Cyclists are better drivers than motorists, says insurance firm

This week as I walking home from school I saw a mother crossing the road with her young daughter. The mother was on a bike and the little girl, who was only about 5, was on a scooter. The mother did what every parent would do: she sat in the middle of the road on her bike until the little girl was safely onto the pavement on the other side. A motorist took exception to this and tooted at her. Not only that, he came round the corner, wound down his window, and shouted at her. The mother tried to explain that she was waiting for her daughter to cross the road safely. I could feel my blood boil. I despise bullies and this is exactly what I saw: a man in his powerful motor vehicle shouting abuse and tooting at a young women who was only protecting her child. I shouted back at him, “She was protecting her daughter from cars!”. He wound up his window and drove on. I wish I’d said “bullies like you!”.

What gives motorists the right to hurl abuse like this at other road users? For the sake of waiting 20 or 30 seconds for them to safely cross the road he’s upset multiple people and probably put them off using active travel as a mode of transport. It is unforgivable. I know some cyclists break the law but at least they’re not poisoning us with toxic fumes like all motorists of petrol-fuelled cars. And if I had the choice of being run over by a bicycle or run over by a motor vehicle, I’d choose the bicycle any day. It’s really a no-brainer. Which begs the question: why are we so forgiving of motorists and so unforgiving of cyclists? There’s no logic to it other than most of us are motorists but most of us are not cyclists. We are more forgiving of the activity we do ourselves. It is unconscious bias.

According to a British insurance company, motorists who are also cyclists make less than half the number of insurance claims as motorists who are not cyclists. In other words, cyclists are better drivers. This is hardly surprising. Cyclists are more mindful, considerate, and respectful of other road users because they are other road users themselves. In the past year I’ve driven a car, been a passenger on a bus, caught a taxi, sat on a plane, ridden on my bike, and walked. How many non-cycling motorists can say that? What’s the solution then? Should we force all motorists to cycle on our roads before they can get a licence to drive? I don’t think it’s a bad idea but then I don’t blame people for not wanting to ride a bike on our roads either because right now our roads are hostile to cyclists. What’s needed is significant and urgent investment in segregated cycleways. This is the only way we will get more motorists out of their cars and onto bikes.


15 responses to “Cyclists are better drivers than motorists, says insurance firm”

  1. I am absolutely on the same page! I had a discussion with a friend of a friend who as I walked my bike along a pedestrian area started bemoaning all the failings of cyclists. She was stumped when I stated cars were just killing machines both in terms of accidents and the environment. My blood boils at the ‘car is king’ mentality … poor mum and child. Well done for standing up for them. Mx

  2. It’s an attitude: “This is my road, a road built for cars, and everyone else, get out of my way!” It seems worst where I live in California, where the car rules, both on the roads and in state government. There’s actually a group trying to repeal the legislature’s recent raise in gas taxes to not only repair current roads but to make improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians. The group’s argument is that it’s already expensive to live here, so why put another financial burden on citizens? My feeling is that if you use a public road, you should pay for it: maybe we should charge drivers a toll everytime they get on the freeway. OR they could get out of their cars and start walking, biking, or using public transportation. After the UN report on global climate change, we should all abandon our cars asap!

    • The argument that the group in California is using is flawed. It’s actually cheaper not to drive or not to own a car at all and many poor people cannot afford a car.

      Our government has just announced there’ll be no rise on petrol prices. This is in the same week as the dire climate change report. I would be more accepting if there were similar concessions for cycling but the percentage of the transport budge allocated for active travel is about 1.5% which is dismal.

      • Ironically, many of the poorer cities in California are not designed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. Some places have no sidewalks—I’ve seen children walking to school on the dirt shoulder of a dangerous two-lane highway—while others have streets that are designed for cars only, with long distances between the residential and the business areas. It puts not only those too poor to afford a car at a disadvantage, but people who cannot drive due to age, disabilities or health issues. The auto lobby at the state capitol use the false argument that “you need a car to get around in this state, therefore you must do more for drivers,” when the real argument should be that we need to get people out of their cars by building better public transportation and dedicated bike routes. I suspect that, especially in California where the weather is mostly dry and sunny all year around, a bicycle-only highway would be very popular. Then the city would have to build bike racks downtown instead of parking lots, which would also save a lot of space!

      • That is so frustrating and it makes me cross to hear. California is a rich state in a rich country. I’m amazed there are kids walking to school on a road because there’s no pavement!

  3. > We are more forgiving of the activity we do ourselves. It is unconscious bias.

    Is it possible you have an unconscious bias towards cyclists?

    Not all cyclists are considerate road users, and not all motorists are inconsiderate bullies. You seem to be tarring all motorists with the same brush.

    > In the past year I’ve driven a car, been a passenger on a bus, caught a taxi, sat on a plane, ridden on my bike, and walked. How many non-cycling motorists can say that?

    I’ve done all of those except for ridden a bike. I’m not sure what the point is.

    I do support your efforts to get more people cycling and less driving though. 🙂

    • Not all motorists are bullies. Did I say that in my post? I was just referring to this one fellow. But motorists are in a much bigger and more dangerous vehicle than a person on a bicycle and it’s wise to be mindful of that. It’s not a fair comparison to put a 70kg human on a bicycle with a 1 tonne motor vehicle.

      I am biased towards cyclists and I think this should be encouraged. We need to get more people out of cars and onto bikes. Motor vehicles produce toxic fumes that are harmful to our health, transport is now the biggest emitting sector for greenhouse gas emissions in the UK and climbing, and we have an NHS in crisis. Getting people out of cars and onto bikes can help solve all these problems. In fact, if people in Britain cycled as much as the Danish do then it could be worth £17 billion to the NHS over 20 years. But most people are put off cycling because it’s dangerous and scary to ride next to cars, trucks, and buses, and it’s even more off-putting when people abuse you through their car windows. Yes, some cyclists are rude but it’s not a fair comparison when one person is in a 1 tonne vehicle and the other exposed and vulnerable on a bicycle. Might is not right.

      I’ve done all of those except for ridden a bike. I’m not sure what the point is.

      My point is that I can speak for motorists and cyclists because I am both. If you’re not a cyclist you don’t really understand what it’s like.

      • I have been a cyclist so I can see it from both sides too. We’re all humans, and it shouldn’t matter what vehicle you are on/in, we should all be considerate and respectful of other humans. Anyway, I agree that we should all cycle more and that the government needs to do whatever they can to encourage and enable that, especially in big cities.

      • Yes, we should all be considerate and respectful of other humans. I definitely agree with you there. I hope my post doesn’t imply that cyclists can be arseholes because that was not my intention.

    • I should add that I’m similarly biased towards pedestrians and I think we should all be, our policy-makers in particular. We’re not going to increase active travel by continuing to favour cars which is what is currently happening.

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