Olympic success has positive impact on motorists' view of cyclists, according to survey

Team GB performance causes a third to reassess views - but one in four still believe cyclists are a danger to themselves and others

by Simon_MacMichael   September 19, 2012  

Bradley on his way to another gold medal

More than a third of motorists surveyed by a used car search website say that Great Britain’s Olympic success this summer has had a positive impact on their view of cyclists. The research, conducted for Motors.co.uk, also found that just over a quarter of motorists believe the government should spend more on cycling infrastructure. However, a quarter believe that cyclists are a meace to themselves and other road users.

In all, 36 per cent of respondents said that the success this summer of British riders such as Bradley Wiggins, Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton had helped improve their perception of cyclists, with 6 per cent saying they are spending more time cycling as a result.

However, responses also highlighted the view shared by around a third of motorists that Britain’s roads are unsafe for cyclists, and 26 per cent said that more money should be spent on cycle lanes and other infrastructure.

An identical percentage, however, felt that despite investment made to date in improving conditions for those on two wheels, cyclists presented a danger both to themselves and to other road users.

Finally, one in ten of those surveyed said that while Team GB’s success had given tem the inspiration to cycle more, they believed the roads where they live are too dangerous to ride a bike on.

The survey of 2,000 of users of the website, which has 1.6 million monthly users and offers 150,000 used cars for sale including through partnerships with major national and regional newspaper publishers, was conducted by YouGov.

Phill Jones, Motor.co.uk’s commercial director, said: “The onus is on the Government to facilitate cycling for the nation, and it is clear that conditions need to vastly improve before we really see the effects of this on Britain’s roads.

“To put the problem into context, the Dutch Government invests in the region of £10 - £20 a head to ensure that cyclists feel confident on the roads, compared to under £1 a head in the UK.

“There is absolutely no reason that motorists and cyclists can’t safely co-exist on our roads, and collectively we should be doing all we can to encourage the nation to get on its bike.”

Do the survey findings reflect reality? Have you noticed a change in attitudes from motorists when you're out riding on the road after Britain's golden summer? Let us know in the comments.
 

18 user comments

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Until the schools went back, I think there was a change for the better, although it's hard to tell whether that's expedient (it's easier for drivers to give you room, as the roads are less busy) or driven by the Olympics &c.

My personal feeling is that things were better over the summer, although you couldn't rely on being treated considerately consistently.

September has seen a reversion to type though - I've experienced some appalling driving lately (culminating in my first complaint letter for four years being sent this morning). Good drivers are still out there, and I've a feeling that there may be slightly more of them. However, the inattentive and malicious are still around in sufficient numbers to make commutes a nervy, unpleasant business.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
19th September 2012 - 9:56

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I think there are fewer people driving badly when it comes to cycling (or at least to giving me room). But there are still enough @rseh0les out there to ensure that there are frequent brushes with danger.

I caught up with one such person after he had given me a few millimetres of room, and asked him why he hadn't given me space, and he told me it was becuase I should be cycling in the gutter or as he put it " you were too far out".

We can't rely on the goodwill of all drivers.

Edgeley

posted by Edgeley [158 posts]
19th September 2012 - 10:15

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Edgeley probably has it about right for me. Last week I was overtaken by a huge Audi A8 that gave me no space at all, despite a clear road, and it being perfectly safe and legal for him to cross the white line while overtaking. When he stopped at the lights I asked him to 'leave more room please'. He wound down his window to tell me that he would then have been 'on the other side of the road'. Not only would that have been a good manoeuvre, but it hadn't occurred to him that if it wasn't, he simply should have waited until it was safe to overtake. An extra second or two on his journey was worth more to him than my safety. The irony of course is that then we were both at the lights together anyway.

If I could have, say, 6 bikes, would it stop me drooling over others that I don't have?

posted by notfastenough [2953 posts]
19th September 2012 - 10:30

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Here in N Surrey I *think* its been getting better over recent years anyway (probably helped by riding a recumbent - the 'WTF' factor). But there does seem to be more waryness re overtakes since the olympics. Whether that's because of the cycling coverage, or just that drivers see a recumbent and think of the paralympics in particular I dunno..I'm not going to complain tho'.

On the other hand it didn't seem to have much effect of the two 20-something prats in a Corsa (?) last night who seemed to take exception to me taking the lane through a pinch point (and a narrow one at that)..tho' the last I saw of them at a junction further on they seemed to be sound the horn shouting 'pedo' at someone, whether that was me (from a distance) or the white faux-by-faux in front I dunno. Once a knuckle-dragger...

posted by JonD [177 posts]
19th September 2012 - 11:01

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notfastenough wrote:
An extra second or two on his journey was worth more to him than my safety. The irony of course is that then we were both at the lights together anyway.

This final point is the crucial one. Many motorists are unable to comprehend that waiting just a few seconds to make an overtake makes little or no difference to their overall journey time. I wonder if he would have thought about this had you commented that you were both at the lights at the same time in any case.

When I'm riding my motorbike I'll even pull over to let an angry or aggressive car driver (and so many of them are in BMWs) who is tailgating get past me. Then I'll give them a cheery wave as I overtake them and the four or more cars in front of them as they queue at the next set of lights.

I've been driving cars and motorbikes for several decades now, along with riding bicycles, and I have come to realise that driving slowly and cautiously is no slower, in busy city commuting, than driving quickly and aggressively. It also stresses the driver less, uses less fuel and cuts wear and tear on the car. If only more drivers would realise that tailgating for instance doesn't actually get them where they want to go any quicker, and sometimes actually slows down journey times, particularly when it causes an accident!

OldRidgeback

posted by OldRidgeback [2132 posts]
19th September 2012 - 11:04

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I dont think its changed much at all.

Road users see cyclists as someone who slows them down and takes their road up. They see them as "Oh look at this d!ck head trying to be that Wiggins"

I am in Leeds and its still no better, less traffic around over the summer and now its back to normal. D!ck heads passing within inches of you, cars screaming around with sh!t music blearing out.

Until a section of cycling is added to driving tests and a more media display of how to overtake cyclists etc then nothing will change at all.

Ive had a women two weeks ago shouting at me for daring to overtake a bus which had partially pulled over (couldnt get in the bus stop due to road works) and not allowing her to go first.

We as a nation want to get from A to B as quickly as possible, which I suppose is fair enough, but when A to B is shortened by lack of organisation, iPhones, Twitter, Farcebook distractions then oits other road users that take the brunt of frustration, be it another car driver, or van or cyclist.

We are seen as cyclists out to keep fit first, not as another road user, when the drivers of motor vehicles see us as road users first, thats when the positiveness will come into it.

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
19th September 2012 - 11:37

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I don't see motorists as road users if they don't see "us" as road users, they just receive my contempt as they treat me in the same manner.

posted by southstar [11 posts]
19th September 2012 - 12:18

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I think there has been a shift. I see most motorists being more considerate about overtaking.

I did have one stupid incident in August. I was taking the centre of three lanes to go straight on. As it was the middle lane, I 'took the lane' as the safest position. It was 80 metres between two sets of traffic signals (either side of a bus station exit). A woman behind me hooted at me in the 80 m stretch of road leading to the next red signal. In the three minutes we waited at the red, I asked her why she hooted. She said 'because you were holding me up'. I replied 'but the light is red - that's what's holding you up not me'. She wouldn't have it. Is there any hope when drivers don't understand what's going on?

I regularly ride on urban roads. Going no faster than a steady 15 mph, I catch up every car that passes me between traffic signals. Drivers don't realise that in towns there isn't much point in overtaking cyclists because they will be caught again at the next junction.

posted by Campag_10 [153 posts]
19th September 2012 - 12:41

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There seem to be a few posters around town now encouraging people to overtake bikes with more room (the amount of room shown on the poster is far too little, but that's another story). I'd really like a campaign highlighting that at pinch-points it is fine for a bike to take the lane. Whereas I generally think that campaigns to change drivers' attitudes are money that could be spent on cycle lanes, I do think that highlighting this might make a difference to my daily commute.

posted by SpamSpamSpam [20 posts]
19th September 2012 - 13:26

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They certainly son't seem to have done in central London. I think that any percieved benefit during the Olympics was due to a lower number of cars on the road. Since the games ended and even more since the schools went back the same old attitude has crept in and less space and tollerance are being given. That said, the idiot cycling fringe seem to also be back on the road and swelled due to seeing the GB success.

posted by md6 [154 posts]
19th September 2012 - 14:25

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Mostly in Sky kit md6?

posted by Darthshearer [141 posts]
19th September 2012 - 15:45

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Big Grin some of them yep

posted by md6 [154 posts]
19th September 2012 - 17:12

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I agree with Edgeley and notfastenough - often when I'm driving it is safer to drive down the right hand side of the road than try to drive down the centre line. For example if you are passing parked cars on one side of the road you aren't going be surprised by a child running out for a ball or something like that if you are over on the right hand side.

I will always aim to give fellow riders as much room as possible.

If cycling is indeed a sport of self-abuse why aren't more cyclists sectioned under the mental health act?

posted by hairyairey [278 posts]
19th September 2012 - 19:05

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OldRidgeback wrote:

When I'm riding my motorbike I'll even pull over to let an angry or aggressive car driver (and so many of them are in BMWs) who is tailgating get past me.

Definitely.

I'd far rather have an impatient driver ahead of me than behind. On the roads I ride, it's pretty rare to have to pull over, but it is possible (sometimes) to vary my pace so that Mr. Must-Overtake and I don't arrive at a pinch point at the same time.

--
"Tant que je respire, j'attaque!"

John_the_Monkey's picture

posted by John_the_Monkey [418 posts]
19th September 2012 - 19:51

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Phill Jones, Motor.co.uk’s commercial director, said: “The onus is on the Government to facilitate cycling for the nation, and it is clear that conditions need to vastly improve before we really see the effects of this on Britain’s roads.

This is such a cop out. While better infrastructure is needed. Driver education and attitude seriously needs to be addressed. This last few days I have encountered some horriffic driving in quite a few months. One driver aaccused me of forcing him to break the speed limit when I challenged him for making an overtake with inches to spare. (The classic I'll race you to the red light move)

At some given point motorists and cyclists will interact and something needs to be done to sort that out.

giff77's picture

posted by giff77 [1040 posts]
19th September 2012 - 21:26

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There seemed to be a more tolerant climate from drivers after the TdF and the Olympics although the last two weeks I've noticed and slide back towards the pre olympic status quo of aggressive driving and impatience.

Sudor

posted by Sudor [179 posts]
19th September 2012 - 22:18

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I feel that this is just the same as the spike you see in the number of people (young and old) playing tennis just after wimbledon.
Like others on this site I believe the only way forward is to educate the drivers to be more aware and to improve their standards, not put the cyclist on the pavement where we do not belong.

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posted by FATBEGGARONABIKE [572 posts]
20th September 2012 - 8:16

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SpamSpamSpam wrote:
There seem to be a few posters around town now encouraging people to overtake bikes with more room (the amount of room shown on the poster is far too little, but that's another story). I'd really like a campaign highlighting that at pinch-points it is fine for a bike to take the lane. Whereas I generally think that campaigns to change drivers' attitudes are money that could be spent on cycle lanes, I do think that highlighting this might make a difference to my daily commute.

Without wanting to resurrect the usual anti-segregation argument, with a bit more consideration there's less need for cycle lanes.

We used to have public information films on tv - including one about overtaking cyclists, IIRC - but the current bunch of muppets scrapped the department they were produced for:
http://coi.gov.uk/

Oh great, we've now got the DfT producing b******s Sad

http://www.bikebiz.com/news/read/dft-unveils-road-safety-advice-that-swe...

posted by JonD [177 posts]
20th September 2012 - 12:00

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