Road safety charity IAM says that nearly nine in ten cyclists (88 per cent) say that within the past six months they have been cut up by another road user who did not look properly, according to the results of its latest poll. It adds that almost all cyclists – 95 per cent – who took part in the poll said that over the same period they had needed to take evasive action to avoid a collision.
The IAM says that the findings reflect the huge problem of SMIDSY – “Sorry mate, I didn’t see you” – motorists, already the subject of the Stop SMIDSY campaign from national cyclists’ organisation, CTC.
The results of the IAM poll do need to be treated with some caution, since they do not reflect a random sample of cyclists, but rather ones who for whatever reason have found their way to the charity's website and then decided to respond to the survey, which could for example result in those who have been involved in a near miss recently being more likely to participate.
However, the findings are published at a time when the issue has become particularly topical as a result of three recent court cases involving the death of cyclists and in which the drivers concered claimed not to have the victims, each citing the sun being in their eyes as a potential cause of the incident.
In each of those cases, which followed the deaths of Group Captain Tomas Barrett, killed as he rode home from work, record-breaking cyclist Pat Kenny, out training, and Karl Austin, who was taking part in a time trial, the drivers concerned admitted causing death by dangerous driving; none of them received a custodial sentence.
According to analysis carried out by IAM contained in its Licensed to Skill report, published last year, failure to look is a factor in 29 per cent of serious road traffic incidents and 36 per cent of less serious ones. It is the second most common contributory factors in ones that result in a fatality, found in 21 per cent of those.
Its latest research found that 89 per cent of cyclists blamed the other road user for not paying sufficient attention, and 90 per cent say that the only way to improve the situation is to increase motorists’ awareness of cyclists.
Around half of cyclists – 52 per cent – said that they had been involved in a near miss at a junction, and 45 per cent highlighted left-turn junctions specifically. Some 73 per cent of near misses took place in 30mph zones.
IAM chief executive Simon Best commented: “SMIDSY moments are happening far too often, and very few people are prepared to take responsibility for their part in them. It’s always someone else’s fault. All road users need to be more aware of who they are sharing the road with, and the risks they present.
“Other road users’ intentions can often be guessed by their body language and position on the road, so ride defensively, and leave room so that if somebody does do something unexpected, you have time to deal with it.”
While issues such as distracted, innatentive or speeding drivers, or ones who pass too close or cut in to turn left are clearly out of a cyclist’s hands, the IAM concluded by outlining its safety advice to bike riders to help do as much as they can personally to minimise risks while riding on the road. That advice is:
- Always assume a driver hasn’t seen you, and try to make eye contact
- Be prepared to stop or change direction, should another road user pull out on you, or behave unexpectedly
- Never ride up the inside of HGVs, and when you are riding behind make sure you can see their mirrors. If you can’t see their mirrors, then they can’t see you
- Wear high-viz clothing and use lights to make yourself more visible
- Don’t pass parked cars too close, in case someone opens a car door
- In the summer months, bright sunlight will make it a lot harder for motorists to see you.
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.