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University launches course to help drivers understand cyclists

Researchers at University of Southampton aim to educate motorists over the dangers cyclists face

A new online training course has been launched by researchers at the University of Southampton which aims to educate drivers about what it is like to be a cyclist, with the aim of reducing the number of road traffic collisions.

Open to motorists who rarely or never cycle, the course from the University of Southampton aims to highlight to motorists how cyclists experience riding in traffic, as well as how the Highway Code applies to people on bikes.

As a result, it is hoped that drivers will gain more insight into why bike riders perform some manoeuvres, as well as why they adopt different road positions, depending on the situation.

The course has been developed by the university’s Transport Research Group in partnership with Cycling UK, together with funding from the Road Safety Trust.

Intended to complement existing advanced driver training but with an emphasis on how to share the road with cyclists, participants will learn through interactive exercises and videos how cyclists should behave in certain situations.

Those include how bike riders react at crossroads and on roundabouts, as well as how motorists can safely overtake them.

A practical course, “similar to the Cycling Proficiency Test [replaced in 2007 by Bikeability] will also be available to everyone who registers once the Government’s advice on social distancing means it is safe to carry out,” follows a series of studies carried out at the university over the past year.

The study is being led by Dr Katie Plant, Lecturer in Human Factors in Engineering at the University of Southampton, who said: “Most drivers do not get any specific training on how to interact with cyclists, unless they encounter bicycles during their driving lessons.

“Despite it being such a high risk scenario, it does not feature as part of the standard driving test and many of us will never revisit the Highway Code once we have passed. So as a result, a lot of people don’t understand how to interact with cyclists on the roads.”

Senior Research Assistant Matthew Webster, who helped develop the course, commented: “The course has been carefully designed based on feedback we have received from cyclists and drivers and this is not about apportioning blame to either party for the amount of collisions that occur.

“Our approach has been to give all road users a better understanding of each other’s behaviours and why accidents happen. Even the most careful drivers and cyclists can overlook the rules that everyone needs to follow.”

The launch of the new course follows an appeal to cyclists and motorists issued by researchers at the university earlier this year.

> University calls for drivers and cyclists for research study

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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