/ Motoring

Should drivers be made to get their cycling proficiency?

Bicycle on blue background

Cycle safety is rarely out of the news, but what can be done to improve it? One idea is to make cycling proficiency a compulsory part of the driving licence – a good move or just another hurdle for drivers?

On my commute this morning I noticed a gent having his statement taken by police while examining his car. Next to him was a cyclist holding up their half-mangled bike and being attended to for cuts and bruises. It’s sadly a regular sighting on our roads today.

Our debate on cycle helmets touched many of you as we received more than 200 comments arguing both for and against the compulsory use of cycle helmets. Helmets are one option but other suggestions include improving road layouts and cycle systems.

Funding for cycle safety

The Department for Transport announced it was investing £15m into cycling safety in June of this year. Funding is a positive move, but some feel there’s still a ‘them and us’ attitude between cyclists and drivers.

An interesting idea I stumbled upon could help break these attitudes down. The Guardian’s Tom Richards asked if cycling proficiency should be a compulsory part of the driving licence. Now, for those of you thinking cycling around plastic cones in a school playground is a bit basic, it can actually cover much more realistic scenarios and is now delivered by qualified instructors rather than volunteers.

The latest cycling proficiency tests, branded Bikeability, encompasses three levels, ranging from learning how to control your bike to using complex junctions and road features. Admittedly these tests are still aimed at teenagers but there are opportunities for adults to complete advanced skills courses.

Taking us back to our childhood

Much like the HGV licence requires drivers to acquire a full driving licence for a car first, partly to help understand other road users, the advanced cycle skills course could be beneficial to motor vehicle drivers to fully understand how bike users think and act on the road. Interestingly though, the cycling proficiency test isn’t even compulsory for cyclists, so perhaps introducing that should be the first step…

Should cycling tests be a mandatory part of your driving licence and would this improve cycle safety? Or perhaps cyclists should be made to take their driving licence before being allowed on their bikes?

Should drivers have to get their cycling proficiency?

It should be encouraged, but not compulsory (41%, 102 Votes)

Yes - it should be compulsory (32%, 79 Votes)

No - it's just another hurdle for drivers (27%, 67 Votes)

Total Voters: 254

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I’m happy with trying any reasonable measures that will improve safety on our roads and do something about the ‘them and us’ attitude between cyclists and motorists.

More enforcement and huge fines for law breakers on both sides of the argument would be better. What’s the point in going on a cycling proficiency course ( FYI I did one in the 70s ) it won’t stop cyclists from jumping red lights or not having lights on after dark. Similarly having cyclists do a driving test won’t prevent the numerous examples of bad driving you can see almost every journey. Whereas £1k fines and crashing cars/bikes for the guilty at first offence would slowly start to reduce the number of offenders and hopefully “correct” the behaviour of the rest.

2wheels says:
16 August 2012

And while we’re at that why not add CBT and progressive licensing as well as cycling profficiency?
Lorry drivers, bus drivers and, after January next year, motorcyclists have progressive licensing!

I’m not familiar with progressive licensing. Can you explain?

anon the mouse says:
16 August 2012

Jumping lights, weaving in and out of rush hour traffic, heading down one way streets the wrong way, “aiming” for pedestrians, “aiming” for other road users, using the middle of the road instead of the actual lanes……. Oh sorry that was cyclists I was thinking of.

Compulsory cycling proficiency for cyclists would be a better start. I’ve missed a few by little more than a layer of paint.

graham says:
16 August 2012

wow man chill…the picture you paint is not a picture i have ever seen
its not just cyclcists… i drive and cycle.
Remmeber cyclist cant stop like a car. cyclists wobble due to road surfaces (holes) the wind etc. Sometimes they miss gears.sometimes they are elderly and struggle up hills…
I have had cars overtake and turn laft in front of me. i have been ht by wing mirrors as a car “sueezes by” i have cars turn right in front of me. i have been knocked off by a lady who “didnt see me” i could go on but both sides are to blame equally

@ anon the mouse, your polemic is one sided and hypocritical. Cyclists misdemeanour’s are noticed because they are visible and I’m not going to defend them but motorists break the law in just frequently and to far more devastating effect in terms of casualties. Speeding, use of mobile phones whilst driving and drunken driving are routine. The latter accounts for about 30% of road casualties – and that figure just measures the consequence, it misses those not caught because they didn’t crash. If you want evidence speeding, just sit for 5 minutes in view one of the may electronic speed warning devices distributed around most cities and you will see motorists speed in about the same proportions as cyclists jump lights. In fact a study performed by the DfT separated cyclist RLJ’s and motorist speeding by only about 2%.

Bear in mind, motorists kill far more pedestrians in a year ON THE PAVEMENT than cyclists do in a decade.

I agree about the misdemeanours of motorists, skeptictank, and I am very much in favour of motorists’ offences being reported online or by phone using a simple, inexpensive automated system. If a particular registration number appears several times, the vehicle keeper would be contacted to discuss the problems reported. Most motor vehicles are insured and the driver could be fined if appropriate. It could also help deal with the problem of uninsured vehicles.

Now what do we do with the cyclist that injures a pedestrian riding illegally on the pavement? No registration number, no insurance. Injuries caused by cyclists are not common, but I have been a victim of a hit and run cyclist on the pavement, left with injuries including a broken bone. I live in a popular cycling area and have had a few near misses too.

If asked to, I will take my cycling proficiency test and whatever else is deemed necessary to help make roads safer for cyclists. In the meantime, it might be advisable for you to put on a cycle helmet. It will give you more protection than statistics.

“Jumping lights, weaving in and out of rush hour traffic, heading down one way streets the wrong way, “aiming” for pedestrians, “aiming” for other road users, using the middle of the road instead of the actual lanes……. Oh sorry that was cyclists I was thinking of.”

Jumping red lights is a hot topic. The red lights have been designed for cars, not bikes, but the law expects both to follow! I take a hard stance on this: The best time for a cyclist to cross is when it’s clear, not when the lights say so. Yes, the law does not see this in quite the same way, but the last thing I want is to be part of the charging cavalry at a red light especially if I’m turning right just up the road, I need to be ahead of the cars, not side to side with them. This also means the flow of traffic is less affected.

Weaving in and out of rush hour traffic is perfectly fine. It’s called filtering. Depending on how it’s done, it can be the safest way to get through traffic i.e., passing on the right instead of the left when there is no cycle lane. There’s no reason for us to stop in a queue of slow moving traffic. Further more, British cycling, who run bikeability, advocate this (when done properly). They run the new national standards that supersede proficiency.

Heading down one way streets the wrong way. They’re looking at making this legal, we don’t use much room on our bike so this should not affect the flow of traffic. I believe it’s legal in London already? It’s still kind of a stupid idea: You could take pedestrians and other road users by surprise, even if it is legal in the future

“aiming” for pedestrians, “aiming” for other road users. I can’t argue for this one. lol… What I will say is that, as a cycle courier in a mega busy city, we do get annoyed with pedestrians not looking when they cross, we sometimes do this to make a point… we don’t have a horn and a bell would not have the same impact. Maybe, in hind-sight, it’s sometimes stupid though.

Using the middle of the road instead of the actual lanes is actually fine and legal in many situations. Gone are the days of “keep left” and we’re advocated to use more of the lane now the roads are busier. This makes us more noticeable and forces other road users to have to think about over taking us. All car drivers should be aware of cyclists in the primary position (middle of the lane) when cyclists are telling car drivers they do not want to be over taken (i.e., when going through a junction/dangerous section) and the secondary position when they are just wanting to be notice more than simply sticking to the left.

“Compulsory cycling proficiency for cyclists would be a better start.” To the best of my knowledge, no country has ever done this, so why us? It would be (nearly) impossible license cyclists in such a way and, while this is not the strongest arguement, would be a massive barrier to cycling: A pastime/transport that has been shown to be beneficial to the country, benefits that do not even need to be argued.

While cycling into a pedestrian/car has been proven deadly in some cases, most cyclists have a strong urge to avoid crashes. This means that when they do break the law, they do so with care, and before you argue that this is not the case, remember you’re only noticing the minority of law breaking cyclists, not most of us.

Don’t just thumbs down, join the debate. That’s how we all learn from each other.

graham says:
16 August 2012

here we go again the them and us debate..motorists kill cyclists…cyclists jump red lights etc.
Lets all calm down and look at it logically
a) the driving test..a one off test?? then you can drive forever having passed ..is this right?
b) there is no government advertising anymore on the tv..”think bike” green cross code, horses etc. The result is i have been driving for 40 yrs i dont know what half the road markings now mean..red tarmac, green tarmac, hashed lines in the midlle etc etc.??? havent a clue.
So the whole things a mess and needs a major revision so i welcome the idea put up by which and I would add that we should all go on driving awareness training courses every 10yrs plus an eyesight test.no pass or fail just if you dont go on one your insurance costs go rocket
Please remember many cylcists are also motorists and vice versa. Some motorists are just bad drivers all the time and need weding out.
happy days.

Tsk, tsk. All road users should be aware of the latest version of the Highway Code. 🙂

Regarding the coloured tarmac, the colour fades quite quickly and maybe no-one has worked out that a fair number of the male population are red/green colour blind.

@ graham, yes I agree. Commercial industrial environments develop a culture of safety which is ongoing. I stem from the mining industry which is inherently dangerous and where there is a clear conflict of interest between productivity and safety.

Statutory obligation and accountability only makes up one dimension mining safety strategy. Development of a safety culture is a second important dimension and its ongoing. Safety posters are omipresent and safety training with accompanying knowledge testing is regular. Employees at all levels of responsibility can never plead ignorance of their own obligations because they are constantly reminded.

Government sponsored road safety propaganda and campaigns are too sporadic and episodic to be effective.

Sophie Gilbert says:
16 August 2012

The other day I saw the police stop a cyclist who’d burned a red light and when they asked her if she knew what she’d just done she said she didn’t! Yes to the cycling proficiency test, which should include the highway code and also a good command of the vehicle. Not all cyclists seem to be able to let go of the handlebar in order to indicate for example. Or they think they don’t have to now that they are riding a bike instead of driving a car?

I’m not anti-cyclist, I want everyone to be as safe as we can make it.

A test for all every ten year? Weed out the bad drivers/cyclists? If only…

brat673 says:
19 August 2012

As with erring motorists cyclist who step out of line should be offered a “cycling awareness course “or an £80 fixed penalty! Howzat!

smaj says:
16 August 2012

cyclists should obey the rules and have compulsory training as well as drivers having more training.Many times I have seen cyclists without lights at nights, cycling on pavements, ignoring pedestrians, ignoring lights, overtaking large vehicles on the inside.

par ailleurs says:
16 August 2012

Why not declare a truce and start again? Many cyclists flout road traffic laws and view motorists as homicidal maniacs whatever they do. Ditto motorists and their attitude to cyclists ( and to each other sometimes).
Let’s all become safe and considerate road users. It wouldn’t hurt would it?

halki says:
16 August 2012


loskie says:
17 August 2012

Maybe some of the vat or a small additional levvy on new bikes sold and cycling equipment should go into an “insurance” fund to cover cyclists and third parties affectedn in the case of accidents caused by cyclists. Or indeed insurance for cyclists made compulsory.
It’s a while since I passed my driving test(1988) but is a part of the current test not hazard perception?
I do not think drivers should take a cycling test I see very little or no benefit. Hazard awareness perhaps but I do feel cyclists have a much larger part to play in the problem. They generally have a total disregard for the rules of the road. Unfortunately the default blame lies with the car driver whether guilty or not.
Horses on the road…..well that’s another matter!

jaycine, essex says:
17 August 2012

Compulsory helmets, compulsory proficiency, COMPULSORY INSURANCE, full compliance to the law, and ban headphones whilst the are riding.

If there were a way to fit ID plates to the bikes as well I’d like for that.

Am I anti-bike? No!

I just want them to adhere to the same standards as the rest of the road users.

Do I ride a bike? Yes, actually I do, and with the exception of the insurance [I would if I had to as I do for my car and motorbike] I do stick to the other criteria I suggest.

I know it’s only a few who are really bad, but lets actually set the standard.

And good on Bradley Wiggins for speaking out tomake bikers safer for themselves.

It’s perfectly possible to fit ID plates to bikes. They are not moving as fast as cars and motorcycles, so they don’t need to be as big, and if one is good enough for a motorcycle one will be fine for a bike.

I disagree. I don’t see how you can fit ID plates on bikes that are safe and useful: that is they will not cause additional injury in event of an accident, are easily visible to other road users and don’t obscure reflectors, lights, cables, add wind resistance or in any way effect the normal operation of a bicycle.

They would probably have to be made of a fairly soft material that distorts or breaks on contact and to make them easily readable they would have to be too large to fit anywhere safely on a bike.

And who is going to pay to set up and maintain a registration database? The whole point of a bicycle is that they are cheap to purchase and running costs are low. Ridden properly, they keep the users fit and healthy (potentially saving the NHS Millions a year), cause infinitesimal wear on roads, truly emit zero emissions (unlike electric vehicles) and over their lifetime use only a tiny percentage of the world’s limited and valuable resources (unlike most other vehicles).

When I was a youngster the shop boy from Allibone’s the grocers came round with my mother’s weekly orders riding a bicycle with a large basket in a frame on the front of the bike [over a smaller than normal front wheel] and the full name, address and telephone number of the shop was sign-written on a rhomboid metal panel fitted diagonally in the space between the front and rear vertical frames [there was no crossbar on shop bikes]. Nothing quite so elaborate needs to be done today – a short alpha-numeric code could cover all cyclists [say, a date letter, a constabulary code, and a serial number]. And the numbers could be issued at police stations for a fee of £100 returnable after 70 years if no complaints had been received.

If I was cycling today I think I would fit a plate on my bike with my name, postcode and telephone number inviting people to call and comment on my riding!

Where I live in Norfolk there are a lot of cyclists who, as a rule, conduct themselves safely and responsibly on the highways. In return, vehicle drivers generally show them a lot of respect, especially on the hill leading out of the town, in the narrow streets, and at the junctions and roundabouts. Many cyclists are also quite happy to dismount and walk their bike through tricky spots. Most of the cyclists wear helmets of course. I’m not convinced that compulsory Cycling Proficiency Certificates would add much value to the present situation either for cycle riders or vehicle drivers. I would recommend all road users to do a simplified Roadcraft training programme [or just read the book] – education authorities should be encouraged to include different modules in their school and evening class syllabuses.

Pedestrians, cyclists and motorised vehicles do not mix well. But everywhere councils have introduced cycleways/walkways that are shared.We don’t mix pedestrians with motorised vehicles, so why do we try to mix cyclists and pedestrians.

As someone who has 66 years of walking, 63 years of cycling and 49 years driving, I think I have sufficient experiences of all to know that they don’t mix comfortably. I still do all three regularly, though much more cycling these days (saves money, avoids parking problems and helps keep me fit).

Walkers seem to ignore the cyclist coming up from behind, even after clearly ringing the bell to warn them, sometimes they don’t even bother to gather up their dogs and/or kids when they can clearly see you cycling towards them. When I am walking, I’ve often had cyclists wiz past me at high speed from behind without warning.

When I am cycling on the roads, I usually obey the laws – though I’m not perfect but NEVER jump red lights. I’ve had idiot drivers pass me and turn left across me – often without signalling. I’ve been squeezed off the road on narrow country lanes – usually by 4WD off-roaders – and I’ve been taken by surprise by electric vehicles coming up silently behind me.

We should except that different types of transport don’t mix well (cars don’t share railway tracks) and learn to watch out and be more courteous to other users whatever the mode being used.

If pedestrians ignore you when you are on a shared path like a towpath, get off your bike and push it past them. Be courteous – as you have suggested – even if others are not.

You might not like it, but pedestrians do have priority on towpaths:

I’ve jumped into the nettles to get out of the way of approaching cyclists once too often.

Yes I know that on tow paths, pedestrians have priority. But I am talking mostly about the South Coast cycle way and the old Chichester to Midhurst train line (some of which is now Centurion Way).

I usually ring my bell when approaching walkers from behind because if you suddenly cycle by them from behind it can cause them to jump and if they are not aware of you they can suddenly wander into your path!

However, when they are walking three or four abreast and you ring your bell, it is not unreasonable for them to realise that a bicycle on a bicycle path would like to pass and that they should move over to make room. Is that too much to ask?

Perfectly reasonable, but you did not say that there was a bicycle path. I’m feeling fragile from having numerous near misses and one direct hit with bikes on pavements.

The way that cycle lanes have been pushed/squashed onto the roads without proper thought has been detrimental to relations between drivers and cyclists More attempts should be made to get feedback on cycle routes and more thought go into them to make them safer for everyone

It is unfair that cycling can cause so much damage because cycles are so much more easily accessible – no insurance no safety noone bothering to stop them and prosecute The balance needs redressing

I like the idea of more cycling proficiency in schools It would give pupils a better understanding of the road I like theideaofprogression It would stop all this automatic buying of cars for teenagers’ birthdays without them having learnt to ride a bicycle or cycle on the road In these days of credit it is all too easy

I agree that motorists should do cycling proficiency training as part of their license training. It would make them more aware of cyclist vulnerabilities and possible encourage a few more of them to be more regular cyclists themselves. I also think that cyclists should do cycling proficiency training but making motorists do would make great inroads into this anyway since about 80% of adult cyclists are motorists.

Cycling proficiency should also be a compulsory part of the school curriculum (if it isn’t already).

I don’t agree with the statement in the article that the Bikability training is aimed at teenagers. That may be the perception but its not the intent. Bikability training is aimed at anyone who wants to improve their cycling proficiency and needs to be promoted more as such. The government has set aside budget for councils to implement training but many councils fail to take it up.

I think more should be done to promote IAM style driver proficiency as well.

For the record I’m not in any way associated with IAM and its a non profit organisation so I don’t think promoting it is inappropriate.

Hello all, I’ve just added a poll so you can vote on what you think – will be interesting to see which side it comes out on…

loskie says:
17 August 2012

Your poll does not make sense.”Should drivers have to get their cycling proficiency?” The word “have” means that the maybe vote at the end is completely pointless.

Good spot Loskie, we’ve made an edit 🙂

Jeremy says:
17 August 2012

The overall quality of road use by both vehicle drivers and cyclists is apalling ,with a few exceptions (including me of course 🙂
I have no doubt a compulsory cycling proficiency test and some means of being able to clealry identify a cycle, in the same manner that you can identify a car by the index number (Reg No.) is desirable.

I did a cycling proficiency test back in the 70s I don’t recall any emphasis being placed on jumping red lights or riding w/o lights or making sure bags or coats I carry/wear completely cover lights. Has the test changed of late ? I’m sure the test focuses on the correct way to cycle and presumably its not those cyclists that are the problem. (I’ve only had accidents with cyclists twice, and both times I was stationary and they were moving). Similarly a driving test is all about how to drive correctly.

Wouldn’t going to the opposite course only re-enforce negative views of your road/pavement using opposite, those that don’t follow the ideas presented in such courses.

The Bikeability training offers now offers 3 levels of proficiency training, staring from level 1 which assumes you can’t ride a bike to level 3 which covers more advanced techniques such as filtering in traffic. Whilst this training is geared for school children Adult proficiency for adults is also offered which concentrates on building confidence and advanced techniques.

Whilst staying within the law is covered in the context of cycle proficiency complimenting a drivers test this would largely be irrelevant because your are require to know the highway code for your drivers test anyway.

The training is based on John Franklin’s book Cyclecraft and one of the reasons that I believe that motorists should know cycle proficiency is because of the road positioning that is taught.
Road positioning in cycling in many instances is counter intuitive. Many cyclists for example believe that cycling as close to the edge of the road is safer because it keeps you out of the way of motorists. This is wrong and dangerous. Apart from the fact that the gutter is the most potholed and has the worst surface, it means you are cycling outside the drivers line vision and you are more likely to be cut up or hit. The safe position for most cycling is 1 to 1.5 m from the edge of the road (secondary position), except when approaching an intersection, a narrowing of the road or cycling next to parked cars, where you are taught to occupy the centre of the lane (primary position).

This practice makes you more visible, stops you from being “doored” by opening car doors, and is approved practice by the DfT. The problem is that a small but significant group of motorists are ignorant of your objectives and think you are being deliberately obstructive (follow this tread up and you will see a post from “anon the mouse” that illustrates this point). Cyclists frequently get aggressive abuse from motorists for following good practice.

Bikeability Level 2 covers wearing cycle helmets. I wonder if drivers expected to do this would have the same tantrums as many cyclists. 🙂

I recently encountered a teenage lad on an unlit bike riding at night along the centre of the wrong lane (i.e against the traffic direction) of a dual carriageway – alongside which is a dedicated cycle-path, completely empty at the time. What legislation or test could stop such brain-dead imimaturity?

I cycle as well as drive, indeed often rack my bike on my car when travelling, and I have lockable lights on my bike which can’t be nicked. But unlit bicycles are routine where I live (Milton Keynes).

Part if the problem surely is that in this country the bicycle is seen more often as a toy or – worse – style or fashion statement, rather than the vehicle it actually is. Student osteopaths must be rubbing their hands in anticipation of the bonanza awaiting them when the many youths who ride with the seat far too low reach back-busted maturity!

There are cyclists (who tend to know what they’re doing) and people who ride bikes (who don’t). Again, I did my cycling proficiency in the 70s. What happened to” looking behind you, signalling then manoevering”?.

If I’m behind a cyclist I sometimes do the signalling for them with my arms. It beggers belief, really it does. When they approach a junction I’ve no idea what direction they’re going to go in. Most don’t even look behind them first. I’m not psychic.

Hence I give all cyclists a wide berth at all times.

Then again, there was the time I was slowing down at traffic lights when a cyclist overtook me on the near-side and a motor-cyclist on the off-side. ……..rant….fizzz…..

Vauxhall 14 says:
17 August 2012

Riding a pedal cycle (or a motorcycle) gives you a better appreciation of the road surface and road environment. My wife used a bicycle for a while before her IAM test and found it gave her a better idea of good positioning on the road. Learner drivers as well as cycle users should read Cyclecraft (now an official HM Stationery Office publication) to understand what correct positioning is for a cyclist. Some experience of riding a bicycle would also help to understand why so many ‘bike riders’ break the rules: they haven’t been taught how to deal with hazards and they create more by taking to the pavement. Why can’t the rule breakers (if apprehended) be made to go on (and pay for) a training or awareness course like speeding and drunken drivers? As for cyclists’ insurance: joining the CTC brings it automatically as a membership benefit, together with legal assistance if you are involved in an incident with an incompetent or law-breaking driver.