Two of Britain’s biggest providers of learner driver training, AA Driving School and BSM, are to roll out a cycle awareness to all of their instructors and, in a week when the issue of cyclists and “road tax” has been in the national headlines, will reinforce to new drivers that there is no such thing.
“All driving instructors from both schools will take a module to teach drivers how to drive safely around cyclists,” said the AA in a press release. It adds that the module "overs some ‘do’s and don’ts’ for driving around cyclists, as well as useful resource links and guidance on how to teach pupils the best way to drive with cyclists."
It added that instructors at both AA Drving School and BSM "will also be given a worksheet about safe driving around cyclists for their pupils to use,” which it says "sets out the facts about cyclists on the roads and encourages learners to think about the care, courtesy and consideration they should afford cyclists. It also highlights conversation topics to have with their instructor to aid their understanding.
Learner drivers will also be put right over the misconception of "road tax" - in the news this week as a result of Emma Way's tweet that cyclists don't pay it, displaying an ignorance not only of the fact that there is no such tax, after it was abolished in the 1930s, but also that roads are funded out of general taxation.
Since January 2011, BSM, has been owned by Acromas Holdings, which also owns The AA and Saga, and it is now grouped with AA Driving School under AA Driving Services.
The move, welcomed by both CTC and Sustrans, builds on comments made by AA President Edmund King last year when he called for an end to artificial divisions between cyclists and motorists, a theme he revisited today.
“I am personally committed to breaking down the ‘Two Tribes’ attitude displayed between some drivers and cyclists," he said.
"Often we are the same people.
“I am delighted to announce that two of the biggest driving schools, AA and BSM, will be working to bring harmony on the roads between drivers and cyclists.
“This new module means we now have a standardised approach to teaching learners how to drive safely around cyclists from two of the country’s leading driving schools.
“I am convinced that this initiative will change attitudes and save lives.”
Mark Peacock, head of BSM, added: “Successfully teaching a learner to drive safely around cyclists means instilling a good attitude, as well as, the necessary practical driving skills.
“It can be intimidating and confusing for learners the first few times they come across a cyclist. Understanding why cyclists behave in certain ways, such as avoiding potholes or how they are affected in strong winds, is key to being safe around them.
“Ultimately, we want to make sure that when someone learns with BSM they can be totally assured that when they pass their test they will be equipped to cope safety amongst all other road users.”
Roger Geffen, campaigns and policy director at national cyclists’ organisation CTC, described the announcement as “excellent news.”
He went on: "Driving instructors have an important contribution to make in teaching drivers, particularly higher-risk younger drivers, about the risks cyclists face from potholes and other design failings of our roads and junctions, and how to show respect and consideration for their safety.
“It is also crucial to give instructors the knowledge and resources to undermine some of the perennial myths about the right of cyclists to use the roads.
"However,” he added, “it would be even better if young people were given advanced cycle training on the use of busier roads, before they start learning to drive.
“Anecdotal evidence from instructors suggests that regular cyclists are quicker to pick up hazard perception and defensive driving skills. CTC has, in the past, argued that advanced cycle training for teenagers be provided alongside basic skills training for younger children as part of the school curriculum."
Sustrans also welcomed the news, but called for cycle awareness to be included within the driving test.
Jason Torrance, policy director at the sustainable transport charity, commented: “Both the AA Driving School and BSM should be applauded for leading the way in improving road safety.
“The next step is to make cycle awareness a core part of the practical driver’s test, particularly on how to overtake people on bikes safely.
“By slowing down speeds, improving routes available to cyclists and pedestrians and changing the culture on our roads to one of sharing and mutual respect, we can improve road safety for everyone.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.