Here’s a suggestion. As part of the standard driving test, people should also have an experience of cycling on the road.
Impractical and expensive I know, but it could help alleviate at least some of the bad and angry behaviour that takes place up and down the UK’s roads.
As a former professional cyclist I’ve probably spent more time on the road than most people, experienced road rage and know plenty of people who have been involved in accidents. More recently, I’ve taken up horse riding and discovered that being in charge of a 600kg animal doesn’t give you any more consideration or respect on the roads either. I also walk my two dogs along the road and feel a real sense of responsibility to keep all my animals safe.
There seems to be a lot of anger out there. Recent reports show 47% of British road users have faced aggression and 41% sworn at or insulted on Britain’s roads. Over half of all road users – motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, runners or wheelchair users – have felt intimated.
The roads are for everyone and we all pay taxes to maintain the UK’s road infrastructure. Everyone has a right to be there whether they’re in a car, on a bike, on a horse or simply walking the dogs.
It’s easy to make sweeping statements about how British roads are too congested and are becoming an angrier place. However, since I started cycling on the roads in 1986, it’s fair to say that we’re a bit less patient and in a greater hurry to get to where we’re going. We’re constantly looking to save extra seconds rather than thinking about safety first.
I think the answer could be more empathy. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of others and show more compassion and consideration. This isn’t just aimed at motorists because cyclists and horse riders aren’t always saints either. And that’s where I come back to my first suggestion. If we can experience what it’s like to be a cyclist, horse rider or even a dog walker, then maybe we can better appreciate the dangers and challenges we all pose each other.
Putting ourselves in the shoes (or saddle) of others when we’re on the road doesn’t require a huge shift in mindset. As part of Auto Trader’s #SwearToChange campaign I’m helping to promote a small adjustment in everyone’s attitude to make our roads safer and more pleasant for absolutely everyone.
I’ve occasionally been as guilty as anyone else of just thinking of myself on the road. I’m swearing to change and start putting myself in the shoes of my fellow road users: whether they’re on a bike, in a car, on a horse or jogging along the verge. Let’s breathe deeply and appreciate that we need to get on with each other to prevent the unnecessary accidents and road rage that happen every year. It only takes a few seconds of consideration, and surely we can all afford that?
Who’s with me?