If you type the title of this article into Google, the first thing that is likely to appear near the top of the page, is a line of YouTube videos, with titles such as “This is Why People Hate Cyclists” and “Idiot on a Bike”, amongst other, similarly ‘complimentary’ themes.
A quick look at the videos in question does indeed reveal cyclists who are trying to undertake motorists already indicating and in the process of turning left. There are also cyclists jumping red lights and then manoeuvring across junctions seemingly oblivious to what they have just done.
The comments underneath the videos are also telling, with one simply reading;
“And cyclists wonder why motorists hate them.”
True, the manoeuvres outlined are examples of dangerously poor riding, but does that justify a generic expression of hatred towards ‘cyclists’ in general? After all, don’t we see many more examples of poor and dangerous driving by motorists almost daily too? If we meet examples of other four wheeled motorists doing stupid or dangerous manoeuvres don’t we tend to pass them off with an earthy comment and then move on? Idiotic cycling incidents though, seem to embed themselves into the subconsciousness of some motorists to build up to an ingrained dislike or, yes, even hatred of cyclists in general.
Tom Stafford in an article written some years ago for the BBC website has a theory about why some motorists get so angry about cyclists being on the road. Driving, he argues, is a moral activity which incorporates both legal rules and informal rules. These rules, he continues, ensure that the mayhem of the day to day rush hour journey works, because people know these rules and abide by them. (In support of his theory, have you ever, whilst navigating the Hangar Lane Gyratory system, wondered how it is that anyone gets through that system without being involved in a collision?) Taking that notorious hotspot and numerous other similar ones throughout the country as examples, it can be seen why Stafford’s idea of a moral order theory, would seem to carry some weight.
Stafford’s theory is that he believes that cyclists offend the moral order of things. They too follow what they see are the rules of the road, but they are able to do things that motorists aren’t able to do, such as move along at well below the speed limit, overtake queues of motor vehicles or undertake on the inside of other motorists. For some motorists, however, they see this as a form of cheating or they see cyclists as being free riders. For instance, in illustration of the latter, cyclists don’t have to pay road tax, to have licences to cycle on the road, and they don’t have to have insurance. Of course, in carrying out the manoeuvres just mentioned, they aren’t really cheating, they are able to legally carry out such manoeuvres. Nevertheless, a number of motorists still get irate by even these legal manoeuvres.
When they do bend the rules or even break them, such as cyclists who disobey red traffic lights at a junction and instead weave their way slowly across the junction (breaking the rules) or getting off their cycle and pushing the cycle across the junction (bending the rules?) they can cause absolute fury and a hatred of cyclists amongst some motorists, that seems out of all proportion to the incidents themselves.
This hatred of cyclists by some motorists can go beyond fist waving and expletive-laden shouting. In 2016, West Midlands Police became the first police force to use undercover police cyclists to crackdown on drivers who it was claimed by biker organisations were ‘deliberately and aggressively’ targeting cyclists on the roads of Birmingham. As a result, over that summer West Midlands police prosecuted 38 drivers for motoring offences for causing accidents involving cyclists. When asked about the initiative, Olympic cycling champion Chris Boardman said:
“What West Midlands Police is doing is exciting and I think it is something that needs to be done by other forces. It’s true that some cyclists are just as capable at being as irresponsible and rude as drivers.
“But it’s logical for the police to begin the process by dealing first with those who have the potential to cause the most harm.”
Therein lies the rub, as they say. According to ROSPA’s Road Safety Factsheet published in November 2017 3,499 cyclists were killed or seriously injured on the UK’s roads in 2016. That is almost 10 cyclists per day. Overall 18,477 cyclists were injured in reported road accidents during the same period. Doubtless a good number of those injured made No Win, No Fee cycling claims, where the accident wasn’t their fault. It is fair to say that probably many of the types of collisions causing these reported injuries, if they had not involved cyclists but instead only four wheeled motorists, would not have resulted in injury or death to anyone involved. As Chris Boardman also said:
“When we get behind the wheel of a car we can get so wrapped up in our daily lives that it’s often forgotten that we share the road with other vulnerable human beings. We are in a ton of steel and more respect needs to be given to them.”
Is there a solution to the problem of cyclist v motorist?
This is a problem that has been in existence for some considerable time as the volume of cyclists, on increasingly congested roads, increases. This article is by no means the first to debate these issues, by any means. Many others have looked at the problem in more depth and with more expertise than we possess on this subject, without a solution having been found.
The most common methods of tackling the issue usually involve discussion about:
- Improved education of motorists, not only about safer driving methods when they come upon cyclists on the road, but also on the changing of perceptions around cyclists i.e. that they are allowed to perform different, yet still legal, manoeuvres in traffic to motorists.
Adding cycling awareness as part of the driving test and introducing cycling awareness education for motorists found guilty of dangerous driving in relation to cyclists, are both initiatives that have been mooted.
- Improved education of cyclists particularly around the dangers of undertaking motorists at junctions, not jumping red lights and not entering the road by riding off the pavement.
- Improving the country’s infrastructure, in order to provide more cycling lanes and cycling-friendly roads in general.
Improving the education of both cyclists and motorists are both worthy aims, but many experts feel that, ultimately, the only way to significantly reduce the problem of antipathy from motorists to cyclists (and often vice versa) is to improve the cycling infrastructure and reduce the proximity of the one road user from the other. In other words, the less the two shall meet, the less chance they have of coming into conflict.
In April 2017, the Government published its plan to increase cycling and walking. The stated aim was that cycling and walking should, by 2040, become the preferred choice for shorter journeys. The plans included specific objectives to double the amount of cycling and reduce the number of cycling accidents by 2025. £1.2 billion was allocated to the project with £101 million to be spent on improving cycling infrastructure and expanding the number of cycle routes between the city centres, local communities, and key employment and retail sites. A further £85 million has been made available to make improvements to 200 sections of roads for cyclists.
It is a case of wait and to both see that the plan is followed through with and then what the effect has been once it has been implemented.
At Truth Legal, many of us are keen cyclists as well as being expert personal injury solicitors. If you have suffered a cycling accident injury as a result of being involved in a non-fault accident and it was within the last three years, then why not call on 01423 788 538 to discuss the possibility of making a No Win, No Fee, cycling accident injury compensation claim?
From one of the UK’s most read legal blogs.