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Survey: Motorists feel 'anxious' and 'aware' when driving around cyclists

More than half of drivers say cycle lanes are not big enough for bikes

More than half of motorists don’t believe cycle lanes are big enough, with large numbers saying they feel ‘anxious’ and ‘aware’ when driving near cyclists.

A survey by JMW Solicitors also found that one in five motorists think that a complete re-design of the country’s infrastructure is needed, and nearly three quarters of cyclists do not think there is enough cycle infrastructure in their neighbourhood.

Out of 654 respondents, 57 per cent of those identifying themselves as motorists answered ‘no’ to the question “Do you think the current cycle lanes are big enough for cyclists?”. 

Meanwhile, 72 per cent of those identifying themselves as cyclists answered ‘no’ to the question “Do you think your local town/city has an adequate cycling infrastructure?”

One cyclist commented on the survey: “This is a pressing issue that really needs to be dealt with - cycle lanes need to be seriously improved (rather than thin yards-long strips being painted in existing lanes) and there needs to be more segregated, purpose-built cycle routes, especially to and from town.”

Jane Bedford McLaren, senior associate and head of JMW’s cycling claims team, Twisted Spokes, said: “The findings of this survey underline what many cyclists have long argued, that cycling infrastructure as it stands, is simply not fit for purpose.

“British cycle lanes are inadequate because they are often too narrow and do not connect with other cycle lanes to create a complete network. Ideally, cycle lanes should be separate from the road and if this is not possible, at least wider than they currently are; a third of the road.

“More also needs to be done to link up existing cycle lanes, and create new ones, particularly securing the safety of commuting cyclists into and out of the city centre.”

Twenty per cent of motorists agreed that a complete redesign of the country’s infrastructure is needed, whilst 42 per cent echoed the sentiment that segregated cycling was the best thing that could be done for cyclists in the future.

Motorists also reported feeling apprehensive when driving near cyclists, with 47 per cent stating it made them feel ‘aware’ and 36 per cent saying they were ‘anxious’.  These figures were broadly mirrored by cyclists, 49 per cent of whom were ‘aware’ and 38% ‘anxious’.

Jane continues: “It is really positive that a majority of motorists surveyed agree that cycle lanes are not large enough, as it demonstrates that there are drivers out there who have some understanding of cyclists’ needs.  However, that understanding needs to be broadened and deepened.

“We ultimately need to be realistic about how our infrastructure is being used, and ensure our city’s growing passion for cycling is matched by a robust infrastructure development vision.  All future development needs to bear cyclists and motorists in mind to enable a better, fairer usage of our roads.”


Respondents to a survey commissioned by the BBC last month also said that it is too dangerous to ride on the roads where they live.

We reported how the poll of 3,012 adults, carried out by ComRes, found that 52 per cent said that their local roads were too dangerous for cyclists, and only a third, 34 per cent, were of the opinion that the streets where they live are well designed for bike riders.

Meanwhile, 55 per cent believe that employers are not doing enough to encourage and facilitate cycling to work.

According to British Cycling, current annual per capita spend on cycling in the UK is £2, compared to £24 in the Netherlands.

Martin Lucas-Smith of the Cambridge Cycling Campaign, the largest such group outside London, said that residents of many parts of the UK “felt unsafe to cycle."

He also said that "things like narrow cycle lanes" and "badly maintained roads" contributed to safety fears among riders.

"We'd like to see proper allocation of space on these roads which can almost always be achieved simply by a bit of redesign, so people can cycle safely and easily," he added.

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31 comments

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oliverjames | 8 years ago
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That's very good news, and why I often introduce a bit of wobble when cycling, depending on road conditions and what see in my rear view mirror. This usually results in a bit more clearance from the passing vehicle.

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md6 | 8 years ago
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What this screams to me is that education is needed (on both sides IMO) to improve the standards and interactions between drivers and cyclists. I agree that a periodic reassessment of people's driving ability should be introduced - every 10 or 15 years would seem reasonable as an arbitrary figure. Its worrying that someone could pass their test at 17, and then be subject to no assessment of their ability, understanding of new laws, infrastructure etc. for the next 60 years (or more in some cases), other than an eye test. The world moves on, taking my dad as an example, he passed his test at 17, is now 67. He wouldn't pass a driving test if he had to take one now, I say that having been a passenger in his car. How many others out there are as bad or worse drivers than him???

I didn't drive between the ages of 22 and 31, then jumped into a car and was off with no restrictions, no tests nothing. I'm a careful and considerate driver, particularly around cyclists (being one myself helps on that front), but not infallible. I'd happily have had to retake my test at that time to ensure that I was safe etc (thankfully i'm not a bad driver generally, just lacked a little experience when I got back in a car)

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andyp | 8 years ago
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'some of them are careful and courteous, some of them just need a bit of education. On the other hand whilst we are all experienced cyclists and know what we are doing there are some people out there riding bikes that a freakin nightmare and you have no clue what they'll do next. Likewise some of the less brilliant ones could just do with a bit of education or training.'

Spot on. Cars are, mostly, predictable. An awful lot of cyclists out there aren't. I did my weekly drive to work today and saw some horrendous riding. How on earth is a non-cycling driver to feel when approaching a cyclist? If they can trust that they are going to hold a line, look before moving, stop when they are supposed to, etc - their job is a lot easier and less stressful.

my n=1 experience. The only time I have been *hit* by a car (as opposed to the other time, when I hit the car...) was as a result of the driver taking avoiding action when someone on a bike hopped down off the pavement and across their bows. Driver (naturally) flinched. Into me.

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IanW1968 | 9 years ago
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Sorry Gizmo, my terminology not up to date!  16

Whilst it could left to urban hipsters to stream it in their micro blogs....or whatever. I suspect you would get more success with 30 seconds during the x factor, tv time is also cheap as chips.

Chillax dude!!

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IanW1968 | 9 years ago
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You know they don't actually give a **** because a few public information films saying stuff like cyclist have equal rights, why they ride in the middle of the road or riding two abreast is OK would stop 75% of the belligerence to cyclist and cost peanuts.

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jollygoodvelo replied to IanW1968 | 9 years ago
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IanW1968 wrote:

You know they don't actually give a **** because a few public information films saying stuff like cyclist have equal rights, why they ride in the middle of the road or riding two abreast is OK would stop 75% of the belligerence to cyclist and cost peanuts.

Public information films? Perhaps played during the interval at the matinee at the picture house?

Seriously though - there are enough viral things advancing various causes these days, why has no-one done a 'don't drive like a pr!ck around cyclists' one?

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exilegareth | 9 years ago
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Let me give you an example of why I posted what I did.
I ride to work along a road where the speed limit goes 30 to 60 then back to 30 in the course of an uphill mile.
I watch drivers overtake me in a series of curves - the ideal is one where the maximum gap is when they are alongside me, but because they can't calculate speeds, or relative speeds, I most often either see them cutting back across me, or moving outwards from me after they've passed me. The most rational explanation, for me, is because they're rubbish at estimating relative speed.
SInce I took up cycling eighteen months ago I have taught myself a new drill when I drive - don't move back across until I can see the lead cyclist in my nearside mirror. Really simple stuff, allied to a rule that I don't overtake unless I'm sure I'll be able to see the cyclist in my nearside mirror before the oncoming traffic gets me.
I want to be that bloke in the SUV with the boot full of gardening kit who makes cyclists wonder why all drivers can't be like that. My best guess that my fellow drivers can'r be like that ibecause no-one has ever taught them. The alternative explanation, that they drive that way because they're all bad tempered psychopaths who hate cyclists, has no solution.

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PonteD replied to exilegareth | 8 years ago
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exilegareth wrote:

...don't move back across until I can see the lead cyclist in my nearside mirror. Really simple stuff, ....

don't you always do this when you overtake anyway? It worries me the amount of cars that nearly take my front wing off on the motorway etc. because they don't do the lifesaver glance over their shoulder. I am usually that driver that you think is hogging the middle lane, when in actual fact I'm waiting until I can see the car I just overtook in my rear view mirror. If I can't see them I can only assume they're still alongside me. Plus pulling in too soon doesn't leave a safe stopping distance for the car you just overtook (that's also simple stuff As far as I'm concerned).

One thing that has got me thinking lately is that I've never been taught how to drive around cyclists and I'm not aware of it in the highway code. I'm not taking about overtaking, but like when in stood traffic, should you drive more in the gutter so the cyclist can more easily filter on the offside? Or should it be the other way around? I prefer to filter on the outside for many reasons, but there are many who like squeezing along the kerb in the gutter. These are simple things that ultimately there should be some official opinion on and that should be taught to drivers. I guess it comes back to the old adage, that you only learn to drive once you past your test, sadly there are many who's standards decline once they pass their tests as they assume that passing your test is the gold standard of driving.

You can tell it's been a bad commute when I'm full of angst against drivers

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shay cycles | 9 years ago
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There is not training for how to behave around cyclists for a really simple reason.

Drivers are supposed to be trained to drive on roads with other road users and they are supposed to Learn to give all of them adequate space, pass only when appropriate and safe and to treat all other road users with courtesy and respect - doing that means no need for any training to deal with cyclists, pedestrians, people on horses, animals, slower vehicles and objects on the carriageway.

I sometimes worry about the intelligence and understanding of road users (all types) - this stuff is hardly rocket science.

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bikebot replied to shay cycles | 9 years ago
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shay cycles wrote:

There is not training for how to behave around cyclists for a really simple reason.

Drivers are supposed to be trained to drive on roads with other road users and they are supposed to Learn to give all of them adequate space, pass only when appropriate and safe and to treat all other road users with courtesy and respect - doing that means no need for any training to deal with cyclists, pedestrians, people on horses, animals, slower vehicles and objects on the carriageway.

I sometimes worry about the intelligence and understanding of road users (all types) - this stuff is hardly rocket science.

Nope, that makes no sense at all. Passing a slower user is a practical skill in which a driver must simultaneously judge distances, speed and read the road correctly in order to be safe. Learning to drive is full of individual skills that are taught in isolation, including parallel parking, reversing around corners etc, and a combination of them will be assessed in the driving test.

I don't care how courteous or respectful someone is, driving requires training and practise in many situations to be done safely. I certainly don't believe we should be approving people to drive on the road unless they've demonstrated they can control a vehicle safely around cyclists, and for most people that won't have happened.

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jacknorell replied to bikebot | 9 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

I certainly don't believe we should be approving people to drive on the road unless they've demonstrated they can control a vehicle safely around {edit} other road users {stop edit}.

You meant to say this, right?

It's not just us, most are approved without knowing how to deal with cyclists, motorcycles, lorries, horses, processions, other cars...

The bar is set far too low.

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bikebot replied to jacknorell | 9 years ago
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jacknorell wrote:
bikebot wrote:

I certainly don't believe we should be approving people to drive on the road unless they've demonstrated they can control a vehicle safely around {edit} other road users {stop edit}.

You meant to say this, right?

It's not just us, most are approved without knowing how to deal with cyclists, motorcycles, lorries, horses, processions, other cars...

The bar is set far too low.

Nope, my comment is on the story, which is about passing cyclists. If this were a story about passing all of those other categories of road users I might have a comment on them as well.

What I am specifically pointing out is that overtaking a cyclist is not the same as passing a car, the closing speeds are completely different. Many people will learn to drive without ever learning how to overtake a cyclist safely, and it's a technique that should be both practised and demonstrated against different categories of road user.

In fact people generally don't learn how to overtake at all, as it rarely happens in car on car traffic, and you probably won't have to demonstrate the skill during a driving test. We have a serious problem in this country that a small number of drivers regularly perform dangerous passing maneuvers against cyclists, and a large part of it is down to ignorance and insufficient training, rather than malice as is often assumed.

This survey reflects a view that has come up before, some people feel apprehensive about driving around cyclists for the same reason that new drivers feel apprehensive about motorway driving. They don't know how to do it, because they haven't been trained to do it.

I do agree with you that standard to which we teach people to drive in the UK is too low, and doesn't compare well with many other European countries.

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drfabulous0 | 9 years ago
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Aw, poor motorists, I'm sorry that 70kg of flesh, metal and plastic makes you feel anxious as you blast past me at 40mph in your big metal box with inches to spare.

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wycombewheeler replied to drfabulous0 | 8 years ago
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drfabulous0 wrote:

Aw, poor motorists, I'm sorry that 70kg of flesh, metal and plastic makes you feel anxious as you blast past me at 40mph in your big metal box with inches to spare.

those are the other 43% who feel wither indifferent or belligerent, doubt they gave that response in the survey though.

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Brown dog | 9 years ago
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Quite a lot of rubbish spouted in this thread by the normal car haters

Just asked my 17 year old lad and his girlfriend who are taking driving lessons ......... Are you given any advice on cyclists ? .......And yes they are given advice from the Highway Code and the instructor how to respect and drive around cyclist

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bikebot | 9 years ago
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It's been a few years since I passed my test, but I can't remember anything about how to drive around cyclists during my lessons. Like many cyclists who also drive, I simply have experience and a "do unto others" philosophy.

I've expressed this view a few times, but I think the whole regime of driving and theory test is overdue for an update, and should include simulated driving to be able to stage specific dangerous scenarios. You can't rely on those events happening during a test, even an incompetent driver will get through if they simply try enough times.

Using some sort of relatively cheap simulated system might allow the introduction of something else that is frequently requested, which is the periodic retest of drivers to renew a licence. That's both cost effective, and the easiest way to stage specific events that reflect the changes in the law & highway code that would have occurred in the intervening years.

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jova54 replied to bikebot | 9 years ago
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bikebot wrote:

It's been a few years since I passed my test, but I can't remember anything about how to drive around cyclists during my lessons. Like many cyclists who also drive, I simply have experience and a "do unto others" philosophy.

Well it certainly was in 1978. Having learnt to drive in Germany I had to retake my test when I was posted to NI and when I took my first UK test I failed for two things. 40mph in a 30 limit and not giving a cyclist enough room and respect when overtaking on a main road. He got what is now referred to as a 'punishment pass'.

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bikebot replied to jova54 | 9 years ago
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jova54 wrote:

Well it certainly was in 1978. Having learnt to drive in Germany I had to retake my test when I was posted to NI and when I took my first UK test I failed for two things. 40mph in a 30 limit and not giving a cyclist enough room and respect when overtaking on a main road. He got what is now referred to as a 'punishment pass'.

That sort of confirms my point, you failed because the event came up. If there was no cyclists there at that time, you may have passed, and possibly gone on to be a dangerous driver (I'm ignoring the speeding just to illustrate a point).

We can't arrange for cyclists to be there when people take their tests, so relying on a brief practical test really isn't sufficient.

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Bob's Bikes | 9 years ago
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With ref to Brooess comment about driver training, having just been overtaken by a learner driver under instruction she only just missed me the instructor did nothing (if that was me teaching someone I think I would have told them to go out more or even reached over and turned the wheel myself).

So even the trainers need training!

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racyrich replied to Bob's Bikes | 9 years ago
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FATBEGGARONABIKE wrote:

With ref to Brooess comment about driver training, having just been overtaken by a learner driver under instruction she only just missed me the instructor did nothing (if that was me teaching someone I think I would have told them to go out more or even reached over and turned the wheel myself).

So even the trainers need training!

I know for a fact that some driving instructors are very anti-cyclist. One of my clubmates was learning to drive, and when coming up to overtake a cyclist, the instructor said cyclists scored double, pensioners and mums on crossings just single.
My mate stopped, told him what a **** he was, and walked home.

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srchar replied to racyrich | 9 years ago
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racyrich wrote:

I know for a fact that some driving instructors are very anti-cyclist.

It's not just driving instructors - it seems to me that most professional drivers - sorry, I'll rephrase that - most people who earn a living by driving around in a car/van/lorry - positively despise all other road users.

Good on your mate for voting with his wallet.

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daddyELVIS | 9 years ago
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There's loads of cycling infrastructure where I live - it's called the roads - did over 100km this morning no problem!

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Leviathan | 9 years ago
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What I don't understand is why motorist would not get used to cyclists. Yes we are not in the majority but any driver is going to encounter us on every trip maybe several times. Why don't they learn. True anyone is allowed to drive with no follow up training, pass once, licence for life.

Meanwhile I can be going along a wide road or even a full cycle lane and feel a car crawling along behind me. If they are there for more than a few seconds I may look around as this is a bit disconcerting for me too, sometimes I may even wave them through. Finally the driver (probably a middleaged woman, sorry to stereotype but true) overtakes by going completely into the other lane when they had a perfectly adequate lane before. Then a wave of half a dozen cars all of which were held up will just drive straight down the road past me. I do wonder if they are blaming me for being there not the first drivers timid driving.

I am just asking people to learn to drive in straight lines I swear I don't think they have a clue how wide their cars are. Some people in 4x4s think they are in a mini, and some mini drivers think they are in a bus.

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mrmo replied to Leviathan | 9 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:

What I don't understand is why motorist would not get used to cyclists. Yes we are not in the majority but any driver is going to encounter us on every trip maybe several times. Why don't they learn. True anyone is allowed to drive with no follow up training, pass once, licence for life.

I think you might be surprised at how little cyclist/learner driver interaction actually happens. I think i had c25-30 lessons in the end but only had to deal with a handful of cyclists. A lot of the time is spent practicing manouvers, parking, reversing round corners that sort of thing. Then the town in which you live will be crucial, Cheltenham has a fairly high number of cyclists, but it is still very low, but compared to some towns!!

As for driving instructors, someone i know had a run in with Bennetts in Cheltenham, thought it only fair to name drop the idiot.

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Brooess | 9 years ago
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Quote:

Here's my bets guess. Motorists feel nervous around cyclists because they know they're rubbish at close quarters control of their car at speed, and they know they're awful at judging speeds. SO they feel anxious...

I've had that suggested to me a few times and suspect this is at the root cause of a lot of lousy overtakes and aggression - lack of confidence in own ability coupled with fear they'll hurt someone... result = a shouty tantrum. Kids do the same when they lack confidence in themselves...

So the solution is a combination of:
1. More dominant cycling infrastructure to make it clearer to drivers where they can and cannot drive around cyclists
2. Driver training - all new drivers at time of test + all existing drivers
3. More people riding so that when those people get back in their car they have a better understanding how to overtake in a way least likely to end in harm for the cyclist

Reading between the lines of this survey, it does show an overall acceptance of the legitimacy of cycling on UK roads. I suspect the underlying momentum is there...

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racyrich | 9 years ago
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Motorists also reported feeling apprehensive when driving near cyclists, with 47 per cent stating it made them feel ‘aware’

So what state are they in when not near a cyclist? Torpid?

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exilegareth | 9 years ago
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Here's my bets guess. Motorists feel nervous around cyclists because they know they're rubbish at close quarters control of their car at speed, and they know they're awful at judging speeds. SO they feel anxious...

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oozaveared replied to exilegareth | 9 years ago
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exilegareth wrote:

Here's my bets guess. Motorists feel nervous around cyclists because they know they're rubbish at close quarters control of their car at speed, and they know they're awful at judging speeds. SO they feel anxious...

That's actually bollocks though isn't it. I've been riding properly (in a club) on the roads since 1973. Driving on the roads since 1979. I am a member of the IAM and I ride 20 miles a day as a commuter plus more at the weekend. I was a professional driver for over 20 years and drove all over the world.

Drivers ought to be anxious about driving near cyclists. They ought to slow down, pay attention and be careful. It's the drivers that aren't anxious and couldn't give a toss that are the worrying ones.

And let's be clear not all drivers are crap or anti-cyclist. Some of them are careful and courteous, some of them just need a bit of education. On the other hand whilst we are all experienced cyclists and know what we are doing there are some people out there riding bikes that a freakin nightmare and you have no clue what they'll do next. Likewise some of the less brilliant ones could just do with a bit of education or training. I think it's positive that motorists are nervous around vulnerable road users. I am and I can drive quite well thanks.

I don't think it's a bad thing

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truffy | 9 years ago
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The real problem is that cyclists are worth fewer points than little old ladies on pedestrian crossings but, conversely, cause more damage to your car.

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IanW1968 | 9 years ago
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Aah another report that'll help, does this one suggest backhanders to politicians?

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