Three-quarters of driving instructors think cycle awareness should be part of driving test

And even more of them think cyclists should have some form of training

by Sarah Barth   September 13, 2012  

Learner driver - pic credit David J Morgan, Flickr Creative Commons

More than 75 per cent of driving instructors believe that a cycle awareness module should be part of the driving test in Britain.

With the number of cyclists on the increase following the Tour de France and the Olympics, and a corresponding hike in the number of cycling-related injuries (up 10 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, according to Department for Transport figures), instructors are concerned that learner drivers don't learn the skills required to safely interact with riders on the roads.

The study was carried out by RED driving school, who polled 600 instructors.

On the flipside, even more instructors - 88 per cent - thought that cyclists should have some sort of training.

"The Government should reintroduce cycling proficiency in schools or at least facilitate partnerships between schools and The National Standards for Cycle Training, which was established as a unified cycle training program to promote road safety," said Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED.

Those National Standards are however already taught in many schools as part of the Bikeability programme, billed as ‘Cycling Proficiency for the 21st Century.’

A review of the National Standards was started in April this year with the updated version due to be published in January 2013.

Mandatory training and testing for cyclists has always been controversial. The AA and various cycling groups would like to see cycling proficiency as part of the National Curriculum, but last month BikeRadar was forced to pull out of a joint campaign with insurers Ingenie after widespread public anger that part of the campaign revolved around testing cyclists before they were allowed on the roads.

Martin Gibbs, British Cycling’s Policy and Legal Affairs Director, said: “We want to see learner drivers educated to see cyclists as legitimate road users who have a right to be treated with respect and consideration. We are also calling for drivers to learn safe overtaking manoeuvres.”

18 user comments

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I think this is fair enough, yes new drivers should have training to make them aware of cyclists of course, and training for cyclists should equally be mandatory.

I don't personally think the effect from the olympics or TdeF should be the reason. I think this has been long overdue in this country. The problem is the existing drivers around cyclists and the law courts attitudes towards drivers who maim or kill cyclists.

posted by Karbon Kev [663 posts]
13th September 2012 - 8:52

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Agree, legal system is far too soft on dangerous driving (and not just where it hurts cyclists).

Cycle training in schools would be a good idea. But training can only do so much. All those idiots you see speeding, tailgating, texting while they drive... they've all passed the driving test haven't they?

posted by JonSP [48 posts]
13th September 2012 - 8:56

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Good to hear. It's a shame that Karen Dee, director of the Freight Transport Association in her remarks to the London Assembly cyling session on Monday, said she didn't think HGV drivers should have to undergo cycle awareness training, but cyclists should of course be trained. Classic throw the responsibility onto the victim.

Trouble with making cycle awareness part of the driving test is that it doesn't address the problem of existing drivers. Of course, over time younger drivers who have this training will gradually replace older ones who don't and who will eventually have to give up as they lose competence, but that will be a slow process.

In fact, motoring demographics already show that there is a "bulge" in proportion of drivers by age group, measured at decade intervals, which has moved like a wave into the higher age groups in the last two decades, such that now there are nore drivers in the >65 bracket than in the <25. As take-up among the young seems to have declined over the last 15 years, perhaps the bulge, formed by the baby-boom generation, will soon deflate?

posted by Paul M [305 posts]
13th September 2012 - 10:30

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Learner drivers should be trained to be safe in all situations where there is a risk to other road users. They should be trained and tested on how to safely share the road with cyclists and, in particular, how to overtake safely.

The argument about mandatory training for cyclists is different. A bike doesn't weigh a tonne and have the potential to do 100 mph. As a low kinetic energy machine it does not have the potential to harm and kill other road users.

Of course, it's sound common sense to take steps to improve one's ability to survive in a hostile environment but we should allow people to make their own choices when it's only their personal health and wellbeing that is at risk.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
13th September 2012 - 10:35

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I doubt this RED instructor was part of the 600 who where polled... http://youtu.be/hbXEtlg-4ww

posted by onyourbikeinlondon [10 posts]
13th September 2012 - 11:22

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Well said Campag10

If 75% of driving instructors believe that the driving test should include a module on cycle awareness this must be to make their clients better able to drive safely on the roads and like most road users (cyclists, drivers and pedestrians) I think there is much need for improvement in the way many drivers behave around all other road users, especially slower or stationary ones.

Wouldn't it be a start if those 75% of driving instructors simply made sure that during their lessons the topic was properly covered? It doesn't have to be a module in the test to be covered in the teaching.

I don't really trust what the driving instructors say, nor indeed their motivation (extra test module=extra lesson=extra fees).

I guess most are fairly sensible but only last weekend I can across an instructor angrily berating a group of cyclists for riding two-abreast even though it was clearly the correct way to ride given traffic conditions and road layout.

A good few years ago I was physically attacked by a driving instructor who was teaching a client at the time - he rammed my bike with his car and as I picked up myself and my bike he got out of the car and hit me knocking me back to the ground. My offense was simply riding two-abreast. That was of course reported to the police but after hours of giving statements etc. they said they would "speak to him".

People with those attitudes shouldn't be instructing drivers at all.

As for training for cyclists, yes good taining can be really helpful for cyclists but it is not, and should not, be legally required ....

A reminder to everyone that cyclists of all ages and abilities have a right to be on the roads. Pedestrians and horse-riders also have a right to be on roads - they are not supposed to have to leap out of the way whenever a motor vehicle approaches - the vehicle driver is supposed to wait until there is room to overtake and then to do so in a safe manner.

Motor vehicle drivers have a licence not a right and that licence can be withdrawn if they don't behave correctly. I think that withdrawal doesn't happen enough and is too often ignored.

Shay

posted by shay cycles [209 posts]
13th September 2012 - 12:48

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Unfortunately accidents happen even to the safest and best drivers.

Only yesterday i was at a junction in my car and whilst checking left and right i saw nothing, literally nothing was there, or so i thought as just as i pulled out a lady on a sit up and beg style shopper appeared to my right.

After slamming the brakes on and apologising profusely she was ok and went on her way, no doubt having a pop about me, and rightly so, to her hubby and friends later on.

It just goes to show they do happen and even to good drivers (which i pride myself on being one). In the end some drivers are muppets and no amount of extra advice or training will change them or their attitudes.

If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it. Gaius Julius Caesar.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2642 posts]
13th September 2012 - 12:53

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"The argument about mandatory training for cyclists is different. A bike doesn't weigh a tonne and have the potential to do 100 mph. As a low kinetic energy machine it does not have the potential to harm and kill other road users."

Bad cyclists DO harm other road users (and not just the Wyatt family, my Father had his hip broken by one), and can cause serious accidents. The notion that the only life at risk is the cyclists, and training is therefore unnecessary, is frankly absurd.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
13th September 2012 - 13:20

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@Rumpo - absolutely. I think you need to reconsider your reasoning, Campag. A bicycle most definitely does have the potential to harm and kill other road users (pedestrians and other cyclists) and this becomes actual when you add a rider who's an idiot. I'm off the bike currently with a trapped nerve but ride most days on busy roads with few problesm; so taking the bus last week, I was able to witness the vehicular view of what many cyclists de nos jours look like on the same roads - frankly, I was gobsmacked. An absence of basic road abilities (awareness, signalling, anticipation, riding too close) and so much ignorance of basic road rules like not steaming through red lights and NOT USING LIGHTS IN THE DARK! Un-f#cking believable.

dullard's picture

posted by dullard [140 posts]
13th September 2012 - 13:45

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Does Ian McIntosh, CEO of RED not know that Bikeability is being taught in schools or does he mean it should be mandatory?

Making it mandatory in schools as in a required part of the syllabus is very worthwhile, as is strongly promoting cycle training for adults (make it free, get the money from reduced health care costs, have employers fund it for any employee who wants it). But making it a requirement to use a bike on the road is unworkable and counter productive.

Inconsiderate cycling is a major factor in other peoples perception of cyclists - hence the hate. The police act on matters of public interest and public interest demands control and policing of cyclists - hence the periodic focus on pavement cyclists and rlj-ers (and the lack of focus on car offences).

posted by horizontal dropout [144 posts]
13th September 2012 - 14:22

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It's possible for pedestrians to kill people too, but as with bikes it's a lot harder to do so. I don't propose we test people on their road skills in order to be pedestrians, and I don't propose we do it for cyclists either.

The number of people killed by cyclists in the UK remains under 1 per year. It does happen, but it's certainly not worth the expense and admin of training and testing for the benefit, if any, that it would bring. Let us not forget that most cyclists already have a driving license, for what that is worth.

That said I would advocate any cyclist get training voluntarily, or at least reads the highway code and the principles of defensive and assertive cycling.

posted by HKCambridge [107 posts]
13th September 2012 - 14:27

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Dullard, Rumpo, I understand what you're saying but joggers and walkers have the potential to knock pedestrians over and cause injury, do they need formal training too? Compulsory training in schools I agree with, but any sort of formal cycling test to be taken by adults before they can ride is simply a barrier to people riding their bike (like compulsory helmets) which would be a net negative to society. Besides most of the bad cycling I see isn't because the riders don't understand the rules (jumping red lights etc), its that they don't care about the rules.

posted by Manx Rider [18 posts]
13th September 2012 - 16:21

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Manx rider. Just to clarify, my position on training/licensing of cyclists is exactly the same as yours.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
13th September 2012 - 16:35

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I am not for compulsory testing for cyclists but as I have a full motor bike license and have used it for years I do find that the training I was given to pass the motorcycle test very helpful when riding my bike on the road.

There are two particular parts that should be highlighted here, bike control and road craft the ability to see the road around you and act from a range of stimuli. You see too many people who think getting out of there car and on to two wheels is an easy transition.

The basic skills don't take long and even less time to be aware of, in terms of road awareness but what never ceases to amaze me is the lack of skills many cyclists have in both areas highlighted. I don't reckon that it applies to many of the readers and writers here but everyday I must see two or three cyclists wobbling all over the place, in a wide range of situations who have no real control of there bike.

but give them a few week of constant riding and there skills improve. Its keeping them safe in this initial period that could be the problem, however road awareness takes time and more importantly it takes information. How do you find out about a life saver or assessing the road ahead and developing scenarios for things that may happen ahead and positioning your self in away for how you read the road

posted by Ciaran Patrick [117 posts]
13th September 2012 - 16:55

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I think that mandatory training for cyclists is something that may become more relevant (and may start to seem less disproportionate) as the number of electric-assist bikes increases. These are enabling unskilled and inexperienced cyclists to move at average speeds they would not previously have attained, and to carry out overtaking manoeuvres they would previously not have.

I find it striking that so many cyclists suspend whatever road sense they have as soon as they are on routes that are free of motor traffic. My last Sunday cycle featured a few stretches of forest road, and I had to brake half a dozen times because other cyclists had simply stopped right in the middle of the path for a rest or a chat or a snack and were blocking the route.

As a cycle campaigner, I think mandatory training is probably a disproportionate response, but as a cyclist, I would quite like other cyclists to display greater awareness of the rules.

posted by bambergbike [84 posts]
13th September 2012 - 22:10

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Indeed cyclists do have the potential to harm, but the risk relative to that posed by motorists it is pretty low really. @Campag seems to have the right idea.

posted by richteebis [23 posts]
14th September 2012 - 14:22

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dullard wrote:
@Rumpo - absolutely. I think you need to reconsider your reasoning, Campag. A bicycle most definitely does have the potential to harm and kill other road users (pedestrians and other cyclists) and this becomes actual when you add a rider who's an idiot. I'm off the bike currently with a trapped nerve but ride most days on busy roads with few problesm; so taking the bus last week, I was able to witness the vehicular view of what many cyclists de nos jours look like on the same roads - frankly, I was gobsmacked. An absence of basic road abilities (awareness, signalling, anticipation, riding too close) and so much ignorance of basic road rules like not steaming through red lights and NOT USING LIGHTS IN THE DARK! Un-f#cking believable.

Absolutely right, I also regularly witness road manners like that. I also witness the same on pavements by adults on bikes several sizes too small, usually a man on a woman's bike. Recently I was pushing my toddler in her buggy along the pavement, suddenly there was a bike about two inches away from the front of the buggy after his emergency stop, with a man screaming at me for putting my child in danger.Fortunately there was a Policeman there within seconds who had seen him riding on the pavement, he was issued with a fine.
I think that Cycling should actually be an integral part of the Driving test, not just Cycle Awareness, but an actual part of the test. It would give new road users freedom to the road before they have passed the Driving Test, and also enhance their observational skills and senses as a different group of road user.
It would be a huge boost to cycling as new road users could be given the confidence to cycle as well as drive. I don't think it necessary to have a test, just two to three hours worth of lessons might be enough for some. Obviously there are some people that would want exceptions and that is fine, that is to be expected and could be worked out. But just think of the extra awareness it would create in new drivers if they had already been given cycling lessons. It would also create a demand for Cycling instructors. I don't think it would be too hard to implement. It could start off as a voluntary trial somewhere, because it would be voluntary, the take up may be quite high and would give enough people to evaluate it properly. Obviously the money to pay the Cycling instructors would need to come from somewhere, but there are some councils giving free cycling lessons anyway. It would be a boost to the economy as more work for Cycling instructors, less traffic on roads with more confident cyclists.

tommy2p

posted by tommy2p [84 posts]
15th September 2012 - 2:58

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Well, isn't this a step in the right direction; and I truly believe that public awareness of the safety issues on our roads, should be at the forefront of all motoring organisations, specifically the safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

posted by Mostyn [400 posts]
15th September 2012 - 9:53

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