More bikes and motorists – Let’s get some data.

I’d like to thank Tredz in Cardiff for re-invorgarating this debate. The bike shop contacted me with a view to exploring the views of cyclists in more detail. This article will also appear on their website.

A short while ago I penned an article ‘Does cycle choice influence motorist behaviour’. It was driven by an observation that when I ride my folder – in a nice, upright, dead-easy-to-see kind of way – I get more civil treatment from motorists than when I ride my cross, race or mountain bikes. Cars give me a wider berth. They hang back more. They refrain from carving me up like the chariot scene in Ben Hur. All of this gets a whopping thumbs up from me. As I noted previously, the observation is not without its flaws and leads to all sorts of questions. Here are some off the top of my head:

Do I ride differently when I use my folder? (More relaxed? Less aggressive?)

Does the lower ride position – of the race and cyclo-cross bikes in particular – make me less visible?

Does a more performance orientated bike illicit certain (negative) responses from motorists?

Are these responses regionally different? Does a motorist in Cardiff behave in much the same way as a motorist from Crewe, Carlisle or Cambridge?

Is a sample size of one an acceptable number from which to draw a conclusion? (probably the only question which has a definitive answer!).

The article generated quite a bit of interest via the blog, twitter and e-mail. One cyclist – a Brompton rider – strongly agreed. Another offered an observation that was the precise opposite of mine (‘Lunchtime O’Booze’ noting that motorists gave him a rough ride on a hybrid and wide berth on a road bike). And there were many shades of gray in between. No matter what though; this story piqued cyclist’s interest.

We are all familiar with the images of Dutch and Dane cyclists riding ‘sit up and beg’ town bikes on their bike friendly streets. Children perch on top tubes and friends give lifts to pillion passengers. Baskets are topped with bread, groceries and flowers, whilst cargo bikes nip past in the background. The odd racer will slip by amongst the two wheeled melee. I suspect that I speak for most cyclists when I say that I envy the environment that provides such cycling confidence. Part of our journey to achieving the same sort of success on British streets is to get bums on saddles, get people out of cars and onto bikes whenever the opportunity presents. One of the key enabling factors so often cited by potential cyclists is safety or the perceived lack of it (‘perceived’ being the operative word). But if cycle choice does illicit different responses from motorists and the right bike allowed people to feel safer………

Potentially, this is a fascinating anthropological/pyshcological/cultural study that could influence the type of bike selected by newbie cyclists. So how about it? As an experienced cyclist your observations would be highly beneficial for building a more sensible picture. I’ve created a short (and I mean short!) survey to capture the experiences of other cyclists and build a better picture. I’d love to see what other think of this and I’m particular fascinated by the role of geography. Click here to take survey

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