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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 joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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David9694 | 3 years ago

the So'ton Echo has got this story - loads of comments earlier on - can't bring myself to look....

cbrndc | 3 years ago

I'd like to complete the course to find out what they are telling drivers.

aegisdesign | 3 years ago

Maybe this could be used as an equivalent to speed awareness courses for drivers caught close passing instead of them getting FPNs.

Dao replied to aegisdesign | 3 years ago

self-directed would mean the driver could elect to not do it but claim they did. I would rather stick with FPN as mandatory.

dodpeters | 3 years ago

Wouldn’t it be easier to just ride a bike a bit to experience it first hand?

BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP replied to dodpeters | 3 years ago

Yup - make the 'drivers' cycle to work a few times and they'll soon learn what it's like. 

David9694 replied to BIRMINGHAMisaDUMP | 3 years ago
1 like

Let's not go down the "they should be made to..." route here.
There's lots of that on the newspaper comments sections aimed at cyclists - while I'm glad that it comes from idiots, they seem pretty numerous and can't all be from North Korea. 

John Smith replied to dodpeters | 3 years ago
1 like

It would be nice, but unfortunatly I suspect most of those driving poorly around cyclists would act in a way they expect cyclists to act, hugging the curb, pulling out of the way any time a car is behind them and blaiming close passes on themselves rather than the driver.

Sriracha replied to John Smith | 3 years ago
1 like

that's a very good point. I suspect most motorists have actually been on a bike before, and probably cycled as you describe, which informs their driving practice.

I like aegisdesign's idea that the course could be used as the "equivalent to speed awareness courses for drivers caught close passing instead of them getting FPNs."

eburtthebike | 3 years ago

This sounds interesting; perhaps the government could make it mandatory for all learner drivers.  Maybe the insurance companies could reduce premiums for drivers who've passed the course?

Velophaart_95 replied to eburtthebike | 3 years ago

I'd go even further; part of learning to drive a car includes bicycle training, and CBT motorcycle training. Of course this would never happen. 

Cocooned in a metal box and unaware of two wheeled vehicles is not great.

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