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.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.