The Cycleplan Blog

Cycling Safety: Your thoughts

The tension between cyclists and drivers has long been no secret. Every cyclist has a story about a bad driver, and every driver has a story about a cyclist getting in the way. While the chronic tension between drivers and cyclists is widely acknowledged, little has been done to ease this frustration by implementing better cycling infrastructure.

We conducted a survey to discover exactly what frustrates people on the road. Let’s explore the results…

Biggest bugbears…

Overtaking cyclists too closely was found to be the biggest issue at a whopping 66.78%. Putting yourself in a cyclist’s shoes, this is hardly surprising. When a car hasn’t given enough room as they overtake, there’s no manoeuvrable room for the cyclist. When you add a nasty pothole into the mix, you can see how this situation can turn dangerous very quickly.

Pothole or not, no-one can deny that pedalling along with not much more to protect you than a helmet, and suddenly a speeding bullet of metal roars narrowly past you is going to leave you not only shaken but thrown off balance.

While we accept that not every cyclist is perfect (who is?), rule 212 of The Highway Code reinforces cyclists are entitled to a safe amount of room when being passed.

cycling safety

Sharing is caring…

Out of our respondents, 54.11% said taking responsibility to share the road will make it safer, with the second most popular resolution being for all drivers and cyclists to obey the highway code.

Many solutions noted the need for better cycling infrastructure, but courtesy was still the underlying theme. It’s impossible to ignore so many of the possible solutions falling under the same umbrella of taking responsibility for your actions – whether that’s on two wheels or four.

Cycling safety

Be safe be seen…

While most drivers will maintain they always look out for cyclists when out on the road, the visibility of cyclists has long been an area of argument. As a result, the market is flooded with accessories that make you more visible on the road – but which works best?

Our survey showed bike lights had the large majority, with 53.64% of respondents voting them as the best way to be seen. This makes sense – unlike reflective clothing, bike lights don’t rely on a car’s headlights hitting them at the right angle in order to be seen.

However, many of our ‘other’ responses suggested that a combination of some, if not all, of the options, is the best strategy for making sure you’re seen by drivers. Unfortunately, many observed that even with all the high-visibility gear in the world, close encounters with drivers are still very much an issue. As we’ve touched on earlier, it ultimately falls to both parties to take responsibility, rather than just to the cyclists to wear bright kit.

Cycling safety

Keep the confidence

One bad encounter with a driver can be enough to greatly affect a cyclist’s confidence. Cyclist or not, you can certainly understand why feeling apprehensive on the bike isn’t a nice feeling.

Unfortunately, as all too many of us are aware, once you lose your self-assurance, it can be difficult to get it back. So, our next question sought to find out how to keep this confidence and reduce cyclists fear of erratic drivers.

40.75% of our respondents found that riding a little further into the road to give themselves extra space was the best way to keep their cool. Sometimes you think it’s safer to ride as far left as possible, but it’s often better to ride just that little further into the road so that you miss the gutters. This also means that, if a driver overtakes too closely, there’s some manoeuvrable space to the left.

Wearing high-visibility gear was the second most popular answer at 19.86%. While the effectiveness of bright cycling kit has long been an area of debate, many people choose to err on the side of caution – after all, you can never be too visible right?

‘Other’ responses mostly remarked that a combination of all of the answers would work best, as well as riding more to gradually increase confidence – practice makes perfect!

cycling safety

Recapture the joy!

Perhaps the most surprising result of the survey was the underlying theme that continuous bad experiences with drivers can lead to few looking forward to being in the saddle. Whether it’s commuting to work or going out at the weekend – many suggest that other people on the road make cycling a chore, and we think that’s unacceptable.

For the amount of time we spend cycling, shouldn’t we enjoy it? That’s why our last question aimed to seek out the secret to recapturing the joy of road cycling. The majority of people (44.18%) recommended taking a quieter route as the best solution, which makes sense – it keeps you out the way of too much traffic and it tends to mean a more scenic route!

Remembering the positives of road cycling was the next most prevailing response. There are so many reasons to relish cycling – escapism, adventure and health just to name a few! When you remember why you fell in love with cycling in the first place, it seems a shame to let a few erratic drivers ruin it – in the words of one of our ‘other’ responses… ‘ride more, take your time and relax!’

cycling safety

How do you keep yourself as safe as possible on the road? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook or in the comments below!

11 Blog Comments

  • William D Taylor

    In Alicante Province in Spain, they have road signs that tell motorists to give cyclists 1.5 metres of room. Most Spanish drivers obey them. I wrote to Cllr Rob Humby of Hampshire County Council asking for similar traffic signs in Hampshire. He said it would not be possible, citing obscure reasons. I wrote to C Grayling and a civil servant replied and said all issues between cyclists and motorists were dealt with fully in the Highway Code. Also road signs are not there to influence the behaviour of motorists! I also wrote to the BBC South Today after a programme highlighting the issue and had no reply, Plus, I wrote to the Shadow Sec of State for Transport and had no reply.
    There is little political will in the UK to encourage people to cycle and too many motorists get very impatient if stuck behind a cycle. I am 70 and have been sworn at and one youth told me he was going to ‘knock my f….g head off if I delayed him again’.
    In Spain cycling is a pleasure; in the UK you risk your life on many of the potholed and busy roads such as the A27 between Southampton and Portsmouth. I would never, ever cycle on this road after daylight. Far too dangerous.

    Reply to William D Taylor
  • John Rudd

    I use a combination of flashing and fixed lights, front and back in addition to reflective clothing. As a car driver as well I am amazed at how many cyclists ride in the dark, dark clothing and no lights.

    I also use a hand mounted mirror to help me monitor traffic approaching from behind me.

    I use the cycle lanes or cycle tracks where they are available.
    Comply with the Road Traffic Act, so I do not run red lights or chop lanes between vehicles to race past cars that are waiting in traffic.
    Try to avoid doing the things that annoy me about cyclists when I am driving my car!

    Reply to John Rudd
  • bob davies

    drivers who drive to close drivers who turn left in front of you . there are to many things to mention
    cycling in a city (Liverpool) is dangerous but I don’t let it stop me .the police could help more but are to busy . and don’t really care I have flickering lights back and front and when commuting lights on my back pack . but I do see bad cyclists as well going through red lights riding on the pavements ,
    etc we should all pay attention to each other,

    Reply to bob davies
  • dave B

    i think the police should take an active roll and ride cycles on the roads with cameras and prosecute bad close and dangerous driving they sit there for hours with speed cameras so why not do this where you would really make a difference? , i can say every ride i go on i meet at least one dangerous or aggressive idiot !

    Reply to dave B
  • trevor lord

    trevor lord on April 27th. 2018

    drivers do drive to close. and pull out in front of you. last October 2017 , a truck pulled out from a side
    road and hit me and my bike, smashing my neck of femur,major operation 10 days in hospital.still on sticks, not been on the bike since,still waiting for that day.

    Reply to trevor lord
  • Dean

    Recently been knock off (hit & run) bike on a busy roundabout in Swansea/Penllergaer when driver failed to stop at approaching junction….driver stopped but left without leaving details I didn’t manage to get full reg number of car…reported to South Wales police who gave me a reference number and in so many words said to be careful in future!…last I heard of it. Been off work with fractures to wrist and arm and separated shoulder bone last 6weeks. No cctv footage on roundabout only ANPR cameras who wot provide footage. If I still got confidence to ride on roads again is yet to be seen.

    Reply to Dean
  • Ryan noble

    With the UK being the fattest nation in Europe, making cycling safer in the UK should be a top priority, imagine if they spent the cost of trident on cycling infrastructure?

    Reply to Ryan noble
  • Steve

    I have ridden thousands of miles in training and racing over many years.
    There have been close encounters many times some of which were life threatening.
    If all concerned adhered to the Highway Code that would help enormously.
    However I was told by an insurance company that approximately 10% of drivers are driving uninsured,a situation I find hard to believe.
    While we have people prepared to drive uninsured their lack of a sense of responsibility towards others will always impact on their lack of concern for cyclists wellbeing.
    A general sense of responsibility through education or enforced means is the most realistic way to reduce dangerous encounters.
    My wife and I will continue to cycle everyday but we always fear the day when a driver misjudges the risk they regularly take with our lives.
    We are always courteous,law abiding and move over and stop where possible to allow traffic through.
    Thank you for organising the survey.

    Reply to Steve
  • Alastair Seagroatt

    Just back from a 500 mile trip through Spain. The vast majority of motorists were superb. Lorries often gave a wee toot and pulled right out as they passed. Courtesy at crossings for pedestrians p, horse riders and cyclist seemed to be the norm, plus toots of encouragement at times. A totally different culture of tolerance from here, where some individuals seem to try to rule the roads and sometimes ‘teach cyclists a lesson’. Not sure if there is presumed liability for motorists to more vulnerable road users, if so seems to work.

    Reply to Alastair Seagroatt
  • simon

    For the first time in a year on Sunday I rode past the point I was involved in a hit and run where the driver took me out on purpose. It’s not often I am brought to tears. It wasn’t long before some one going the other way aggressively beeped me as I over took a slower cyclist while still on my side of the road . I am not sure what’s wrong with the people in this country. I am leaving for Spain cheaper housing better roads and a better climate. Good luck England I’ll keep giving sustrans money to try and improve your cycling environment

    Reply to simon
  • Robin

    Being a daily commuting cyclist I have frequent irritations with motorists, but I’m sure they have just as many irritations with us. There are cyclists who make it bad for us and increase motorists frustrations, the worst is cyclists who seem to think its acceptable to to ride near to the middle of the lane, I’m a cyclist and that irritates me, I think its really arrogant. There’s also the cyclists who seem to think that if they put their arm out to signal then they they can just manoeuvre wherever they want in their own time without the need to look behind at the oncoming traffic, being a cyclist you have to be vigilant! There are far too many maverick, and tbh absolute moron motorists to not be vigilant these days.
    What seems to frustrate me so much these days, (and I’m probably on my own in this one), is that because of cyclists not adhering to the left side of the lanes, some motorists will now just end up coasting behind me and not willing to go past. It can really put me on edge. Anyway my opinions won’t be liked, I’m sure but what will always be the case is that cyclists and motorists won’t ever see eye to eye.

    Reply to Robin

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