Friday, 15 February 2019
Last year, I decided it was finally time. I’d been putting it off for years. I decided to learn to drive. As a city dweller with few qualms about cycling wherever life took me, I’d had little need for a car, but having a licence I didn’t need seemed to make a lot more sense than to potentially find myself needing a licence I didn’t have.
Six months on and, although I haven’t driven since, I’m glad I learnt – not least because the learning process was a hugely informative in terms of understanding the roads and road users from a different perspective.
Amongst other things, I was surprised by the relatively small number of cyclists I encountered whilst taking my lessons. Having been closely involved in Cycling UK’s Too Close for Comfort campaign over the past year, thinking about overtaking cyclists was at the forefront of my mind when I first got behind the wheel, but by the time I sat my test, after about 25 hours of driving, I had only overtaken cyclists on a small handful of occasions.
Of course, as someone who’s been on the receiving end of their fair share of close passes, I was careful to give as much space as possible, helped no doubt by a driving instructor who is himself an avid cyclist.
However, it struck me that, for many learners, the opportunities to practice overtaking cyclists whilst under the guidance of an instructor may be severely limited.
With 17 to 21 year olds cycling less miles on average than any other age group between 22 and 59, I realised that very few learner drivers may ever actually learn how to overtake cyclists safely. No wonder close passing is such a pervasive issue.
So, while there’s undoubtedly more to safe driving than just education, education, education, (clarity with the law and effective enforcement regimes are invaluable, for example), intervention at an early point into the learning-to-drive process could represent a significant step forward in overcoming the bane of many cyclists’ lives – close overtaking.