Cyclists and motorists have all seen it – the impatient driver desperate to go an extra 15 or 20mph on ‘their road’ so overtakes the cyclist dangerously. This might be by giving the cyclist a few inches of room or overtaking on a blind bend. Watching such idiots I am left wondering how often drivers have done a dangerous overtake and smashed into another car? A cyclist 10 feet behind is going to be hard pressed to avoid the carnage, and what about the car/s behind?
I got my driving license relatively late in life, aged 23. Though it may be tempting Fate, I’ve now got 11 years’ No Claims Bonus on my car insurance due to defensive driving and trying to outwit idiots in other cars (I’m not a slow driver and have been lucky with many a speed camera too…).
Before I learned to drive, my father told me to get used to doing decent distances on my pedal bike first. He explained that in his experience, cyclists make safer drivers.
Searching the web, an interesting survey came up, reputedly by the Institute of Advanced Motorists in 2011. Over 1000 drivers were interviewed about the behaviour of different drivers.
Drivers were split into two groups – cycling motorists and non cycling motorists. They were asked the same questions and their opinions of cyclists are very telling.
Asked the question whether motorists aren’t tolerant enough of cyclists, 88% of cycling motorists agreed, where 74% of the non cycling motorists agreed.
Where over half (52%) of non cycling motorists thought that cyclists slowed down traffic, closer to a third (35%) of cycling motorists agreed.
Finally, to the statement that ‘most cyclists ride safely and are not a problem’, 63% of non cycling motorists agreed, where 84% of cycling motorists felt that this was the case.
Reading this survey, it suggests that the cyclist behind the wheel sees what the non cyclist doesn’t. Looking at the statistic about cycling slowing down motorists, you can see the divide, where the cycling drivers seem more patient toward their fellow road users. This is reinforced with the idea that more cyclists felt that motorists are not tolerant of cyclists.
In another question, both groups felt that drivers who cycled are more careful drivers.
There is an element of psychology for the car driver who cycles. As my father suggested, you see the road in a different way. You know for example that it isn’t pleasant having a car pass you at six inches, so when behind the wheel you will aim to leave more room to the cyclist. You may look over your shoulder more when behind the wheel, aware both of your blind spots in the mirrors but also out of habit as a cyclist – few bikes have mirrors! Another idea to float is the cyclist is all too aware that they are less likely to cause their demise than another road user, so behind the wheel are more defensive.
Such habits once ingrained can make the cyclist the better driver. More research needs to be done on this issue, and perhaps as more and more people see the benefits of riding to work, so this may help in turn to reduce road deaths.