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New driving test puts drivers in riders' shoes

One of the challenges in bridging the "us" verses "them" divide on our roads is that while most riders know what it is like to be behind the wheel, a lot of drivers don't know what it's like to be on two wheels. A new online training course in the UK aims to fix this.

Researches at the University of Southampton have developed an online training course that helps drivers see the road through the eyes of a bike rider, in hope that it will provide them with a better understanding of rider behaviour and create a safer environment for all road users. 

This comes at a time when tension on roads is set to boom, as COVID-19 restrictions ease and public transport capacities decline for physical distancing purposes — forcing all commuters onto the road (or footpath) in some capacity.

The University’s Transport Research Group developed the course in partnership with Cycling UK and with funding from the Road Safety Trust. 

Importantly, Senior Research Assistant Matthew Webster said: "This is not about apportioning blame to either party for the amount of collisions that occur. Our approach has been to give all road users a better understanding of each other’s behaviours and why accidents happen."

This has been achieved by carefully designing a course for the test based on feedback from cyclist and drivers, as well as analysing collision data in the UK.

When taking the online test, users will engage in interactive exercises that explain how cyclists should behave in various scenarios such as at crossroads and on roundabouts, and how cars can move safely passed them.

It is hoped that the test will be part of an advanced driving qualification which many drivers take to improve their driving skills.

That study is led by Dr Katie Plant from University of Southampton, who stated: “Most drivers do not get any specific training on how to interact with cyclists, unless they encounter bicycles during their driving lessons. Despite it being such a high risk scenario, it does not feature as part of the standard driving test and many of us will never revisit the Highway Code once we have passed. So as a result, a lot of people don’t understand how to interact with cyclists on the roads.”

Participants will take a questionnaire before and immediately after completing the test, and again several months later so Dr Plant’s team can monitor the long-term effectiveness.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.