By Jason Furness
When you’re on the road as a cyclist, you can sometimes get the impression that those in the safety bubble of their cars can be totally oblivious to us two-wheelers. Whether you ride to work, use it for fitness, or for some outdoor time on a weekend, you’ll be used to the regular experiences of drivers thinking the cyclists don’t exist. Whether intentional or not, it is something that causes major issues, even fatalities.
There has been much debate about how to tackle the issue, but one good suggestion is to include a cycling proficiency element as a necessity for all learner drivers. That’s not just to amass more work on those fresh to the road, not at all, but to make them safer for everyone.
Cycling proficiency, a thing of the past? Via Woodleigh School Flickr
When you’re starting out you are given every opportunity to familiarise yourself with what’s right and wrong when driving; what’s legal and illegal. A lot of hours’ worth of research go into reading your highway code and using online theory tests to make sure you’re capable of maintaining road safety, but the smallest of considerations is given to cyclists.
Why is it a good idea? Let’s start with awareness. Unlike many of our school days, when the cycling proficiency test often went on yearly, now that’s not the case. Though youngsters will always play on bikes, is there the relevant education going on? When they get to the legal driving age, they’re not likely to be as clued up as people once were. You can even test your own cycling proficiency knowledge with this quiz that was published to highlight sometimes just how little people know.
Making a driver commit to some experience on the road as a cyclist will put them in the position where you learn the most, and that’s first hand. It will highlight common mistakes drivers make to give them the vision not to do it themselves. Also, if you’ve been the subject of hasty and uncouth drivers, you might just share some more empathy towards your non-motorised road users.
Initiatives are going on to try and tackle the issues in some hotspots – look to CPC Cycle Training for example. But a mandatory course for every driver on the road would mean that the knowledge is universal. Last year the AA also launched a ‘Think Bike’ initiative to try and give more cohesion to the petrol and leg power-fuelled classes on the road.
‘Mutual respect’ was one of the key lines, but we still face disrespect on a day-to-day basis, and in a time when more people should be advised to keep their cars at home and use more environmentally friendly methods of getting around, we can’t afford for that behaviour to contribute to the bikes rusting away in the garage.