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Flawed advice on passing and advanced stop lines retained

THINK! Cyclist, a campaign designed to highlight to cyclists and motorists ways to share the road safely that has been running in London since September 2012, is to be rolled out to five other cities in England.

Outdoor advertising will be put in place in Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds and Manchester to highlight to drivers and people on bikes alike potential hazards when sharing space.

Developed by Transport for London (TfL) and the Department for Transport (DfT), the initiative aims to reinforce a culture of mutual respect among road users with the aim of improving safety.

When the campaign was launched last year in London, no cycling body endorsed it, and CTC was critical of some of the campaign’s advice.

CTC campaigns and policy director Roger Geffen says the organisation’s stance hasn’t changed.

He told road.cc: “CTC welcomes the posters and has no problem with the imagery, but has long-standing concerns about some of THINK!’s associated ‘tips’, especially its advice to drivers to give cyclists at least half a car’s width.

“This is far less than the overtaking distance recommended in the Highway Code: “…as much room as you  would when overtaking a car" – i.e. far more than half a car's width in most cases.

“CTC also believes that THINK!’s recommendation that cyclists should wear a helmet implies that it is irresponsible not to wear one, advice that could be prejudicial to cyclists in legal cases.

“CTC points out that helmets are not designed to protect riders in the sort of collisions that are likely to happen in fast or heavy traffic and that it is far more important to provide sound advice to road users on how to avoid collisions in the first place.”

While we admit we haven’t exactly been keeping an eye out, the only place in London where we’ve spotted the posters is on bus shelters. The pic at the top, and this one are from shelters on a quiet suburban shopping street close to road.cc’s east London office. Has anyone out there seen them on, say, buses?

The advice

The campaign contains advice aimed at both drivers and cyclists. The advice to drivers includes:

  • Look out for cyclists, especially when turning - make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
  • Use your indicators - signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
  • Give cyclists space – at least half a car’s width. If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened
  • Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
  • Avoid driving over advanced stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility
  • Follow the Highway Code including ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights.

When the campaign was launched, CTC also criticised the phrasing of the advice over advanced stop lines, which is weaker than the instructions in the Highway Code. The Highway Code says: “Motorists, including motorcyclists, MUST stop at the first white line reached if the lights are amber or red and should avoid blocking the way or encroaching on the marked area at other times.”

Cyclists, meanwhile, are advised:

  • Ride positively, decisively and well clear of the kerb – look and signal to show drivers what you plan to do and make eye contact where possible so you know drivers have seen you
  • Avoid riding up the inside of large vehicles, like lorries or buses, where you might not be seen
  • Always use lights after dark or when visibility is poor
  • Wearing light coloured or reflective clothing during the day and reflective clothing and/or accessories in the dark increases your visibility
  • Follow the Highway Code including observing ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights
  • THINK! recommends wearing a correctly fitted cycle helmet, which is securely fastened and conforms to current regulations.

British Cycling, which has been lobbying for a campaign to promote understanding between cyclists and other road users for two years, has welcomed the initiative.

Martin Key, its campaigns manager, commented: “British Cycling has long championed the need for a driver and cyclist awareness campaign.

“It is vital when talking about safety on the roads that we don’t get a ‘them and us’ mentality emerging between drivers and cyclists.

"We are all road users and I hope that this campaign can help foster mutual respect between everyone who uses the roads to make journeys safer, more pleasant experiences.

“We hope it will not be long before this this media campaign is launched nationwide.”

We contacted British Cycling to ask what had persuaded them to change their stance and back this year's THINK! Campaign but as yet have had no reply - we will update this article with their response when we get it.

Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.

Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.

Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.

The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.