Bicycle Network: Skill Up
Do they really hate us? Recent research hints that tension on the roads has complex causes and there hope for improvement.
Riders alert; drivers alarmed
24 March 2011. Bike riders are more alert and aware of road space and the traffic environment than are drivers, a new research project has found.
Riders, with their high position and 180 degrees unimpeded vision, not only see a wider perspective, but also observed further ahead in a line of traffic.
Most cyclists used this perspective to plan for their next moves in the traffic, but it also serves to alert them to likely road situations within the next few minutes.
However from the drivers' perspective, this increased awareness could be seen as risky riding because the driver, with a poorer view, had comparatively less understanding of the road ahead.
The findings come from a study which used cameras on helmets and inside cars to record journeys in Melbourne. Participants were also asked to comment on tape about what they were observing on the road.
These perspective were then elaborated in a series of focus groups involving drivers and riders.
The studyâ€”Understanding Relationship between Drivers and Cyclistsâ€”was undertaken for the Victorian Department of Transport by consulting firm SKM.
It was commissioned as a preliminary examination of whether there is increasing tension between drivers and cyclists that may lead to unsafe behaviour on the roads and, potentially, reducing the rate of growth in cycling.
Although not a comprehensive study, the project none-the-less unveiled some fascinating insights into road ser behaviour, and points the way to further avenues for research into the rider-driver tension.
It found that while there was tension on the roads, the causes were complex and reflected tensions which existed on society as a whole.
A number of factors were identified to trigger tense and negative interaction between drivers and bike riders.
Surprising and unexpected encounters with riders frightened drivers, who were afraid of causing injury. An emotional reaction and negative tension resulted.
It was clear from the focus group discussions that drivers felt lower tensions where they were expecting to meet cyclists than in situations where cyclists were very infrequently encountered.
The level of expectation can also relate to infrastructure and cyclists in particular reported surprise/fright/fear when, for example, a bike lane suddenly ceased.
Download the full report is available.