So are you a driver who hates cyclists?
Or a cyclist who hates drivers?
None of the above? Or a bit of both?
Reading some of the feedback on articles about road safety – how to cycle safer…how drivers can be more cycle aware, etc, you’d think it was open warfare out there on the highway.
But surely, apart from the dedicated petrol-heads and the dyed-in-the-home-grown-goat-wool-hand-knitted sweater ultra-green types, a lot of these drivers are also cyclists and a lot of cyclists also drive. So why can’t they see things from the other point of view?
Strikes me that our roads would be a lot safer if as learner drivers, we are forced to get some quality insight into the experiences of other roadusers.
The standard driving test was probably fine at the end of the fifties but isn’t really adequate preparation for the 21st century Britishroad system. Answering a few questions as a result of reading a fat book full of theory is hardly preparation. Getting behind the wheel of one little car and mechanically learning to drive it isn’t good enough either. I mean, you don’t even get to go on a motorway. It’s like learning to whip up a decent scrambled egg and then being expected to keep up with service at Claridges.
There are all kinds of challenges on the roads these days. There are more cyclists for a start – including recumbent cyclists who feel that a small triangular flag on a long stick should make them sufficiently visible as they are only two feet from the road surface. Cyclists may hop off cycle lanes on to the road in front of you the driver at unpredictable points because of the ludicrous and nonsensical network of cycle lanes painted seemingly at random, beginning and ending for no apparent reason.
I’m stating the obvious here but we share the roads with all manner of cars, motorbikes, scooters, lorries of every size, buses, horses, ponies and traps (yes there are some where I live) not forgetting (especially during the days before Bank Holiday Weekends) the joy of the finding yourself behind a gleaming vintage steam traction engine. These are driven by the most laid-back people in the world who know they still have a perfect right to occupy most of a small country lane travelling at 4mph.
I’d scrap the driving test and introduce a Safer Roads System. Candidates would be required to experience driving all sorts of vehicles. See how it feels behind the wheel of an articulated truck. See how long it takes to slow down to take a roundabout – see what the visibility is like. Even better, try to reverse the thing!
Drive a bus. Drive a pick-up. Driving a big Dodge requires different skills to those required for driving a shitty little two-door. Driving a top of the range people carrier, or a top of the range 4WD you are high up there in your luxury cushioned Napa-Leather-World. Why should you give a toss about that cyclist pulled up at the lights to your left? I mean it’s hardly your fault if you turn left across his front wheel.
Ride a bicycle – learn if necessary – then ride in local traffic. See how it feels when a distracted driver late on the school-run whizzes past four inches from your bar-end at 40mph. Where, on the road, do you think you’ll be safest/ most visible? Try riding on a by-pass with traffic passing at 60-70mph on your right and stuff coming at you at 40mph as you cross over a slip road.
Ride a motorbike. See how considerate – or not – car drivers generally are. Feel the difference cornering in wet and dry conditions.
Let’s throw in horse-riding. We have to share the roads with our four-legged friends, our four-legged friends, they’ll never let you down… well they will if some prat in a soft-top comes scorching around the corner in a country lane.
It’s all about consideration really and experiencing the whole roads thing from other points of view.
Course, this kind of driving test would probably take a year to prepare for and it would be quite costly but better that than lives lost.
How many flighty seventeen year olds only learn to calm down after wrapping their first car around a tree? Tragically, some don’t even live to regret that first mistake.
Anyway, it would be worth it for the comedy value of burly would-be lorry drivers on bicycles wobbling their way through a maze of cycling proficiency cones.
I’d also enjoy watching petrol-heads trying to stay in control of a nervous mare faced with an oncoming Subaru with a roaring engine and a go-faster spoiler. Riding might be the next great challenge for the Top Gear guys. I’d also love to see Clarkson on a bloody great stubborn immoveable horse, groping around the saddle pommel for the ignition switch, trying to make it go.
So that’s the new drivers sorted. But there’s the substantial additional problem of those people who passed their test many years ago and now have as many bad habits as a convent full of lap-dancing nuns.
I should probably come clean and admit that it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that, while I am immaculate cyclist, I may have turned into a dodgy driver myself. This is based on a lot of evidence of too-casual driving and the latest incident of attempting to drive down a cycle path. Don’t think my companion was too impressed by my protestation that the last time I was there, it used to be a proper road. Honest.
For current qualified drivers, a refresher every ten years would be reasonable, incorporating all the new facets of this radical new approach
Without wanting to sound all New-Agey, my Safer Roads System would be a holistic thing. A bit pricey, granted but it would definitely cut road casualties and deaths.
It would also mean the roads would suddenly get a lot quieter. I mean, realistically, between you and me, I can’t really predict a whole lot of people passing this test….