New campaign aims to make drivers BikeAware

Seasoned cycling campaigner launches new website, and here's how you can help

by Simon_MacMichael   November 17, 2010  

Bike Aware logo.jpg

This week sees the launch of a new campaign, BikeAware, under the slogan, “If you can’t ride, you shouldn’t drive,” which proposes that driver awareness of cyclists, and changing their behaviour when it comes to the road with them, should be placed firmly at the centre of efforts to improve bike riders’ safety.

The initiative is the brainchild of David Love, a long-time campaigner for cycling, Vice Chair of the London Cycling Campaign and the man who dreamt up the London Freewheel (now the Skyride), as well as the founder of the 3 Feet Please campaign in the UK.

Love told road.cc that BikeAware "is the next step” in his campaign to improve the safety of cyclists.

“The message on the website” – the text of which we’ve repeated below – “is pretty obvious,” he says. “but the prize for future generations of drivers is to get cycle awareness into their DNA.

“Despite some patchy work now being done in schools, this must mean moving the DfT mountain and mandating practical riding in the UK driving test.

That’s a lofty ambition, particularly given that we now have a coalition government that seems to have little regard for the needs of cyclists, but Love is undeterred.

“How do I intend to do this?” he asks. “First, brand and launch to opinion formers. Then, build on great stuff already done to get HGV drivers on “Exchanging Places” programmes.”

Love is on the TfL committee that is co-ordinating that initiative, with attendees on cycle awareness courses ranging from binmen in Lambeth to London bus drivers. “Soon,” he explains, “you won’t be able to drive a local authority vehicle in London before demonstrating cycle awareness.”

The next step, says Love, is to “cascade down to van and taxi drivers through big fleet users such as courier companies, Royal Mail, supermarkets etc,” while also developing the campaign website, for which he is seeking corporate sponsorship.

Following that, Love plans to a summit with the DfT, Drivers Standards Agency, cyclists, road safety groups, motor lobby and other stakeholders, to get a negotiation going and attract public interest,” potentially involving Mayor of London Boris Johnson.

The BikeAware website explains the thinking behind the campaign: “Most cyclists and walkers drive cars. Yet many can recall a moment when they’ve thought ‘why couldn’t the driver have seen my point of view?’

It continues: “90% of the 43 million people who hold a UK driving licence ride a bike less than once a week. Few will have pondered how it feels to be compromised by a motor vehicle.

“Close calls and collisions are mostly caused by a moment’s distraction or carelessness, aggravated by inexperience. They can have serious and lasting consequences for the rider or walker, at scant risk to the driver.

“The current UK driving test fails to recognise this ‘hierarchy of effect’. BikeAware will work to highlight this deficiency and urge the authorities to require that practical evidence of cycle awareness be a condition of obtaining a UK driving licence.

Candidates would need to sit a new module including (unless exempted by prior Bikeability training or disability) on-road cycling, before passing their driving test.

“If BikeAware were implemented, the coalition government could, at minimal cost, leave a legacy for future generations that would:

  • Make the roads safer for cyclists, walkers and drivers alike;
  • Increase the number of new cyclists by reducing fear of traffic, thus encouraging the less confident to give it a go;
  • Help level the playing field and promote greater harmony amongst all road users.”

Visitors to the site are invited to enter their email address and click a button to say whether or not they agree with those statements; so far, every single visitor expressing an opinion has agreed.

So, besides ticking that box on the website, what can you, as a cyclist, do to help the campaign? Most importantly, you can help spread the word to raise awareness of it, whether that be among fellow cyclists, local elected representatives such as MPs and councillors, plus local transport operators and haulage contractors.

The more people are aware of the campaign, the greater the chance of it succeeding and hopefully making a difference to our everyday lives as cyclists.

Campaign buttons and car stickers are also available to help spread the word, and if you’d like to get your hands on some, just say so in the ‘comment’ field on the Bike Aware website.
 

11 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

"raise awareness of tit"

It's a comical typo but one that needs fixing.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2308 posts]
17th November 2010 - 14:00

4 Likes

Well spotted, Old Ridgeback. Mind you, might have helped Google search results Thinking

Simon_MacMichael's picture

posted by Simon_MacMichael [8513 posts]
17th November 2010 - 14:03

2 Likes

Personally cycling regularly does help me to see the cyclist's point of view when I am driving my car. Unfortunately as the article points out a Coalition which thinks that there is "War on the Motorist" as Philip Hammond does seems unlikely to support this idea. Are there also some people whose sense of balance wouldn't permit them to take the bicycle part of the test. I seem to recall Ken Livingstone had a balance problem.

yarrump's picture

posted by yarrump [15 posts]
17th November 2010 - 14:24

2 Likes

Good - it's about time the non-cycling majority of motorists received some education about how to drive when there are cyclists about. Common sense should tell them to drive defensively, i.e. a little slower and leave plenty of space when overtaking. My observation from numerous club rides is that car drivers are desperate to overtake cyclists and get irate if held-up for 5 seconds.

What's the rush?

posted by John G [53 posts]
18th November 2010 - 13:52

1 Like

John G wrote:
What's the rush?

It's not a rush so much as a sense of monstrous entitlement and outrage that anything can impede their progress.

On one particular junction of my commute, I regularly have drivers who actually accelerate in order to get past me - so they can cut across to the left in front of me! Little realising they can save petrol, protect my safety and probably de-stress a little by just slowing down a few MPH.

This never occurs because many drivers are greatly aggrieved that I should *dare* to be on the road with them.

Unfortunately I think forcing drivers to cycle as part of the test will be a non-starter - for practical reasons as well as the alledged 'war on motorists'. A more practical step might be to require that drivers are forced to answer a limited number of questions in both the written and practical parts of the test about behaviour around cyclists.

Buddha said:

Believe nothing, No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it, Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

mad_scot_rider's picture

posted by mad_scot_rider [567 posts]
18th November 2010 - 14:13

2 Likes

I agree! I know of a number of motorists who are extremely good drivers with great awareness of whats going on yet are totally incapable of cycling!!! More questions on vunerable road users in the theory test and during the practical actually observe the individual sitting the test dealing with cyclists etc on the route. I'm sure there some of us out there who would quite happily give up an afternoon to cycle around in circles if it meant safer roads! Especially if we got paid for it Big Grin

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1068 posts]
18th November 2010 - 19:34

3 Likes

To be fair to drivers (sorree!) this might be the case in some instances but it might also be that a lot of drivers attempt to get past cyclists too quickly and too close because (a) they are not sure how to deal with this wobbly thing in front of them and just want to get it out of their way as soon as they can, and/or (b) they are probably feeling pressured by another driver behind them (justifiably or not) to keep going at any cost so don't want to hang around

All of which does suggest that cycle training does not to be included in driving lessons (but then I would say that - I am a cycle instructor!)

posted by CotterPin [64 posts]
19th November 2010 - 18:15

2 Likes

It's good to have someone so energetic and commited to cyclist's safety at work on this project.

In my humble opinion, many motorists are imapatient and even aggressive because of, as John G., above, puts it so well, 'a sense of monstrous entitlement and outrage that anything can impede their progress'. A major component of this attitude is the mistaken idea that because cyclists 'do not pay road tax', they have no real right to be on the road at all.

This mistake should be addressed in the Highway Code and reinforced at every opportunity to motorists, with an explanation of how roads are funded by general taxation, and you pay VED for the right to use a motor vehicle on those publicly funded roads. It should be pointed out officially that as the wear and tear, and space and time taken up by a bike is so tiny compared to a car, cyclists pay their share with the VAT on the cost of the bike, and/or the rider's income tax and all their other taxes. Learner drivers should be informed of this, and answer a question on it in the test. The awareness of it might reduce the aggression and ridiculous sense of ownership of the road which many car drivers seem to have.

posted by bikeylikey [173 posts]
20th November 2010 - 8:27

1 Like

I worked with a girl that couldn't ride a bike - she'd never learned. Amzaing I know, but there are people out there who simply can't. Obviously riding a tricycle might be an answer, or possibly some sort of theory lesson & test involving a computer simulation. I think getting cyclists to do circuits on roads with a learner driver (not just one on their test) is also a very good idea. Actually more instructors could do with training about how to deal with bikes - particularly the use of bike lanes!!

Other than that, as I've often thought, drivers should retake the test every so often - even if it was only every ten years, at least they'd get an update on the Highway Code (how many people read it once they've passed?) theory in general and driving skills in particular. It would be a pain for all drivers including me, but I think would be a good thing.

posted by RuthF28 [94 posts]
20th November 2010 - 14:24

5 Likes

Having cycled for 50yrs in and around London, (I have also driven motor vehicles for 32yrs) this idea has always been my dream - to get drivers to understand a cyclists problems and point of view. The fact that some people wouldn't be able to cycle because of a disability means they would have to take some other type of test involving cyclists; I don't doubt that the majority of people are able bodied and would be able to cycle but their nerves may not be up to it!! Which is what I find when I have mentioned the option of cycling to people over the past years. Even with my experience I still won't cycle in certain areas and just dismount and walk where necessary, which is a sorry affair but I'd rather that than get killed.

SusieC's picture

posted by SusieC [4 posts]
20th November 2010 - 19:56

2 Likes

I was told, though I have npo idea if it is true that in the Netherlands you cannot drive a motor vehicle, unless you have actually ridden a bike.

Sián

posted by barogerl [26 posts]
20th November 2010 - 21:18

1 Like