allowing cars to pass slower bicyclists and vice versa, so that they aren't really inconveniencing each other. The only time a cyclist usually blocks a driver, unless he is just being stupid, is when dodging out to go around some hazard like a pothole, broken glass, or to take the lane when the street is too narrow to be passed safely -- all things that are directly caused by drivers not cyclists. Seriously, how many 20-lb bicycles cause potholes? Compared to 2 ton cars?

Most people are not evil, but many noncycling drivers ARE ignorant, and are therefore the last people who should be listened to when compiling reports of road situations. You might as well ask a perosn who never passed childhood math classes to evaluate an economic trend, or a laymen to direct a brain surgery.

thelonerider's picture

posted by thelonerider [10 posts]
19th September 2010 - 21:05

like this
Like (7)

We live in a motorized society, where people are bombarded 24/7 with car advertising, said advertisers still call VED road tax, perpetrating over and over the myth that motorists pay for the right to use the roads. We can go on and on about how that is not true until we are blue in the face. But then the TV says "pay less road tax". Who are they going to pay attention to?

And another thing is that drivers behave like assholes becuase they know they get away with it. Nobody has had their license taken away when reported for harrassment, even when video footage is available. Look at the van driver convicted this week thanks to the helmet cam of the cyclist that reported him. That scumbag should have had his license removed. Next time the only thing he will look out for is that the cyclist he will try to run off the road doesn't have a camera.

I had a run in with a bus driver this morning, at London Bridge. I was waiting at the lights, in the ASL, when this bus creeps up next to me. I told the driver that he shouldn't have stopped inside the ASL. "I know", the bastards says! Regardless of the legality of it (ASL's should be treated the same as a zebra crossing), it shows a hostile attitude to other vulnerable road users that somebody that is a) offering a service to the public and b) driving a 50ton vehicle should not be allowed to have! Even when I pointed at my camera, he said "I know". Complaints are not even taken seriously by TFL, who behave like a protection racket for people like this driver.

These kind of attitudes are acceptable, pissing off cyclists is acceptable, is seen as a bit of fun by society, the powers that be, the system, whatever.

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
20th September 2010 - 16:00

like this
Like (7)

The whole report is predicated on the assumption - proved amply wrong in the Netherlands and Denmark - that it's best to have cyclists share the roads with cars. Until there's a genuine value judgement made by the DfT of a car journey versus a bicycle (or pedestrian) journey, we'll be stuck in our car-obsessed society.

timlennon's picture

posted by timlennon [226 posts]
20th September 2010 - 16:51

like this
Like (6)

Let's be honest. We all like speed. Speed = efficiency = success. It's the primitive base rock of all car advertising. So anything that interrupts that efficiency creates huge anxiety. Every time drivers meet cyclists on the road it's an affront to both their efficiency and their self worth. That cyclists are in good health and sometimes travelling faster than the car driver doesn't help either.

I feel like having a bib vest which says "Relax"on the back with a nice big smiley face on it: maybe even "Relax Don't do it" if it refers to overtaking on blind bends...

Still waiting for us chimps not to like speed and the feelings of self importance driving gives us but that isn't going to happen. Can't wait for the 20mph speed limit.

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1023 posts]
20th September 2010 - 18:29

like this
Like (6)

I note that page 11 of the report suggests that high vis could be "incorporated into a programme to promote better road sharing". Watch out folks - it could become compulsory for us to dress in high vis to allow motorists to carry on speeding in safety!

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1023 posts]
20th September 2010 - 18:37

like this
Like (6)

Ive had this 'conversation' with drivers before, those who shout that I should be wearing hi viz. I shout back that I dont see any cars or houses painted in hi-viz colours and they seem to be able to avoid them quite well. They dont know how to respond without shouting abuse after that.

not all carbon is the same.

Jon Burrage's picture

posted by Jon Burrage [1080 posts]
20th September 2010 - 18:52

like this
Like (6)

"A contributor called cjc119 added: "If Mr Abraham had taken up cycling at a younger age he wouldn't be the ill-informed, fat bag of wind he is today.""

brillant!.

that my new best insult that is. Laughing

Fringe's picture

posted by Fringe [1081 posts]
20th September 2010 - 19:41

like this
Like (7)

"Let's be honest. We all like speed. Speed = efficiency = success. It's the primitive base rock of all car advertising. So anything that interrupts that efficiency creates huge anxiety. "

It doesn't though, does it?

The thing that interrupts efficiency most often is other idiots[1] in cars - case in point being Oxford Road in Manchester this week, where traffic is at a virtual standstill from 4pm to 5pm most days. Drivers can get away with bullying cyclists though, so they do.

Fundamentally, a different attitude to so called road rage, and traffic offences generally is needed - beyond that, an understanding of how traffic flows (how many cretins roar past to stand at a red light/queue of traffic on your commute?)

As for those saying "Yeah, but cyclists are bad too" point taken, but poor cyclists in general endanger themselves rather than others, the reverse being true of the poor motorist. I'd argue that it makes more sense, with limited resources, to focus on the latter.

[1] Yes, this is judgemental. but why would you choose to sit in traffic for an hour everyday (assuming you don't have heavy tools to carry, and aren't physically infirm) and then bleat that other people are holding you up? I despair.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
21st September 2010 - 8:36

like this
Like (6)

I'm curious when this negative attitude towards cyclists by certain motorists actually appeared. There certainly wasn't such an attitude when I first started commuting in London by bicycle 20 years ago, and I'd already been riding in traffic in my home city some years prior to that. Certain TV personalities, and Jeremy Clarkson in particular, have been pretty vocal in blaring out their dislike of cyclists in recent years. The question is, did this growing dislike of cyclists predate Clarkson's comments and was he just a mouthpiece, or did they originate with him? One thing that I think is noticeable is that people who are anti-cyclist do conform to certain stereotypes, with few appearing fit and many being smokers. I'd be interested if anyone else has observed similar.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2125 posts]
21st September 2010 - 8:58

like this
Like (7)

I still dont get this...

"said advertisers still call VED road tax, perpetrating over and over the myth that motorists pay for the right to use the roads."

But they do dont they, call it VED or whatever you like but to drive a car on the road it needs to be taxed, ergo, its still a road tax. I can buy a car and leave it running 24/7 on private land and dont need to pay tax, so its not really an emmissions tax is it?

Of course there is still the problem that drivers think this gives them more rights than others, which is what really needs to be addressed.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [410 posts]
21st September 2010 - 9:16

like this
Like (3)

Quote:
to drive a car on the road it needs to be taxed, ergo, its still a road tax

it *isn't* a road tax because it *isn't* ringfenced for the roads. it's just tax, the government can spend it on whatever they like.

the point is that paying a 'road tax' gives you a sense of ownership over the roads, the logical extension of the argument being that those that don't pay the 'road tax' aren't entitled to be there. that's me, on my bike, in spite of the fact that survey after survey shows that cyclists are higher than average earners with higher than average car ownership; ergo, we pay more for the roads.

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
21st September 2010 - 10:10

like this
Like (9)

dave_atkinson wrote:
it *isn't* a road tax because it *isn't* ringfenced for the roads. it's just tax, the government can spend it on whatever they like

Ok thats true, but still dosnt change the fact drivers are taxed to use the roads (wherever the money ends up).

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [410 posts]
21st September 2010 - 10:42

like this
Like (6)

STATO wrote:
Ok thats true, but still dosnt change the fact drivers are taxed to use the roads (wherever the money ends up).

no, it doesn't - you're right. but everyone gets taxed for the roads whether they drive or not – just like everyone gets taxed for the hospitals whether they're ill or not – and statistically speaking cyclists get taxed more: not because they're cyclists, but because as a user group they're higher than average earners with higher than average car ownership, but lower than average car usage.

what needs to change is the assumption that the driving of a taxed motor vehicle is what the roads are for, and why they're there, and everyone else is freeloading. that's simply not the case from a legal or economic standpoint

Dave Atkinson's picture

posted by Dave Atkinson [7252 posts]
21st September 2010 - 11:05

like this
Like (4)

What Dave said.

Carlton Reid's picture

posted by Carlton Reid [108 posts]
21st September 2010 - 11:10

like this
Like (7)

I'm conscious that a degree of hairsplitting is going on here, but the tax is to own a vehicle, emitting CO2 at a particular level that *could* be used on the roads.

Leave the thing out front of the house all day (as we do with our increasingly elderly Astra most days) and you pay the same as the plumber driving all over, every day, in the same model.

Personally, I think the only logical outcome is roadside audits. In the event of a dispute over who owns the road, whomever pays most tax gets to whack the other party with a frame pump/tyre iron. (Do remember to pack your P60 though).

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
21st September 2010 - 11:11

like this
Like (2)

John_the_Monkey wrote:
I'm conscious that a degree of hairsplitting is going on here, but the tax is to own a vehicle, emitting CO2 at a particular level that *could* be used on the roads.

Leave the thing out front of the house all day (as we do with our increasingly elderly Astra most days) and you pay the same as the plumber driving all over, every day, in the same model.

But if you leave it on your private drive you dont have to pay as you can do a SORN, therefore its not a cost of owning a car its a cost of using/leaving a car on public roads. Everything about the system apart from the name tells drivers its a tax on using the roads, so you have to understand why its so hard to argue against.

The local council provides many services i pay for and dont use, schools, librarys etc. (infact you could say drivers pay for and dont use footpaths Big Grin ) but I pay council tax because i live in the area, not because i choose to use some of the services. This does not compare to VED, which only taxes the user if they take the car onto public roads.

Sorry if this sounds like im arguing, im not (intentionally) trying to stir. I just think these arguments need to be seen from the drivers point of view, and cycling drivers are biased so you dont count Wink

Rich. Non-driving, non-car owning, 100%cyclist.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [410 posts]
21st September 2010 - 11:32

like this
Like (3)

John_the_Monkey wrote:
Personally, I think the only logical outcome is roadside audits. In the event of a dispute over who owns the road, whomever pays most tax gets to whack the other party with a frame pump/tyre iron. (Do remember to pack your P60 though).

No, we've had centuries of the wealthy hitting poor people over the head. OTOH the wealthy only pay that much tax once they're dead, but while they're alive they do everything they can to avoid doing so while exploiting everyone and everything.

I'd suggest tht those having the greatest detrimental impact on the condition of the road (therefore requiring the expense of repair) have to do the most to help repair it. A form of Community Service. We can then laugh at lorry drivers helping paint white lines and install cat's eyes and owners of posh 4x4s trying to park their vehicles before holding the Stop/Go sign for a day.

I pay VED and my car sits on the drive all week. I pay it because I own a car. I pay less than some and more than others, that's how the system is structured. I pay VAT, income tax, Council Tax, insurance tax and goodness knows how many other taxes. They are there to provide the government money to spend on whatever they want (nominally what we vote them in for, but we have been disabused of that notion a long time ago).

People who don't have children still pay for schools and universities. People who are never ill still pay for the NHS. People who don't vote still pay for Parliament and pacifists still pay for the Armed Forces, Television owners with an aerial still pay the TV licensee fee regardless of whether they watch 30 minutes or 3,000 hours of TV a year. And people who don't drive also pay for the roads, the railways and all the other infrastructure required to maintain the services we all expect.

I would prefer to see a different approach to taxing car drivers based on its use, although increasing fuel duty is, not surprisingly, a vote-loser. Despite the rising cost of fuel car usage shows no sign of significant reduction. Drivers moan about the cost but still use the thing as much as ever. I see many people driving short distances to nearby schools, the shops and work; driving erratically - accelerating and braking sharply, overtaking me in a queue before braking behind the next car then repeating the procedure over and over; running big, expensive vehicles, doing 90+ on the motorway. All these things and more suggest that, in fact, petrol is not yet too expensive.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1896 posts]
21st September 2010 - 14:12

like this
Like (5)

Simon E wrote:
All these things and more suggest that, in fact, petrol is not yet too expensive.

Agreed - and to be honest I live for the day when cars can only be used at absolute need.

When that glorious day arrives I look forward to laughing at all the pot-bellied SUV slugs as they try to climb their first serious hill on two wheels.

I intend to blow past them with a smirk and then cut too close in front of them to turn left - MY TURN!

posted by mad_scot_rider [536 posts]
21st September 2010 - 16:24

like this
Like (4)

i think your picture in the heading is rather daft dont you? i am a driver and find cyclists incredibly dangerous. my own husband insists on listening to his ipod when he cycles, yet he cant hear me shout from behind him. he is thrilled when he reaches 20 mph and i spend my day avoiding cyclists who are jumping kerbs, using the pavement, ignoring signals and junctions, signalling with a little finger, cos thats visible isnt it! and on the phone. as my family all cycle i am patient but the general behaviour of cyclists is appalling, certainly in central london.

posted by tutu [1 posts]
21st September 2010 - 16:52

like this
Like (4)

I recently got knocked off my bike. The driver was shaken up and kept on repeating how she hadn't seen me. The police have decided to offer her a Driver Awareness Course which is a good idea but a bit too late for me and my broken bike. Maybe this is something that should be implemented as a regular re-test rather than an "ooops you've had an accident, let's try and make it better" approach.

I like the idea of people having to re-take their driving test on a regular basis - similar to Australia. I think we have all become complacent and are unaware of how absent minded we are whilst sat behind the wheel of a car. Those that don't need to use their cars so much would have to weigh up whether it is worth the additional expense to keep re-newing their licence or whether public transport is the better option. The extra revenue generated would go to the government to spend as they wish (hopefully not wholly on expenses... my cynical side!) but maybe on the horrendous state of our public highways and public transport system.

I also believe that cycling proficiency needs to be compulsary. You can't enforce one rule for one side without upholding the same standard to the other. Should cycle insurance be compulsary too?

Maybe I'm way off the mark but all road users need to accept responsibility for their actions. I believe awareness of each other is key to commuting in harmony.

Life's for living!

weavil87's picture

posted by weavil87 [3 posts]
21st September 2010 - 17:29

like this
Like (5)

I think you make some good points weavil though I can't agree that cycling proficiency should be compulsory. I see cycling as much closer to walking or running than it is to driving a car. And you wouldn't test runners.

TheHatter's picture

posted by TheHatter [810 posts]
21st September 2010 - 19:27

like this
Like (6)

I don't like compulsory cycling proficiency. My 3 year old cycles (with stabilisers) but wouldn't be able to pass any test. I'm not sure my 6 year old could have done last year when she was cycling on the roads (with me).

Now a statement in the Highway code to the effect that cycles have a right to be on the road and cars do not (unless they have paid VED )[assuming that that is legally correct] might clarify things. After all people might have to know that to pass their driving test.

posted by 0liver [76 posts]
21st September 2010 - 22:02

like this
Like (8)

Compared to bikes, motor vehicles are dangerous, dirty, noisy, polluting, use up non-replaceable fossil fuel and promote physical ill health as well as unhealthy, nasty states of mind in drivers. And damage the road surface, which bikes don't.

I look forward to the day when some kind of GPS tracking device is fitted as standard to all vehicles, and a tax bill issued according to the amount of damage caused, a tax which takes into account the size of the vehicle and the miles covered. If this included bikes, their owners would receive a payment rather than making one, as a good proportion of clean bike mileage will be replacing dirty damaging dangerous car mileage. I have read that cyclists actually leave the air cleaner, using their lungs as an air filtration system. Whether or not bikes were registered for such a scheme should of course be voluntary. It's the only fair way.

posted by bikeylikey [161 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 10:31

like this
Like (3)

I'm not keen on compulsory cycling proficiency, but like the Dutch idea that cycling is taught at school, so that it's just second nature to most.

timlennon's picture

posted by timlennon [226 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 10:56

like this
Like (3)

tutu wrote:
i think your picture in the heading is rather daft dont you?

No. That gesture demonstrates the kind of abuse a significant number of cyclists suffer when trying to get from A to B.

tutu wrote:
i am a driver and find cyclists incredibly dangerous.

How many of these "dangerous" cyclists have injured you while you were driving? Have you seen one wipe out a bus queue? Has one pulled out of a side road without looking and hospitalised you? To whom are they a danger? None of the 27,000 people killed or seriously injured on the roads last year were hit by a cyclist.

tutu wrote:
my own husband insists on listening to his ipod when he cycles, yet he cant hear me shout from behind him.

While I don't agree with wearing an ipod or using a mobile phone while cycling, your husband can't do an awful lot about the 2-ton car approaching from behind, particularly as he should be paying attention to what is in front of him. It's up to YOU as the following (and heavier and much more powerful vehicle) to give him plenty of room and anticipate his movements. YOU are the one in charge of the killing machine. Perhaps you should reacquaint yourself with the relevant section of the Highway Code. However, if he ignores the traffic, turns right without warning or rides in all black 'stealth' clothing then I won't be surprised when some SMIDSY half-wit driver with an attitude problem knocks him off.

There will always be cyclists that hop onto kerbs, jump red lights etc etc. There are silly/dangerous/stupid people everywhere, and unfortunately some of them ride bicycles, but please don't tar us all with the same brush. And you might like to bear in mind that cyclists riding on the pavement, talking on the 'phone and annoying you with their behaviour are FAR less dangerous to the people around them than you and me when we are driving a car.

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1896 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 11:10

like this
Like (4)

Simon E wrote:
John_the_Monkey wrote:
Personally, I think the only logical outcome is roadside audits. In the event of a dispute over who owns the road, whomever pays most tax gets to whack the other party with a frame pump/tyre iron. (Do remember to pack your P60 though).

No, we've had centuries of the wealthy hitting poor people over the head. OTOH the wealthy only pay that much tax once they're dead, but while they're alive they do everything they can to avoid doing so while exploiting everyone and everything.


To be clear, I was joking.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 12:52

like this
Like (4)

STATO wrote:
I still dont get this...

"said advertisers still call VED road tax, perpetrating over and over the myth that motorists pay for the right to use the roads."

But they do dont they, call it VED or whatever you like but to drive a car on the road it needs to be taxed, ergo, its still a road tax. I can buy a car and leave it running 24/7 on private land and dont need to pay tax, so its not really an emmissions tax is it?

No, it's not. You pay for the emissions of your car, not the use of the road.

In other words, you pay for the right to pollute the air!

"Just as every cop is a criminal, and all the sinners saints".

LondonCalling's picture

posted by LondonCalling [146 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 13:47

like this
Like (5)

LondonCalling wrote:
STATO wrote:
I still dont get this...

"said advertisers still call VED road tax, perpetrating over and over the myth that motorists pay for the right to use the roads."

But they do dont they, call it VED or whatever you like but to drive a car on the road it needs to be taxed, ergo, its still a road tax. I can buy a car and leave it running 24/7 on private land and dont need to pay tax, so its not really an emmissions tax is it?

No, it's not. You pay for the emissions of your car, not the use of the road.

In other words, you pay for the right to pollute the air!

As i said earlier, VED is for the use of the vehicle on the road and generally clogging up the place, you can use it off the road (ie. private land) as much as you want without having a VED disc thing. Afterall you dont pay VED on petrol or diesel generators do you?

I think i might invent VBD for road use, its based on how many Bananas you can carry and how quickly you could transport them a set distance, therefore effectiveley taxing big cars and fast ones equally, especially big fast ones! and not penalising cyclists at all as we can only carry about 4 and only slowly at that. Makes about as much sense as the current system.

STATO's picture

posted by STATO [410 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 16:09

like this
Like (4)

John_the_Monkey wrote:
To be clear, I was joking.

Yes, I did realise, though it may not have been obvious. I expect if your suggestion was implemented there would be a flurry of companies making P60 holders. Knog's would be colourful and squidgy (easy to spot when the need arose) while the Rapha offering (probably black with pink detailing) would be 'reassuringly expensive'.

I'm not sure that many people iron their tyres any more so can't see a market for portable ones Wink

Simon E's picture

posted by Simon E [1896 posts]
22nd September 2010 - 19:40

like this
Like (5)

PAVEMENT TAX and PEDESTRIANS
What i would like to know is this. If drivers think they pay for roads and the right to use them, who do they think pays PAVEMENT TAX? and why don't pedestrians walk around with Pavement Tax discs on their foreheads?

tommy2p

posted by tommy2p [84 posts]
27th September 2010 - 15:18

like this
Like (6)