New report highlights tensions between cyclists and drivers

15.24 | 20 September 2010 | | 6 comments

Drivers feel disinclined to share the roads with cyclists, and vice versa, according to a report recently published by the DfT (Telegraph).

The Telegraph article says that the report concludes: “Evidence suggests a failure in the culture of road sharing, with a lack of consensus about whether and how, cyclists belong on our roads.”

Cyclists who also drove, however, displayed greater empathy towards motorists, and the same applied to drivers who occasionally took to two wheels. The study also found that motorists were impatient with cyclists, especially when they were feeling stressed for other reasons. Some drivers were found to bitterly resent the very presence of cyclists on the road at all.

The research, ‘Cycling, Safety and Sharing the Road’, described the perceived stereotype of a cyclist as: “A kind of lawless freerider in the highly constrained and heavily taxed world of the driver."

Robert Gifford, executive director of the PACTS, said: “This research clearly poses a challenge. No single group of road users is entirely self-contained.

“During any one week, we will all be pedestrians; most of us will drive a car; some of us will make a journey by bike. We therefore need to develop a more inclusive approach to our fellow road users, seeing ourselves in their shoes as well as our own."

Mike Cavenett, spokesman for the London Cycling Campaign, suggested segregation as a solution. He said: “When there are high volumes of traffic, driving at high speed, it has to be separated from cyclists.

“The only way we will get the sort of numbers of cyclists you see in Holland, with grandmothers and families on bikes, is when there is a sensation of safety.”

A DfT spokesman added: “Cyclists and motorists have an equal right to use the roads and it is vital for the safety of everyone that they are considerate to each other and obey the rules of the road.”

Click here to read to full Telegraph report, or click here to download the DfT report.


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    Mutual respect is the only way to solve it, not always segregated lanes. Lanes in this country are too disjointed so you might be in one for a few hundred yards then it suddenly ends and you’re back in the traffic. I ride assertively, not aggressively, and abide by the Highway Code. I am legally entitled to take a position on the road roughly where the steering wheel of a car would be. This makes me more visible and cars are less likely to risk overtaking me when it’s not safe to do so. Nor do I squeeze up the inside unless there is a proper bike lane, it’s when one is most likely to encounter a door opening or being hit by a car turning left. Better education all round please though how that sits at the moment in Perthshire where the Police and the Council have handed all responsibility for bike safety and training at schools over to volunteers!

    Susan Morrison, Perth
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    Cyclists really do not help their own reputation by an attitude of vigilante behaviour which is spreading like a disease among cycling clubs. There are millions of video’s of cyclists on sites such as YouTube who wear ‘Helmet cams’ used not only for accident purposes, but also for encouraging unprovoked hatred among fellow cyclists about drivers. They will often report motorists for ridiculous allegations of ‘Dangerous driving’ when the motorists haven’t even done anything wrong and they will take the law into their own hands. I have seen instances where cyclists will report drivers for making a genuine mistake and the motorists have actually told the cyclist they were sorry afterwards and the cyclist has displayed unnecessary aggression towards the apologetic driver.

    Us drivers do not report cyclists everytime they decide to ‘run a red light’ or barge through a zebra crossing when they were supposed to stop. We don’t complain but then we would probably be slapped with a DD30/40 offence just for politely reminding them that they ignored a red light.

    I think its more then overdue that there should be significant changes in the RTA 1988 act. I think that cyclists should not be allowed to report an RTA 1988 related incident with a motorist unless it has caused them a personal injury of some sort or an accident. And if that cyclist reports a motorist purely ‘they had a bad day’ they run the risk of committing an offence of wasting Police time which can be dealt with down at the station. The cyclist should have more then 1 witness and street CCTV to back any allegations before it can be taken forward. The current law allows cyclists to simply walk into any Police station of their choice, pull out a violin. And start crying and telling the Police what this motorist supposedly did. Or show them a helmet-cam which has a camera that is not clear.

    I just think cyclists should learn to resolve issues with the motorist and quit this blame culture among them. Cars are here to stay and you have to learn to accept that.

    James, London
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    As a driver I need to keep in mind that the way I drive can have lethal consequences for vunurable road users such as cyclists and pedestrians. What it comes down to is, do I respect other people and their freedoms?

    I also commute 25 miles a day to and from work by bike and the majority of the time I feel safe cycling on the road and feel no need to be segregated from vehicular traffic. The majority of people give me space when I’m riding (even lorry drivers). However there are still the few who shout abuse or drive in an aggressive way past me if I cost them 30seconds at a junction or through a narrow section of road. I find it shocking that there are drivers who think being held up by a cyclist warrants threatening there life.

    There are places where segregation will improve safety for all users, i.e though roundabouts and areas of high conflict. However mutual respect is the key factor in any solution to this social problem.

    Will, Somerset
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    Even though motorists and cyclists have an even right to the road, this is often not apparent and most of the time to the detriment of the cyclist as the vulnerable road user.

    Having been a cyclist in Holland for eighteen years I can state that cycling there is a lot less stressful than it is here. This is mostly due to the fact that traffic is tolerant of and used to bikes.

    Segregated cycle lanes would not only greatly improve the safety of cyclists but making cycling more popular. This is surely something we should encourage under the sustainable transport banner as well as a big health benefit.

    Rina Cameron
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    When you make anything a special case you increase antagonism and anger towards it. Plus the special case just doesn’t stop with what they get – they invariably want more. Many millions have been spent to segregate and thus making a special case of pedal cyclists many of whom do not use cycle lanes and break the laws of the land with impunity. After all they are a special case aren’t they.. Its no wonder that they are not liked by some.

    Comparing other countries is somewhat unfair and counter productive. Those countries that historically retain the bicycle retain it as an economical form of transport over a short distance to and from work etc. One could hardly expect a teacher living in the Manchester area to ride by bike to say Blackpool daily in order to fulfil their work obligation. Perhaps okay if its only 2 miles then they could cycle or even walk, which would be much better.

    Bicycles have priority at traffic lights and in some instances take that place up by cycling sometimes at speed past waiting motorists. When the traffic lights change the cyclists make off at a lot slower speed than a motorised vehicle thus reducing speed and exaceberting the situation.

    Pedestrians everywhere are now sharing the pavements [with or without special white lines painted on them] and other so called pedestrian prescincts with pedal cyclists and they are allowed to ride the wrong way on one way streets and roads and across pedestrian crossings.

    They are already a special case and i await further special considerations with interest.

    Maybe they are the saviours of the planet and get the support of the politicians. They ma be considered politically correct but lets have some COMMON SENSE INSTEAD.

    For a change.

    From ordinary member of the public.

    Bob Craven, Lancs
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    Such a contradiction in opinions. Only one factor appears from the above simple report, and that is if cyclists and drivers have experience in both modes of transport, then a better understanding is achieved. The very fact that lanes are segregated for on mode over another instigates the equivalent of apartheid, resentment follows fairly naturally, this is especially so following the explosion of bicycle couriers in central London with some aggressive riding.

    Those educated in the use of cycle lanes only and encouraged to cycle not drive, will consider them sacrosanct and a ‘safe’ haven. This is a false premise that can lead to accidents. The road is there for all road users to share, as those with more experience will show.

    The reference to cyclists in Holland ought really be considered in greater knowledge of the situation there, which is far from harmonious. Cyclists have become the bane of all road traffic with a ‘priority to me’ attitude. The very thing to be avoided.

    The picture heading this column shows six cyclists in four lanes – seemingly in the centre of Hyde Park Corner – restricted to motor vehicles.

    The DfT spokesman makes the best point in the last paragraph above.

    Derek, St Albans.
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