One of the main obstacles to making this happen is ourselves. As we grow up we all develop our own internal representations of the world as we come to know it, and we all believe our own model of reality is the right one. This can lead to generalised and entrenched, views about our fellow beings and road users because we are, literally, unable to see the other’s point of view.
To demonstrate fuzzy logic, should the opportunity arise, invite an Eskimo and an Aborigine to dip their elbows in a pool of water then report on its temperature. Chances are the Eskimo will declare the water to be warm while the Aborigine will declare it cold.
Until 2011 the KSI (Killed or Seriously Injured) in all groups of road users had been falling steadily for ten years... that is, all groups but one. Out of Child cyclists, Adult cyclists, Motorcyclists, Car drivers, Bus, HGV drivers, only adult cyclist KSI figures were, and still are, on the increase. So where is it all going wrong and what is the solution?
Ask a rider, they will tell you that drivers pass too close and do not check their mirrors before turning at a junction or side road. Ask for a solution and the most common response will be better driver education and compulsory questions on theory test about motor/cyclists. Ask a driver the same questions and you will be told cyclists do not make themselves visible and they do not believe the Highway-code applies to them. The most commonly offered solution is to have every bike registered, taxed, and insured. So this is the discord but can we bring truth, if not yet harmony, by admitting our errors?
Cars and bigger vehicles do sometimes overtake too closely, vehicles can sometimes turn left at a junction without seeing the cyclist filtering down the nearside, or the motorcyclist overtaking on the outside when we are preparing to turn right. But on the other hand, or pedal, how often do you see a cyclist jumping the lights at a junction and how often do you NOT see them, especially at night, because of absent or insufficient lighting?
The majority of issues are not caused deliberately, it’s just that we are not seeing things from the others point of view. When a driver overtakes a bike they believe they have provided enough space. But the driver doesn’t feel the backdraught they have generated, and they didn’t realise the rider was about to move out to avoid a pothole or wet iron grate. Better education of the Highway-code would have informed the driver they should afford as much space to a rider as they would to a car when overtaking.
A cyclist may feel they are perfectly visible to drivers without realising a car has blind spots, or that a cyclist can blur to near invisibility in an overcast, rainy, or sub-light environment. Better education of the Highway-code would have informed the rider they MUST display front and rear lights & amber reflectors on their pedals at night, and that they must wait behind the line at red lights.
Where doubt and entrenched beliefs remain, imagine an alternate world where the roles are reversed, riders are the dominant force and drivers are the vulnerable minority. Take a short flight to Amsterdam and that is exactly what you will find. With its 1000 bridges spanning 100 canals, an average of one car a week still finds its way into the drink. This is partly due to space for cars, and parking being at such a premium it would make a Londoner’s eyes water. Thus, the city has evolved in favour of trams, bicycles and motorbikes.
Such is the dominance of bikes in Amsterdam, Katie Melua’s nine million bicycles would have been written for it, if only the words had rhymed. But is it any safer?
Not for the pedestrians!! No matter which demographic of road user you more commonly occupy, be it cyclist or car driver, no group can claim the high ground. Every group shares one common factor in equal measures of, the good, the bad, and the reckless.
We may not be able to bring harmony where there is discord on the roads, and we may not be able to bring faith where there is doubt, but at least there is a glimmer of hope in our wing mirror horizons. A recent survey by the department of transport ‘THINK CYCLIST’ targeted both cyclists and drivers together for the first time. Both groups agreed that looking twice for each other at junctions, and giving each other more space was the
key to reducing collisions. Read the whole article here.
• THINK! is the Department for Transport’s road safety campaign. Find out more at www.direct.gov.uk/think
• THINK CYCLIST is THINK!’s new cycling safety campaign. Find out more at www.direct.gov.uk/thinkcyclist
• THINK CYCLIST advice:
When you’re driving
o Look out for cyclists, especially when turning – make eye contact if possible so they know you’ve seen them
o Use your indicators – signal your intentions so that cyclists can react
o Give cyclists space – at least half a car’s width. If there isn’t sufficient space to pass, hold back. Remember that cyclists may need to manoeuvre suddenly if the road is poor, it’s windy or if a car door is opened.
o Always check for cyclists when you open your car door
o Avoid driving over advance stop lines – these allow cyclists to get to the front and increase their visibility
o Follow the Highway Code including ‘stop’ and ‘give way’ signs and traffic lights