In a week when Scotland’s Nice Way Code cycle safety campaign has come under much criticism for, among other things, encouraging drivers to treat people on bikes in the same way they do horses, new research highlights cyclists’ own concerns when it comes to their safety, with almost eight in ten respondents stating they feel unsafe while riding on Great Britain’s roads.
The survey, conducted by national cycling charity CTC’s legal advisors, Slater & Gordon, also found that of the 500 regular cyclists who took part, 85 per cent believe that conflict exists between cyclists and other road users, while one in four said they had been subjected to road rage within the past year.
More often than not, car drivers and cyclists are one and the same person – research consistently shows that regular adult cyclists are in fact more likely to own a car than average – and last year, AA president Edmund King called for an end to the “two tribes” mentality that all too often prevails in the media and beyond.
The evidence from Slater & Gordon’s survey, however, is that there’s little sign of conditions changing on the streets, with car drivers perceived as presenting the greatest threat to cyclists’ safety, and more than three in four – 77 per cent – saying that when riding a bike, they believed they didn’t get respect from other road users.
King’s words were echoed by Paul Kitson of Slater & Gordon, who said: “These worrying statistics illustrate the two tribes mentally of motorists verses cyclists.
“There is a need for much greater respect and tolerance. Cyclists do not harm the environment and alleviate our over crowded public transport and road network.
“In Britain less than 2% of journeys are made by bike contrasting starkly with our neighbours in Holland where 27% of journeys are by bike.”
“The report highlights the urgent need for the Government to increase expenditure on safety campaigns to increase cycle awareness.
“Worryingly many motorists are not alert to cyclists and fail to keep a proper look out for them”.
Almost half of the respondents to the survey claimed to have experienced verbal abuse, and in excess of a quarter reported drivers having shouted profanities at them while passing.
In more extreme instances, around one in fifteen bike riders – 7 per cent – said they had been deliberately targeted by having objects thrown at them, and a frightening one in 20 – 5 per cent – had been pushed off their bikes by a vehicle occupant.
According to Slater & Gordon, causes of concern highlighted by riders included that “drivers failed to check their blind spots, couldn’t accurately judge the speed of cyclists and had a tendency to drive too close to them.
Failure to indicate was a common concern, and 84 per cent of respondents said that they didn’t think motorists noticed them – an issue that was the subject of CTC’s own ‘Stop SMIDSY’ campaign, launched in 2009.
The majority of respondents welcomed specific training for drivers to raise their awareness of bike riders, with 60 per cent agreeing that government campaigns encouraged drivers to take more consideration of them – although an even higher proportion called for police to enforce existing laws as the best way of ensuring cyclists’ safety.
Two other chief issues of concern went beyond the actions (or inactions) of other road users, however, with a quarter of those replying to the survey saying that potholes represented a threat to their safety, and four in ten singling out poorly designed infrastructure.
Gordon Seabright, Chief executive of CTC said: “Cycling is great for individuals and the whole country. It’s good for you and it’s fun. But far too many people are put off cycling because they feel it isn’t safe.
“All of us benefit when more people take up cycling so CTC, national cycling charity, calls on motorist to respect their fellow road users and governments around the UK to support properly funded and effective road safety campaigns.”
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.