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Survey design suggests cyclists at fault for accidents they're involved in?

Nottingham Road Safety Partnership's questions focus on cyclist behavioue...

An online survey drawn up by the Nottinghamshire Road Safety Partnership to tie in with their Use Your Cycle Helmet Campainc which seeks to get more people to  helmets and high-visibility clothing while riding their bikes appears to give the impression that it is the behaviour of cyclists themselves that is responsible for many of the accidents they are involved in.

The campaign and the survey that accompanies it forms part of the Road Safety Partnership’s backing of a global campaign launched yesterday by the United Nations called Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, as well as the charity Headway’s Action for Brain Injury Week.

One of the questions in the survey asks respondents, “What do you think are the main causes of collisions involving cycles (select all that apply).” The options given are:

  • Cyclist impaired by alcohol
  • Cyclist wearing dark clothing at night
  • Cyclist entering road from pavement or off-road cycle path
  • Slippery road due to weather conditions
  • Road user passing too close to a cyclist
  • Stationary or parked vehicles
  • Motorist failing to look properly
  • Cyclist or motorist in a hurry
  • Cyclist or motorist failing to judge another road user's path or speed
  • Cyclist failing to look properly
  • Cyclist or motorist performing a poor manoeuvre
  • Other (please specify)

The survey appears to have been drawn up using the online polling site Survey Monkey. We may be wrong, but from a market researcher’s point of view, it doesn’t seem to have been drawn up by someone with much of a grasp of market research, while from a cyclist’s perspective, the questions don’t look like ones that a cyclist would have come up with.

Besides the fact that only cyclists appear to be deemed guilty of taking to the roads while impaired by alcohol, the main issue is that seven of the 11 questions focus on the behaviour of the cyclist. True, three of those do mention motorists too, but there’s a world of difference between the potential effect of a cyclist or a motorist being in a hurry, for example.

Meanwhile, not one of the questions mentions lorries or other large vehicles, which are of course responsible for a disproportionate number of cyclist casualties.

The full survey is available online here and will be open until Friday 27 May. Those completing it will have a chance to win cycle helmets worth £50 or hi-viz Think Bike Packs.

We have tried to contact the Nottinghamshire Road Safety Partenrship for a comment and will update once we have had a response.

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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Kim | 12 years ago

It really is time that Government, both national and local, dropped the blame the victim approach, it completely ignore the central problem of bad driving.

It is also very worrying that the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety has been hijacked by the motor industry, lets face it the major sponsor of the of this "Decade of Action" is the FIA. We are going to see a lot more suggestions that "road safety" means keeping non motorised road uses off the roads, so that they don't get in the way of the self righteous motorist.

OldRidgeback | 13 years ago

I am holier than thou.

So there!

don_don | 13 years ago

The last thing we need is more crap 'research' like this, when the subject is so serious.

The Road Danger Reduction Forum have some interesting words to say about this UN 'Decade of action for road safety':

northstar | 13 years ago

Still at the victim blaming stage I see, address the "motorist" being at "war" with cyclists then you may get somewhere...

WolfieSmith | 13 years ago

To broaden the argument:

The real issue is reaction time - or lack of it when motorists travel at speeds inappropriate for the conditions. This factor alone governs many of the mistakes that lead to accidents.

In my perfect fascist state I would introduce a speed limit of 20mph in urban and suburban areas and a 50mph limit on B roads. No one needs to travel at 60mph on a road that could contain horses, walkers and cyclists. I'd also have a compulsory one day a month cycle trip for everyone with a driving licence who can get on a bike. That way we'd all understand that the road is there to be shared.

To risk sounding 'holier than thou'. The bike was here first and it will be here long after cars become electric and are speed restricted for the safety of all. Whether that day will come in my life time I'm not sure; but the present standoff between motorists who want to ride bikes as well and expect to share the road - and motorists who don't ride bikes and don't want to share anything will have to come to an end.

Red lights are a constant irrelevant point in the argument. 'Running' a light that has turned from green to red is for idiots and they deserve what they get. Jumoping an red light is different. I see plenty of motorists who will run a red light on a pelican crossing if no one is crossing. That is wrong. When on foot I don't wave thanks at zebra crossings - as once you start thanking people for obeying the highway code they start to assume they have a choice!

However, 10 years of commuting by bike in London taught me that when you filter to the front of a line of fuming motorists and see a bottle neck across the junction you use your position to check the crosslights and when they turn to amber before your lights turn to green you go - otherwise you will be boxed in by the first two cars alongside you - desperate to show that they can still beat a cyclist.

So can we please stop talking about red lights and high vis and concentrate on the real lifesaver - a reduction in speed limits. It'll save a little fuel and extend the life of your brake pads as well.

crazy-legs | 13 years ago

I don't think it's a holier than thou response particularly. It's important for everyone that surveys are as impartial as possible without "leading" questions and there's no differential in the above questions between cyclist and motorist.

For example: Cyclist or motorist failing to judge another road user's path or speed. Split it out and actually differentiate to get a meaningful answer, that just answers the question with "well someone involved didn't judge speed/direction".

A step in the right direction, getting people to think about safety but not the best designed survey in the world.

Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

Hmm… well I get irritated by the holier than thou attitude of some cyclists mysel - red light jumpers in particular, but I don't thin this we're taking a holier than thou response here. We're simply pointing out that an organisation that exists to promote road safety in Nottingham has put together a pretty ropey survey with the aim of helping it push the flawed argument that wearing a helmet will make you safer on the roads - it will perhaps if you fall off at low speed, but it won't if you are in collision with a car or are doing more than 12mph on point of impact.

Better driving standards is the single biggest way of making cyclist safer, and better cycle training, and more responsible cycling will undoubtedly help too. Running red lights and riding while drunk are pretty stupid, but even the former (and I can feel the red mist descending) only puts the fool doing it at risk - except of course for those people who run red lights at pelican crossings which is even less acceptable in my book.

My worry about things like this survey is that what underlies it is an attitude that at least subconsiously thinks that cycling is not a particulary rational mode of transport, but if you insist on doing it on a public road then you'd better whack some expanded polystyerene on your head and dress like a belisha beacon otherise it's gonna be your fault if I hit you with my car. That's why I'd say it's worth drawing attention to these things.

We're certainly not trying to undermine the good work road safety partnerships are doing and we certainly don't think that all cyclists are perfect and that in any incident or conflict the cyclists are always right there are plenty of idiot cyclists out there too, but on balance idiots on bikes do less harm (even to themselves) than idtiots in cars. That's not to excuse them for being dumb or selfish though.

andyspaceman | 13 years ago

While I'm certainly against viewpoints held by gutter publications like the Daily Mail, I do get tired of reactions like this from Cycling websites and publications.

While many of us are responsible, safe-riding types, there are loads of cyclists that are irresponsible and don't ride safely. Just one ride along one of Boris's cycle superhighways at 8.30am will show you that - on some days I'm in the minority waiting at the red lights.

This survey doesn't look the most well-designed, but I'm not surprised at many of the questions, and I certainly don't see that it justifies this kind of holier-than-thou response.

Simon E replied to andyspaceman | 13 years ago
andyspaceman wrote:

This survey doesn't look the most well-designed, but I'm not surprised at many of the questions, and I certainly don't see that it justifies this kind of holier-than-thou response.

Is no-one allowed to criticise a crap survey which informs local government actions? Are the cycling press not allowed to comment on something where some idiot let loose on Surveymonkey can affect Council policy and road safety? Are cyclists not supposed to be aware of these things and just do as the Men In Suits tell us?

We've had enough of that kind of authoritarian tripe, thank you. Perhaps you should go and live in a Middle Eastern dictatorship, I'm sure you'd prefer that instead of democracy and an educated population.

Denzilwood | 13 years ago

Another great question is

Which type of road user or hazard do you think is a threat to your safety when riding your bike? (Select all that apply)
Cars, Buses, Lorries, Vans, Taxis, Pedestrians, Other cyclists, Road surface conditions, Weather conditions

Surely everything is a threat or hazard at some point to your safety!

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