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“Some drivers see safe cycling as a character flaw”: the fight for fewer close passes + the UK's booming gravel scene

We're delving into new research on the subject of drivers who close pass cyclists with a road safety expert and dissecting the booming UK gravel scene in episode 69 of the road.cc Podcast...

On episode 69 of the road.cc Podcast, we delve into the reasons and behavioural patterns that underpin most, if not all, of the 887 (and counting) examples of close passes and dangerous driving that make up our Near Miss of the Day series, aided by a road safety expert currently undertaking a PhD study on the relationship between motorists and cyclists on the road. 

 

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The intrepid researcher in question is Will Cubbin, the manager of the Safer Essex Roads Partnership, who combines his day job attempting to keep the roads safe with part-time doctoral research at Anglia Ruskin University, where he explores the very behaviour that makes them dangerous in the first place.

Inspired to dive into academia following an unfortunate encounter with a close passing driver, who lambasted him for being ‘in the middle of the road’, Will chats to Ryan about his PhD research, which attempts to understand how a driver’s knowledge of cycling can affect their actions on the road.

He also explains the interesting methodology behind his new co-authored study – titled ‘Close passes caught on camera: How knowledge and behavioural norms relate to perceptions of liability when cars overtake cyclists’ – which involved assessing the responses of 239 UK motorists to eight video clips of real-life close pass incidents submitted to Essex Police in 2020.

Near Miss of the Day 883 thumbnail

In the study, Will and his co-authors assessed these road users’ reactions to close passes to understand the effect of cycling experience, knowledge of recommended cyclist road positioning, and (rather alarmingly) a driver’s tendency to express anger behind the wheel on the way individuals perceive and approach close passes – and, crucially, how at fault they would deem a cyclist who has nearly been clipped by a dangerous driver. (Spoiler: Those who admit to using their vehicle as a means of expressing anger are less likely to view a driver as culpable for a close pass, instead pinning the blame on the cyclist. Who knew?)

> The Highway Code for cyclists

During the interview, Will explains how simple actions by cyclists designed to improve their safety on the road – such as taking up the middle of a lane while approaching a traffic island – can be viewed by some motorists, with limited or no knowledge of the Highway Code, as a “character flaw”, one that pigeonholes the safety-conscious cyclist as “selfish” (or worse), rather than the result of external factors on the road.

The Safer Essex Roads Partnership manager also gives us a sneak peek into his latest research – which explores cyclists’ positioning from a motorist’s perspective – and outlines his ambition to use his research, in tandem with his day job, to educate drivers across the UK about safe cycling behaviours, “adjusting their expected social norms” on the road (which at the moment tend to negatively characterise cyclists as an anger-inducing hindrance), and improving safety for all road users.

Battle of the Beach sportive

In part 2, Ryan and Suvi catch up with road.cc and off.road.cc contributor Matt Page, who is also one of the people behind the sold out Battle of the Beach gravel (and sand, obvs) event that is taking place between the 6-7 April. With UK road racing experiencing numerous struggles and diminishing numbers, are gravel events what is needed to make cycling events in Britain boom again? 

The road.cc Podcast is available on Apple PodcastsSpotify, and Amazon Music, and if you have an Alexa you can just tell it to play the road.cc Podcast. It’s also embedded further up the page, so you can just press play.

At the time of broadcast, our listeners can also get a free Hammerhead Heart Rate Monitor with the purchase of a Hammerhead Karoo 2. Visit hammerhead.io right now and use promo code ROADCC at checkout to get yours.

This content has been added by a member of the road.cc staff

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46 comments

Avatar
Vercors | 2 months ago
6 likes

The study is spot on. I had a textbook example of this today. Cycling on a rural single track road with passing places. Driver comes up behind and immediately beeps (for me to 'get out of the way'). I point to the passing place only a few metres ahead where I will be delighted to let him pass. He instead revs his engine and pushes past me with inches to spare. Of course a car comes round the corner in the opposite direction and he pulls into the very passing place I indicated.
I tap on his windscreen intending to point out politely but firmly the pointlessness of his dangerous close pass and what the passing places are for. I don't get a word in. The man in his sixties jumped out of his car, apoplectic, frothing at the mouth told me not to speak, complained I was 'cycling like an idiot' (by which I believe he meant refusing to ride in the gutter to facilitate hisclose pass) and threatened to throw me in the hedge (not sure if he meant with his car as he was not in great shape). I I calmly invited him to repeat his threat in front of a witness and he got back in his car and sped off. My conclusion is per the study this driver has not cycled since early childhood if at all, hasn't read the Highway Code for over 40 years and my cycling perfectly normally has triggered his anger issues. Is there any hope? If the anger, as the study suggests, is triggered by a baseless belief among many drivers that cyclists are 'selfishly hogging the road' , there should be a a huge education campaign coupled with enforcement as there has been for drink driving.

Avatar
marmotte27 | 2 months ago
1 like

Statistically I'm due a world-class-arsehole close-pass any day now...

Avatar
john_smith replied to marmotte27 | 2 months ago
4 likes

Look on the bright side. If you toss a fair coin 100 times and the result is heads every time, then when you toss the coin for the 101st time, the probability of heads is still 1/2.

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eburtthebike | 2 months ago
6 likes

“Some drivers see safe cycling as a character flaw”

FTFY.

Avatar
Hirsute | 2 months ago
11 likes

Read this earlier on twitter

"As a driver it creates bad blood everytime a virtue cyclist hogs the road and projects highway code entitlement in making life difficult to get past them and raises animosity and encreases driving work load."

Avatar
Surreyrider replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
13 likes

That driver should not be allowed on the road.

Avatar
john_smith replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
0 likes

I honestly don't think it's worth getting worked up by anything you read on soshul meejah unless you know exactly who wrote it and why. There are literally hundreds of thousands of fake accounting churning out messages whose only purpose is to stir up anger and divide society. 

Avatar
ktache replied to john_smith | 2 months ago
4 likes

Don't know if you've been on the roads recently...

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john_smith replied to ktache | 2 months ago
0 likes

Not for a while, unfortunately. But what has that got to do with what I wrote above?

Incidentally, does this gentleman remind you of anyone?

https://www.geo.de/wissen/selbstbildnis-im-pelzrock_30128080-30166630.html

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perce replied to john_smith | 2 months ago
0 likes

Is it Kirk Hammett?

Avatar
Hirsute replied to john_smith | 2 months ago
4 likes

Who said I was worked up ?

It was a timely post that reflects many posts I have read before on x and in local rags. They may not be representative, but cyclists are the only group who get targetted. Have you seen anything on horsists or runners ?

Avatar
john_smith replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
0 likes

I don't read x, and I haven't seen anything like that in any of the local rags around here.

Runners and horsists aren't really as vulnerable as cyclists, so I don't think there's a lot of point in comparing them.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to john_smith | 2 months ago
2 likes

Where was comparing the vulnerability?
I guess you have never walked in rural or semi rural areas either.

Are you Martin73's brother?

Avatar
john_smith replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
0 likes

I was comparing the vulnerability. Runners and horse riders don't tend to get hit by cars. So what drivers or anyone else thinks about them is somewhat irrelevant. Or have I misunderstood what you are getting at?

I don't know who or what Martin73 is.

Avatar
Hirsute replied to john_smith | 2 months ago
0 likes

I don't know why you introduced vulnerability which was nothing to do with my posts. I guess you are arguing for the sake of it.

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john_smith replied to Hirsute | 2 months ago
0 likes

Then please can you explain why you mentioned runners or horses? Who cares what some nutter thinks about them? If a driver doesn't like runners, then 99.99% of the time it's not going to affect runners. If a driver doesn't like cyclists and he happens to be right behind you when you out riding, then you could have a problem.

I am not arguing for the sake of it. If anyone is doing that it's you. I am not really arguing at all. I just raised a couple of points.

Avatar
John G | 2 months ago
14 likes

I'm utterly fed-up with drivers' close passes through either ignorance, incompetence or spite, although it seems to have become marginally better compared to e.g. 12 months ago.

There may be more to this than meets the eye. A clubmate is a driving test examiner and in a fairly recent conversation I asked hypothetically should the UK driving test should include a psycometric test, i.e. weed-out the latent or blatent nutters. The answer was yes: draw your own conclusions ...

Avatar
Gimpl replied to John G | 2 months ago
2 likes
John G wrote:

There may be more to this than meets the eye. A clubmate is a driving test examiner and in a fairly recent conversation I asked hypothetically should the UK driving test should include a psycometric test, i.e. weed-out the latent or blatent nutters. The answer was yes: draw your own conclusions ...

Except psychometric tests are notoriously unreliable and not worth the paper they're on!

Results can change minute by minute 

Avatar
Wingguy replied to Gimpl | 2 months ago
2 likes
Gimpl wrote:

Except psychometric tests are notoriously unreliable and not worth the paper they're on!

 

Results can change minute by minute 

Lol, yeah. A psychometric test is literally just an exercise in finding out whether someone is capable of prepping for a test.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Wingguy | 2 months ago
4 likes
Wingguy wrote:

Lol, yeah. A psychometric test is literally just an exercise in finding out whether someone is capable of prepping for a test.

Aren't many exams?

Avatar
hawkinspeter replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
3 likes
brooksby wrote:
Wingguy wrote:

Lol, yeah. A psychometric test is literally just an exercise in finding out whether someone is capable of prepping for a test.

Aren't many exams?

Not the improv exam

Avatar
brooksby replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
1 like
hawkinspeter wrote:
brooksby wrote:
Wingguy wrote:

Lol, yeah. A psychometric test is literally just an exercise in finding out whether someone is capable of prepping for a test.

Aren't many exams?

Not the improv exam

laugh

Avatar
festina | 2 months ago
4 likes

Roads are full of dangerous nutters.
Road racing is struggling, gravel riding is booming.
Obviously no connection between these two stories.

Avatar
mctrials23 replied to festina | 2 months ago
4 likes

Well a large part of that is that its bloody hard to stage safe road races especially when the idea of inconveniencing drivers for a day is so abhorrent to the majority of the population. The fact it would be cyclists doing it is simply beyond the pale. 

Avatar
NotNigel | 2 months ago
11 likes

You could change the title to 'some drivers see safe use of the roads by any other user, not just cyclists, as a character flaw'. If you're not steaming around, over accelerating in and out of every junction/roundabout are you even a good driver?

Avatar
Adam Sutton replied to NotNigel | 2 months ago
7 likes

Even driving. I was driving to my parents last night and wondered if I had found the invisibility button somehow. All in a journey of about 8 miles.

Idiot in a ford pickup steamed through the first roundabout oblivious to my presence to his right.

Cut up on the next roundabout by someone using the wrong lane. 

BMW being a BMW and pulled out of a side road on the right as I approached, luckily changing his mind at the last minute as I had no time to brake, he'd left it so late.

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Hirsute replied to Adam Sutton | 2 months ago
6 likes

Sounds like a typical dash cam UK YouTube episode!

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stonojnr replied to Adam Sutton | 2 months ago
6 likes

I was out and about yesterday in the car for most of the day, and I just couldnt believe how dangerous it felt, with people just steaming round constantly in some really poor conditions both weather and road wise, I bet no wonder there are so many crashes.

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Surreyrider replied to Adam Sutton | 2 months ago
2 likes

Welcome to Surrey!

Avatar
eburtthebike replied to NotNigel | 2 months ago
3 likes
NotNigel wrote:

If you're not steaming around, over accelerating in and out of every junction/roundabout are you even a good driver?

I've lost count of the number of people who have told me that they drive better when they drive faster.

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