More than half of motorists single out drivers as biggest threat to cyclists' safety, says The Times

Newspaper publishes results of survey as it continues its Cities Fit For Cycling Campaign

by Simon_MacMichael   February 14, 2012  

London cyclist approaching junction.jpg

The Times newspaper has published survey results suggesting that more than half of motorists, 55 per cent, believe that the single biggest improvement to the safety of cyclists would arise from a change in the behaviour of drivers around bike riders, rather than any actions that cyclists themselves could take.

The poll, conducted by Populus at the weekend among an online sample of 2,050 drivers, also found that nearly two in three motorists – 63 per cent – believe that the needs of cyclists should be given equal emphasis as those of drivers when it comes to designing junctions, and that they view motorists cutting up cyclists as the greatest danger to those riding bikes on the road.

Around half of cyclists and motorists – respectively, 47 per cent and 51 per cent, among a total response rate of 52 per cent – see segregated cycle lanes as providing a solution to the issue of the safety of cyclists on the road, as the newspaper continues its Cities Fit For Cycling campaign, launched nearly a fortnight ago.

The survey also analysed frequency of riding among cyclists. Among all respondents, 42 per cent said that they ride a bike at least once a year. Of those, 5 per cent do so every day, 6 per cent most days, and 5 per cent once a week. A similar proportion cycle less frequently, but at least once a month, while the remaining 21 per cent ride at least once a year.

In terms of motoring habits, three in four people – 76 per cent – get behind the wheel at least once a year, with two in three – 68 per cent – claiming to do so “frequently.”

The greatest dangers on the road were highlighted as motorists veering into the path of cyclists at 50 per cent, followed by ‘aggression and animosity between road users” at 45 per cent and the speed of vehicles in residential areas, with 38 per cent agreeing.

Lower response rates were seen for “the dangerous behaviour of other cyclists” – 18 per cent – with 13 per cent attributing the cause of danger to the actions of pedestrians.

Besides segregated cycle lanes, compulsory cycling proficiency tests were viewed by 29 per cent of all respondents as the next most important step that could be taken to improving cyclists’ safety, although among bike riders themselves, the second highest response was “to improve the behaviour of cyclists on the road.”

According to the survey, four in ten bike riders claim that improvements to cycling infrastructure aimed at improving their safety should be funded by a tax on cyclists themselves, a finding that is bound to provoke debate, especially given the widespread misconception that motorists pay for roads through ‘road tax,’ abolished in the 1930s, not to mention that regular cyclists are more likely than average to own a car, and therefore pay Vehicle Excise Duty, than the population as a whole.

Nevertheless, slightly more motorists – 44 per cent – agree with that sentiment, although taking the views of all respondents into account, opinion is split down the middle, with 49 per cent saying that funding should be provided out of general taxation, and 51 per cent saying that cyclists should be taxed for wanting to ride their bikes on the road.

Nearly four in ten drivers – 37 per cent – believe that “roads are primarily for driving on, and should take priority over cycling when designing road users,” adds The Times, while almost half of motorists – 45 per cent – are of the opinion to the greatest step towards increasing the safety of cyclists lies in riders themselves improving their behaviour on the road.
 

19 user comments

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I hereby authorise the government to take appropriate amounts from the VED paid on my motor carriage to improve cycling facilities.

Yours,

Coleman.

posted by Coleman [329 posts]
14th February 2012 - 14:21

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"... four in ten bike riders claim that improvements to cycling infrastructure aimed at improving their safety should be funded by a tax on cyclists themselves ..."

Isn't this what income tax, VAT and the rest of the taxes we pay is for?

I could also be cynical and suggest the cost of some improvements to cyclists' infrastructure would pay for themselves in the medium to long term by saving money, i.e. reducing days off work due to injury, reducing sick pay, reducing costs incurred by the NHS, etc.

posted by John G [53 posts]
14th February 2012 - 14:51

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John G wrote:
I could also be cynical and suggest the cost of some improvements to cyclists' infrastructure would pay for themselves in the medium to long term by saving money, i.e. reducing days off work due to injury, reducing sick pay, reducing costs incurred by the NHS, etc.

That's not cynical, that is fact. Thanks to studies pushed through by Cycling England, the DfT admit that investing in cycling provides much greater returns than any other mode of transport (and that was using conservative assumptions of the benefits of cycling to traffic congestion, heath etc...). Nothing else comes close. And yet, cycling always gets a smaller slice of funding than its present 1% - 2% share of journeys.

Everyone agrees that more cycling would be good, but nobody spends money on it.

two wheels good; four wheels bad

posted by cat1commuter [1331 posts]
14th February 2012 - 17:57

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Various studies carried out in Europe say that if 10% of car drivers were to switch to using motorcycles in any European city, then congestion would be reduced 40%. I'd assume that the same would hold true should car drivers switch to bicycles for the majority of commuting needs - or if that 10% of car drivers making the change were to choose between either a motorcycle or a bicycle. Therefore, car drivers who choose instead to cycle (or use a motorcycle) are helping reduce congestion and road wear. Therefore those car drivers opting to make the switch should surely be awarded with a reduction in the VED for their cars? As VED is calculated on the average vehicle travelled/year and the emissions produced/band for that vehicle, motorists who commute by bicycle or motorcycle are effectively paying a penalty for the emissiosn produced by those high mileage car drivers.

I don't think enough is made of the fact that the more drivers who switch to two wheels rather than four, the greater will be the improvement in traffic flow and the reduction in road wear and traffic jams. Cyclists (and motorcyclists) are part of the solution to congestion, not the problem. More people should be encouraged to convert to two wheels, rather than those two wheeler riders having to pay even nominal sums for licensing. Charging cyclists will discourage people from switching away from car use, increasing congestion and wear and tear to roads.

Anyone who believes cyclists should pay even a nominal sum, simply doesn't understand the facts.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
14th February 2012 - 19:35

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The 40% of motorists who feel that roads are primarily for cars are no doubt what I consider to be the same 40% who are a danger to cyclists, pedestrians and the other 60% of motorists who try their best to share the roads.

I came around a roundabout yesterday signalling as I should and driver waited for me to pass her junction rather than speeding into the roundabout to cut me up. The next driver in line witnessed her waiting for me to pass before joining the roundabout and was incandescent with rage. It's this kind of pressure on decent motorists doing the right thing from those who either don't know or care about the highway code which also needs to be addressed before segregation.

Segregation is a good idea for cities and I support it but only if motorists realise that segregation is to protect cyclists - not to allow them to keep pushing the limits of chance and brake pads - On country lanes where segregation is impossible sharing is the mindset that needs encouraging.

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

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1031 posts]
14th February 2012 - 21:06

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I guess if I wanted a discount on my VED, then I could always SORN my car for the summer when I ride my bike to work. Thinking

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posted by Municipal Waste [190 posts]
14th February 2012 - 21:50

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I came around a roundabout yesterday signalling as I should and driver waited for me to pass her junction rather than speeding into the roundabout to cut me up. The next driver in line witnessed her waiting for me to pass before joining the roundabout and was incandescent with rage. It's this kind of pressure on decent motorists doing the right thing from those who either don't know or care about the highway code which also needs to be addressed before segregation.

On my way home today I was cut up by someone in a Nissan Micra. I'd passed the car on the inside as it waited for other vehicles turning left. The Nissan overtook and then had to cut in sharply because of a car coming the other way. If the Nissan driver had waited for the car coming the way to pass, he'd have been able to overtake without having to cut in front of me causing me to brake. And in any case, I caught up with the car at the enxt set of lights. Most motorists do not appreciate that the time spent waiting for a cyclist basically does not delay their overall journey, which is far more likely to be lengthened by other cars and traffic lights.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
14th February 2012 - 22:20

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OldRidgeback wrote:
I was cut up by someone in a Nissan Micra. I'd passed the car on the inside

Thinking

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [364 posts]
15th February 2012 - 12:27

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Bez wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:
I was cut up by someone in a Nissan Micra. I'd passed the car on the inside

Thinking

The Micra was stopped behind two other cars turning right. I filtered past carefully on the left of the Micra as it waited and I carried on. The vehicles made their right turn and the Micra driver was then able to proceed. About 100 metres after I'd overtaken him, he then overtook me again, but the presence of another oncoming vehicle meant he cut back in before he'd passed completely, forcing me to brake. The Micra driver could have planned the overtake more carefully as the oncoming car was fully visible and had he delayed it by a mere few seconds, he would have been able to make the manoeuvre without forcing me to brake to avoid him. I subsequently caught up with the Micra at the next set of lights, reinforcing the point that his rushed overtake was utterly pointless and made no reduction in his overall journey time.

Got it now?

In addition to riding bicycles a lot, I drive a car and a motorbike and have a lot of road experience as a road user for all three. The way some car drivers try and carve through traffic in a built-up urban environment does very little to reduce their overall journey time. This becomes particularly apparent when riding a motorcycle. Car and van drivers will try and squeeze through spaces and cut up other vehicles, resulting in them getting 2-3 vehicles ahead of where they would have been otherwise and making almost no difference at all to their journey time overall.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
15th February 2012 - 13:21

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OldRidgeback wrote:
Got it now?

Yup - was just kind of curious as to how pertinent the up-the-inside pass was, but if the events are 100m apart then it sounds like just another ill-judged pass, nothing related to you passing him.

Sneaking up the inside of cars is probably just on my mind at the moment, after someone on a bike undertook me (in a car) in slow-moving traffic last night and passed across the front of me unexpectedly and too close for my comfort.

OldRidgeback wrote:
The way some car drivers try and carve through traffic in a built-up urban environment does very little to reduce their overall journey time... Car and van drivers will try and squeeze through spaces and cut up other vehicles, resulting in them getting 2-3 vehicles ahead of where they would have been otherwise and making almost no difference at all to their journey time overall.

Absolutely true, but I think you can replace "car drivers" with "cyclists" and it's equally true.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [364 posts]
15th February 2012 - 13:38

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Bez, yep some cyclists don't pay enough attention to what's going on around them. I've even had people in cars try and overtake me on the inside when I'm on my motorbike on various occasions. Here's me keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front on a wet day for instance and riding to the right of the centre of the lane and planning to overtake when it's safe, when some spoon squeezes past on the inside. It's happened several times. Car drivers see a supposed gap and go for it, not bothering to engage the brain and wondewr why the gap is there A - because I'm about to overtake the car in front and B - because I'm keeping my distance from it. I generally then make a double overtake and leave the spoon in the car safely behind at the next set of lights. Too many road users, cyclists as well as car drivers, are simply impatient and travel aggressively, despite the fact that it makes not a jot of difference to how long they take to get from A to B and that in doing so, they put others as well as themselves at unnecessary risk.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
15th February 2012 - 19:24

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Yup, all true, and let's not forget that many motorcyclists don't bother with staying in lanes either - eg there's a magical hidden third lane along the A3 all the way through Guildford which many motorcyclists seem to be privy to, even if the other two lanes are moving at the speed limit. Seen - and had - a few near misses there. Couriers are especially bad for this (no surprises).

A lot of two-wheelers' dangers come from people inventing lanes that don't exist, IMO/IME - whether it's cyclists finding their way up the gutter, any two-wheeler going up the middle of two lanes, or car drivers forcing themselves into an insufficient gap alongside a two-wheeler that's in the lane.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [364 posts]
15th February 2012 - 21:46

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On powered two wheels your allowed to filter between lanes of stationary
traffic - even though it peaves the hell out of some car/lgv drivers. Filtering
in between moving traffic, the old zig-zag or barrelling up the middle -
is downright dangerous because your doing something that is unexpected, which
causes some drivers to make sudden movements that cause accidents. But i
still think that every driver should have to compulsory cyclist awareness training.

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
15th February 2012 - 23:42

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On powered two wheels your allowed to filter between lanes of stationary
traffic - even though it peaves the hell out of some car/lgv drivers. Filtering
in between moving traffic, the old zig-zag or barrelling up the middle -
is downright dangerous because your doing something that is unexpected, which
causes some drivers to make sudden movements that cause accidents. But i
still think that every driver should have to participate in compulsory cyclist awareness
training (ie on a bike in traffic - a reality check).

To slo to live, to slo to die! ::-}

posted by OldnSlo [122 posts]
15th February 2012 - 23:44

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Very true the DFT spend on cycling is woefully inadequate given the rising price of fuel and ever present congestion in our country now, one way to go is convert more of the old dissued railways that criss cross our pleasant land very often passing close to towns and attractions this provides a safe corridoor for comunters ,families, and cycle holidays.
Here in deepest Cornwall there are plans to convert considerable mileages of trackbed to multi use tracks i.e walkers,cyclist this would be marketed as integrated communter routes and a complete holiday package www.theyellowbrickroad.info but as always its convincing the local councils this is where people (or cyclist) power comes into play we would like comments and hopefully spread the idea throughout the uk !! a real alternative!!

andrew miners's picture

posted by andrew miners [46 posts]
16th February 2012 - 9:57

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Yep, filtering on a motorbike is allowed in the UK though many car drivers don't know this and cause many accidents by not using their mirrors the way they're supposed to. The cars do not have to be stationary for filtering to be allowed, as long as the motorcyclist isn't breaking the speed limit in doing so. The rule of thumb advised by motorcycle instructors is generally that riding up to 10mph quicker than the cars is ok, as this gives you sufficient time to react should the car driver switch lanes without indicating or looking (and you'd be surprised how many do). Some riders (not me) filter faster than this and they're pushing their luck if you ask me. To be honest, if most car drivers had some experience of riding a motorcycle, the reduction in motorcycle accidents would be enormous.

Filtering on a bicycle on the inside is also allowed, as long as the traffic in the lane beside is moving at a slower pace, which is about as vague and unspecific as the Highway Code can be in parts. Again, not all vehicle drivers are aware of this or carry out proper observation, resulting in still more accidents. But anyone filtering on a bicycle on the inside should do so with extreme caution, particularly around HGVs (hopping the kerb and detouring along the pavement to get around a stopped HGV isn't allowed, but it's safer and I'd be telling an untruth if I said I don't do this when the pavement's clear and I want to get ahead). Again, if most motorists had more recent experience of cycling in traffic, the accident statistics would be much reduced.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
16th February 2012 - 10:09

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I was aware it was fine with stationary traffic but I confess I wasn't aware it was allowed at speed.

Some time on two wheels (bicycle/moped/scooter) as part of earning a licence would seem a hugely sensible and effective idea - as would a cycling proficiency test which included a ride in an HGV.

Bez's picture

posted by Bez [364 posts]
16th February 2012 - 10:42

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Bez wrote:
I was aware it was fine with stationary traffic but I confess I wasn't aware it was allowed at speed.

Some time on two wheels (bicycle/moped/scooter) as part of earning a licence would seem a hugely sensible and effective idea - as would a cycling proficiency test which included a ride in an HGV.

From what I can tell you're probably in the majority in that regard. I've had numerous conversations with people on the subject over the years and some people can get rather animated, especially when I point out that their knowledge of the Highway Code is flawed. I got my car licence about four years before I got my motorcycle licence and the improvement having the latter made to my car driving was notable.

If I was Minister for Transport, I'd require all drivers to take mandatory training and ability tests at set intervals. This would include eye testing and would also require all car drivers to take on-road training on bicycles and on motorcycles. People should never stop learning about driving technique or refining their skills, and that applies equally to all road users of every description. The more driver training people get, the better they drive as a rule and I think my policy would make a huge reduction in accidents as well as the personal and economic impact they have on the country - each fatality on the UK road network costs about £500,000 and that's not including figures for those injured. And if people really want to press the pedal to the metal (and I certainly do at times) karting or track days aren't that expensive.

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
16th February 2012 - 14:43

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OldRidgeback wrote:
mandatory training and ability tests at set intervals. This would include eye testing and would also require all car drivers to take on-road training on bicycles and on motorcycles. People should never stop learning about driving technique or refining their skills

Epic truth.

OldRidgeback wrote:
karting or track days aren't that expensive.

Dunno - it definitely became too expensive for me. And the other problem with that in a road safety context is that once you've been bumper-to-bumper at 80mph on a tea-tray and survived resulting pirouettes into gravel traps, you feel completely and utterly invincible (not to mention adrenaline-starved) at 70mph on the motorway with your backside more than a couple of inches off the tarmac, nice soft suspension, ABS, and a tonne of safety cage and half a dozen airbags around you... Plain Face

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posted by Bez [364 posts]
16th February 2012 - 16:39

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