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Support for both measures from majority of cyclists too in new YouGov poll

A poll conducted for The Sunday Times has found that almost nine in ten people (89 per cent) think cyclists should be banned from wearing headphones, and almost as many (85 per cent) believe cycle helmets should be compulsory.

The majority of respondents who describe themselves as “more cyclist than motorist” in the survey of 1,867 people conducted by YouGov agreed with those views.

59 per cent of those respondents agreed that wearing of helmets should be compulsory, an issue that is regularly the subject of fierce debate among riders, and 67 per cent of them said that there should be a ban on headphones.

The latter issue was in the news last week after Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in a radio interview about the safety of cyclists that he would be in favour of riders being banned from wearing headphones.

Other findings of the survey include that two thirds of all respondents – rising to three in four of those considered themselves cyclists first and foremost – believe that lorries should be banned from cities during rush hour, something British Cycling's Chris Boardman called for last week in an open letter to Mr Johnson.

Several things differentiate the YouGov survey from some others we have reported on road.cc.

First, respondents aren’t self-selected, as many opt-in internet-based polls are, and which tend to encourage only those with a strong opinion one way or another to respond.

Also, as well as splitting out responses by standard demographic breaks such as gender, age, social grade and region, it also divides them by voting intentions as well as by “motorists,” “people who regularly use a bicycle,” and those who are “more cyclist than motorist.”

How does YouGov separate those categories? Well, it’s based on a question that asks respondents to state:

I regularly drive a motor vehicle and do NOT regularly use a bicycle (60 per cent)

I regularly use both a motor vehicle and a bicycle, but I generally use my motor vehicle more often than my bike (9 per cent)

I regularly use both a motor vehicle and a bicycle, but I generally use my bicycle more often than my motor vehicle (3 per cent)

I regularly ride a bicycle and do NOT regularly drive a motor vehicle (4 per cent)

I do not regularly use either (25 per cent)

As a result, 60 per cent of YouGov’s weighted sample fall into the category it terms “motorists” and 15 per cent are “people who regularly use a bicycle,” including 7 per cent who are “more cyclist than driver.”

Asked, “What do you believe is the most common cause of cycling accidents [sic],” 36 per cent of people said “poor standards of cycling by cyclists,” while 22 per cent cited “poor standards of driving by motorists” and 11 per cent went for each of “badly designed roads” and “too many lorries and other large vehicles on the roads.”

Analysis of police reports in incidents in which cyclists were killed or injured carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory in 2009 found that reckless riding was responsible for only a small percentage of collisions, with police attributing blame to the motorist in around three out of four cases.

As happened across most of the questions, there was a polarity in responses among those considering themselves cyclists or drivers.

Some 41 per cent of motorists blamed poor standards of cycling, and just 20 per cent driving; among regular bike riders, 20 per cent said cyclists were to blame and 30 per cent drivers, and there was an even greater gap among those defined as more cyclist than motorist – 13 per cent versus 36 per cent.

Other responses highlight that different perceptions of road safety exist depending on whether you’re more used to being behind the steering wheel or on the saddle of a bike.

Only 1 per cent of motorists thought badly designed roads are the most common cause of cycling accidents, but that rose to 9 per cent of regular cyclists and 14 per cent of those who are more cyclist than motorist.

Bad upkeep of roads (e.g. potholes) was thought to be a factor by 4 per cent of motorists, but 8 per cent of regular cyclists and 10 per cent of those who are more cyclist than motorist; conversely, drivers were much more likely to see pedestrians as being to blame for cycling accidents than cyclists were, at 11 per cent versus 6 per cent of regular cyclists and 5 per cent of people who are more cyclist than motorist.

Other questions addressed issues including whether sentences for both drivers and cyclists breaking road laws are tough enough, presumed liability, publishing accident data and details of accident blackspots online, increasing the number of cycle lanes, and whether there should be early-start traffic lights for cyclists.

You can find the complete results of the YouGov survey, including the full breakdown of responses by demographic groups and voting intentions, here.

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.

126 comments

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Cyclosis [71 posts] 2 years ago
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Stockholm syndrome.

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Al__S [1018 posts] 2 years ago
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that 7% "more cyclist than driver" comes out as 130 people- at which point you run into the problem of infering conclusions from small crossbreaks. That's 77 in favour of mandatory helmets versus 53 not in favour/don't knows.

The demographic spread of the cross break will almost certainly be oddly skewed.

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caaad10 [184 posts] 2 years ago
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Why do we never ask if car drivers should wear helmets, and make in car entertainment illegal too?

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caaad10 [184 posts] 2 years ago
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Why do we never ask if car drivers should wear helmets, and make in car entertainment illegal too?

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Bez [592 posts] 2 years ago
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At least it's good to see a survey that's got the balls to publish enough information to bear scrutiny, rather than the usual cowardly PR-funded pre-interpreted tosh.

Needs some infographics to compare with actual causes of collisions and injuries, though, to highlight the differences between what seems obvious and what is actually the case. A bit like the recent ones comparing people's assumptions about benefits etc.

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southseabythesea [148 posts] 2 years ago
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Wearing headphones when riding...well I think natural selection takes care of that...oh I didn't hear that motorbike coming...arrrrrrrrr!

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Edgeley [340 posts] 2 years ago
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I suspect a fairly large proportion of people will have exaggerated their bike use, because they won't want to be seen as sedentary carknobs. Rather like people won't admit to being racist in surveys. Or even that they might vote Conservative.

So that would tend to screw the survey up a bit.

What's more, I am not sure that a poll is the right way to determine something that is better determined by evidence than by anecdote.

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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*yawns*

Polls mean nothing aside from it shows the motorists agenda - they can't bully riders who can't hear them tooting their horn, revving their engine etc which happens daily... ; )

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northstar [1108 posts] 2 years ago
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caaad10 wrote:

Why do we never ask if car drivers should wear helmets, and make in car entertainment illegal too?

Nail.Head.

Agendas, agendas.

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racyrich [250 posts] 2 years ago
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Lets hope we never have a true democracy then, because as ever the misinformed prejudices of the majority will cause real punishment of minorities. Mob rule.

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nowasps [418 posts] 2 years ago
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Garbage. The opinion of the general public equates to uninformed opinion.

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sm [379 posts] 2 years ago
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Note to motorists completing a survey for cyclists.

Don't criticise what you don't understand.

Why are we not commissioning a survey with a 60% response return rate from cyclists on the standard of driving and justice in this country?

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David Portland [83 posts] 2 years ago
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Our survey says: Most people regurgitate things they've read in the papers back at surveys.

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md6 [181 posts] 2 years ago
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Out of only So lets look at the breakdown
60% motors,
25% neither
9% more motorist than cycle
...that's 94% not regular/primarily a cyclist out of only 1867 people. Leaving 7% (rounding error) who are primarily cyclists.

Just sayin

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nuclear coffee [208 posts] 2 years ago
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So, if and when the legislation is passed, and no significant statistical effect is seen (that controls for numbers of cyclists), as it hasn't been anywhere else... would the law be rescinded?

Me thinks that is unlikely. Meanwhile life becomes slightly worse.

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KnightBiker [72 posts] 2 years ago
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I train on my bicycle with earphones in regularly (in holland), and never have problems with other traffic, i don't think it's a problem on open roads maybe in town it's a little different.
(I won't use the in-ear solutions though as i figure they will block any sound from the outside)
Generally speaking: if your's sensible with it it should not prevent you from being careful on the road. (and in amsterdam nobody wears helmets while commuting, at normal speeds below 30 kph a helmet isn't necessary, and cycling isn't dangerous, the solution is to bring down the speeds of the cars on shared roads)

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John_the_Monkey [436 posts] 2 years ago
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Wishful thinking? Those are things *you* can easily influence, much more so than people driving at 40mph while steering with their knees and texting two handed, or deciding that they're cross with your cycling and skimming your elbow at 50mph, or thinking you should be in the ice covered bike lane, and deciding to tailgate you.

If the problem really was bad cycling, or earphones, or helmets, you can tell yourself that *you'll* be ok, and that choosing the cycle as a mode of transport in the UK isn't a triumph of hope and misplaced faith in other people.

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OldRidgeback [2616 posts] 2 years ago
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I read the article yesterday. What it highlights is how few people actually understand what causes most cycle crashes and cyclist injuries and deaths. DfT research shows that over 80% of incidents involving a cyclist and a motor vehicle are not the fault of the rider.

The survey also shows how most people (and that includes some cyclists apparently) are unaware that wearing a helmet would make no difference to the outcome for most cyclists involved in incidents that result in serious injuries or fatalities. And it shows too how most people are unaware how ineffective cycle helmets are due to the pathetically low impact standards they're designed to.

That said, I think anyone wearing headphones or earbuds while they ride is nuts. All well and good off-road but on-road, your hearing is really important to your safety.

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Huw Watkins [95 posts] 2 years ago
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"The opinion of the general public equates to uninformed opinion"

a.k.a. democracy

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lindow_man [5 posts] 2 years ago
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mrmo [2070 posts] 2 years ago
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how many people know what the design parameters of a bicycle helmet?

How many see helmet and assume it gives the same level of protection as a motorbike helmet, if you think it is obvious it can't, but this isn't about common sense.

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mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 2 years ago
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The xkcd for today is particularly appropriate for the discussion about regurgitating results of studies

http://xkcd.com/1295/

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hampstead_bandit [614 posts] 2 years ago
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can we have a survey about driving standards? and specifically ask lots of pedestrians and cyclists about this??

I just went for a walk in my local area (camden town) and within 30 minutes of being in the centre area around the tube station and high street saw:

-numerous motorists using smartphones in their cars

-numerous motorbikes, cars and HGV / Bus sitting right in the ASL at the traffic lights

-2 specific instances where 2 motorists got caught of out place after red lights had changed, and then tried to drive through pedestrians crossing on green light, with pedestrians shouting and signalling them both to stop before they got run over. This was:

at lights next to Sports Direct, this is where the women on the bike was run over by lorry recently

at lights next to barclays bank/gym/Vans shop and tube station

no sign of any Police enforcement in this area, and this is one of the busiest Tourists destinations in the UK for people coming to Camden markets

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therevokid [940 posts] 2 years ago
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I think we should ban headphone wearing and texting
by pedestrians unless they are fully trained, wearing hi-vis
and appropriate safety wear. Also car drivers should be
forced to wear helmets for hteir own safety too ....

ooohh is that my alarm clock !!!!

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tomawest [10 posts] 2 years ago
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really dont understand why people are fiercly against helmets. Yes they arent stylish but they are better than nothing and they could very well save your life one day!! All arguments ive seen against helmets are people just saying that they dont need to wear one.

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squired [22 posts] 2 years ago
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I find this whole headphone thing bizarre. Are there even any stats to back up the idea that wearing headphones is a contributory factor in accidents? I regularly see cyclists in London with headphones in, who are clearly aware of their surroundings. In contrast I also regularly see cyclists who don't even seem to understand the need to look over their shoulder regularly. Whether the latter group have earphones in or not they are far more dangerous. The whole argument just seems to be part of an attempt to blame cyclists for being hit by someone else.

It actually reminds me of an accident I had back when I was a student. I was riding to a local park to study for an exam when a left turning van took me out. After I picked myself off the ground I checked my belongings. This included the items in my rucksack (books, food, etc) and my Walkman (yes, this was a while ago). Of course I'd not been using it at the time, but as it had been in my back pocket I was worried it might be damaged when I hit the ground. As soon as the driver saw it he started shouting that I was listening to music and that is why the accident happened, which was complete rubbish. However, it demonstrates the way that someone causing an accident will jump on any reason to blame the victim. The same is true with helmets. Most of the recent fatal accidents involved the victim being crushed to death. Presence or lack of a helmet makes no difference when a tonne plus lorry drives over you, but it seems to be easier to blame the cyclist for their death. No doubt if they'd asked the question whether cyclists wearing HiViz should be law the answer to that would be yes too....

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LinusLarrabee [120 posts] 2 years ago
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Personally, I'd be very disappointed if headphones were banned. I'd never go out without a helmet, but I often listen to my iPod whilst I'm riding. Most of my riding is done alone and out on quiet roads in either the Pays de la Loire or Derbyshire countrysides, so it's not really a problem, because I don't need to have the volume up loud to be able to hear my music above the traffic. I'd never listen to my iPod whilst cycling through a busy city, though. I know form experience that you need all your senses when navigating through Paris during rush hour and I imagine London is the same.

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700c [889 posts] 2 years ago
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southseabythesea wrote:

Wearing headphones when riding...well I think natural selection takes care of that...oh I didn't hear that motorbike coming...arrrrrrrrr!

That's a strange take on natural selection/ survival of the 'fittest' Where the 'fittest' in your scenario is the car driver who hits a motorbike he didn't hear/ see coming, thereby wiping him out of the gene pool. Because that's the cause of most biker fatalities.

Nothing to do with anybody wearing headphones, then. Least of all a cyclist.

Headphone debate (and the helmet one) are red herrings in the road safety argument. It's a shame the motoring public can't see that though.

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Bikebikebike [221 posts] 2 years ago
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Stupid people are stupid shocker.

Shows more education is required. Although for the 11% who are intending to vote UKIP, I fear that they are beyond help, and the only kind thing to do would be to take them out the back and blow their brains out with a shotgun.

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Bikebikebike [221 posts] 2 years ago
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700c wrote:
southseabythesea wrote:

Wearing headphones when riding...well I think natural selection takes care of that...oh I didn't hear that motorbike coming...arrrrrrrrr!

That's a strange take on natural selection/ survival of the 'fittest' Where the 'fittest' in your scenario is the car driver who hits a motorbike he didn't hear/ see coming, thereby wiping him out of the gene pool. Because that's the cause of most biker fatalities.

Nothing to do with anybody wearing headphones, then. Least of all a cyclist.

Headphone debate (and the helmet one) are red herrings in the road safety argument. It's a shame the motoring public can't see that though.

Indeed, I'm not sure what you're meant to do in the split-second when you can discern the motorbike from other traffic. In Spiderman 2 he does a back-flip off his scooter, which I suppose might be worth a go.

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