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Cyclists make for better drivers, study concludes

Researchers in Australia find that those with experience of riding a bike process visual information more quickly

People with experience of cycling are more attentive when at the wheel of a car, according to a study from Australia which sought to establish how people process visual information while driving.

The study was conducted by Lisa J Hansen, of the Australian National University, Canberra, and Vanessa Beanland of the University of the Sunshine Coast.

It was published in the journal, Accident Analysis & Prevention, under the title, Do cyclists make better drivers? Associations between cycling experience and change detection in road scenes

They were looking to expand on existing research that established a link between the length of time someone has been driving and their attentional allocation.

For this study, which sought to examine the impact of non-driving factors, they compared drivers who had cycling experience (‘cyclist-drivers’) with those who did not have any.

The researchers said that based on existing situation awareness field test studies, they expected the cyclist-drivers group to perform better.

Subjects were split into three groups. The largest comprised 42 experienced motorists aged 30-50, of whom 17 were women and 25 men. There were also 22 drivers and 20 driver-cyclists.

Participants took what is called ‘change detection flicker test’ in which they had to choose whether two alternating images they were shown were identical or different.

The image being either a road sign, a car, a pedestrian or a bicycle, and according to researchers, the type of picture shown affected accuracy, with members of all groups slower at detecting changes to road sign images.

And while accuracy did not vary significantly across groups, “cyclist-drivers were significantly faster than drivers at identifying changes, with the effect being largest for bicycle and sign changes,” researchers said,

They added: “Results suggest that cycling experience is associated with more efficient attentional processing for road scenes.”

Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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