It’s a rare day indeed that I see a video about “road safety” or road-related attitudes which imparts a good, balanced message that understands the facts that people are the same but vehicles, and the consequences of using and misusing different types of vehicles, are very different.
Today is not one of those days.
This video comes courtesy of Motoring.co.uk. “Sharing is caring,” they say. And when a motoring organisation of any kind talks about “sharing”, it only ever means one thing. Is this the exception that proves the rule?
“Cyclists vs Drivers—A difference in perception.” Hmm. Ignoring the threadbare generalistic and antagonistic phrase “cyclists vs drivers” (wait a moment while I fight with myself), it’s an interesting choice of title because there is only really one perception here. The idea that this represents a “difference in perception” reminds me of the old surrealist joke, “what’s the difference between a duck?” (one of its legs is both the same)—it’s baffling to talk of “a difference” when referring to only one subject.
Let’s go through those placards one by one. The language and the subject matter are both interesting.
“There are now more cyclists on the road than ever before.” This is flat wrong, for a start: there used to be far, far more people riding bikes. But don’t let that get in the way of a bit of playing to the crowd, many of whom hate “cyclists”: there are, apparently, more of the two-wheeled bastards now, so bear that in mind as we tell you some other “facts”.
“But 67% of cyclists lack confidence on the roads.” Of course they bloody do. They’re forced to share with other people of wildly varying abilities and attitudes who are at the wheel of fast, heavy lumps of metal. The stakes are high: a simple mistake (hell, sometimes you don’t even need a mistake) and that driver who didn’t leave enough space is going to take you down. You’re talking confidence? People are confident when they’re driving, aren’t they? You wouldn’t find 67% of drivers lacking confidence, that’s for sure! And you know why that is? Because this isn’t about confidence in one’s own abilities. It’s about confidence in the ability of one’s vehicle to protect against the effects of a car crash.
“Only 10% of cyclists said they were ‘very confident’ when on the roads.” Sure. relatively few people—wilfully or otherwise—don’t think about the basic matter of what happens when someone in a car doesn’t give them enough space. Again, let’s remember this: Confidence is not competence; confidence is about perceived immunity.
“61% of cyclists said it is ‘too dangerous’ to cycle on the roads.“ Of course, another way of phrasing this is that 61% of cyclists think that sharing with drivers of motor vehicles is dangerous (which it is). Take the drivers and the fast, heavy vehicles away and the roads are quite safe. All that’s mentioned here is the road, though.
“51% of motorists said that cyclists are a hazard when driving.” Ah. “A hazard”. A word with fairly strong connotations, let’s face it. Hazardous substances are those which will cause you harm. Hazardous environments are those which will cause you harm. Someone on a bicycle will cause you harm? Sure, there are a handful of stories a year of some idiot on a bike crashing into a stationary car and causing material damage, which is a sort of harm, but I would suggest that the complete lack of stories of people in cars directly killed or injured by the actions of people on bicycles, combined with the daily stories of the reverse, is what we should be focusing on. An average person armed with a 15kg, 15mph bicycle is a hazard, and an average person armed with a 1500kg, 70mph car in which they are well insulated from even high-speed crashes isn’t? Seems odd, but maybe the video will get to that in a bit.
“36% cited ‘no lights’ as the main reason cyclists were a hazard.” Cyclists are a hazard. Uh huh. We get it. Sure, too many people ride bikes without lights. This is Not Good. Maybe we’ll get to the Not Good things that people do in cars soon.
“33% of motorists claimed ‘weaving’ is a big hazard.” Hazard. OK. We get it. Yeah, that thing that people do on bikes that people in cars don’t like, primarily because they’re stuck in traffic. Hazard. Causes you harm, somehow. Cyclists are a hazard. Can we talk about, say, dangerously close passes now?
“32% said the problem was ‘no signalling’.” Oh, OK. Sure, that thing people absolutely always do when they’re in cars and signalling doesn’t even require them to take their hands off the controls? Could we talk about that? No? OK. Maybe it’s coming soon. Anyway, in the meantime, here’s a tip: if you drive in a way that doesn’t endanger other people, indicating makes absolutely no difference. You know that thing that motorcyclists are taught? “What does a flashing orange light mean? It means the light’s working.” Don’t assume. Anticipate. It doesn’t matter whether it’s someone on a bike or in a car, never assume that any indication or lack of is going to result in a certain action. If you want to read vehicle body language—the lean of a two wheeler, the pitch of a car—then that’s more reliable, but if you assume that indication or a lack of means you can proceed where someone else (or yourself) would be endangered if it were wrong, then you are driving dangerously. Anyway, back to the video. Must be something about drivers coming up.
“Please have respect for other road users.” What, that’s it? That’s the valedictory message? Hold up a minute. This has been a non-stop kicking of people on bikes, which makes this message crystal clear: it says “Cyclists: respect drivers.”