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Better driving will make roads safer for cyclists, say motorists

The Times: Better driving will make roads safer for cyclists, say motorists

Sam Coates Deputy Political Editor

February 14 2012

Drivers are calling for more help for cyclists as they admit their share of responsibility for dangers on the road in a Populus poll for The Times.

More than half of all drivers (55 per cent) acknowledge that the biggest improvement to safety would come from an improvement in driving near cyclists, rather than a change in the behaviour of cyclists.

Nearly two thirds of drivers (63 per cent) say that cyclists should be given the same importance as motorists when designing junctions, while drivers put vehicles cutting across the path of cyclists at the top of their list of biggest dangers on the road.

The results, in an online poll of 2,050 people taken over the weekend, found big support among cyclists and drivers for separate cycle lanes. It comes two weeks after the launch of a major cycling campaign by The Times.

About 52 per cent, including 47 per cent of cyclists and 51 per cent of drivers, supported cycle lanes physically separated from roads. Such cycle lanes have proved controversial among some motorists who see them as taking up road space.

Today’s poll provides the most comprehensive audit of cycling in recent times. It reveals that 42 per cent of the population say they cycle at least once a year.

Of these, 5 per cent say they use a bike every day, 6 per cent most days, 5 per cent every week. A further 5 per cent say that they cycle occasionally — at least once a month — while 21 per cent use their bike a few times a year.

This contrasts with the 76 per cent who say they drive at least once a year, including 68 per cent who say that they drive frequently.

The poll asked what people felt were the biggest dangers on the road. Less than one in five (18 per cent) blamed the dangerous behaviour of other cyclists while just 13 per cent blamed pedestrians.

Instead they put vehicles cutting across the path of cyclists at the top of the list (50 per cent), aggression and animosity between road users second (45 per cent) and the speed of cars in residential areas third (38 per cent).

The poll also asked what people thought would make cycling safer. More than half (52 per cent) said physically separating cycle lanes from roads. The second most popular suggestion, mandatory cycling proficiency tests, was endorsed by 29 per cent.

Among cyclists, the second most popular suggestion is to improve the behaviour of cyclists on the road.

Only a minority of drivers appear to blame cyclists and see the roads as their own. Only just over one in three drivers (37 per cent) think that roads are primarily for driving on, and should take priority over cycling when designing road uses. Meanwhile 45 per cent of drivers think that the biggest improvement to cycling safety would come from cyclists improving their behaviour on the roads.

One surprising result is that four out of ten cyclists believe they should pay their own form of tax to finance any schemes to improve cycling safety, rather than the cost being met from general taxation.

About 44 per cent of drivers say that improvements to cycling safety should be paid for out of general taxes.

The public as a whole divides fairly evenly: 49 in favour of money for improvements coming from general taxation, 51 per cent saying that cyclists should pay a tax.