One in three drivers think cyclists should be banned from public roads

Research performed for BBC's Panorama finds that a quarter of motorists have knowingly close-passed a cyclist

Cycling in London
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One in three drivers think that cyclists should not be allowed on public roads and should be restricted to cycle paths, while just half of motorists see cyclists as equal partners on the road, according to new polling,

Research performed for the BBC's Panorama found that 33% of motorists surveyed "feel cyclists should not be allowed on the public highway and should be restricted to cycle lanes/shared pathways". It also found that only 53% agree with the idea that they see cyclists as equal partners on the road.

12,500 drivers were surveyed by consultancy firm Yonder for the new documentary, which airs on Wednesday evening on BBC One.

The programme, 'Road Rage: Cars v Bikes', examines reactions to the new Highway Code, which was introduced earlier this year in an effort to make active travel safer in England and Wales.

The big addition was the introduction of the "Hierarchy of Road Users", which places pedestrians at the top, as the most vulnerable, followed by cyclists, with motorists at the bottom.

This means those with the most risk in the event of the collision are placed at the top. It does not "remove the need for everyone to behave responsibly" on the road.

>>> 'It's millions of car drivers who need education': cyclists react to Highway Code changes

Other additions included cyclists being encouraged to ride in the centre of the lane "on narrow sections of road, on quiet roads or streets, at road junctions and in slower-moving traffic"; cyclists are also advised to use cycle lanes where it is "safer and easier" but are not obliged to do so.

Most of the changes have not affected road users too much, and simply codify things that have already been general practice for cyclists for years.

Other findings found by the new research include that 25% of motorists have knowingly passed a cyclists closer than 1.5 metres - something that is not allowed under the refreshed Highway Code.

A litany of other clichéd criticisms of cyclists are also supported by many motorists, including 54% of those surveyed supporting number plates for people on two wheels, 71% thinking that cyclists should have insurance, and 86% agreeing with the statement that cyclists should obey speed limits

Meanwhile, a third of those polled say that the Government has spent too much money on improving roads for cyclists.

In the documentary Duncan Dollimore from Cycling UK explains that some people won’t get on a bike because of trouble with motorists.

“There's a whole group of people who would never go to work and swear or gesticulate at people, but occasionally they might do that behind the wheel of their car. It does prevent people from cycling. It puts people off,” he said.

Two cyclists are killed on average a week on British road, according to the latest available figures.

When those surveyed were quoted particular bits from the Highway Code, for example the part on overtaking with 1.5 metres of space, the majority agreed. However, just 40% of people said that they were more mindful of cyclists now than they were a year ago.

While it is presented as polling, the data itself comes from an unscientific online survey.

"The AA poll is a monthly online survey of around 15,000 drivers and AA members who have signed up for AA's Motoring Panel, AA panellists ane emailed a survey link to invite them to take part in a ten-minute survey and the AA also posts a survey link on their website for drivers to complete. Therefore the data is not representative of the UK population. All respondents are entered into a prize draw for £500 each month."

Panorama 'Road Rage: Cars v Bikes' is on BBC One at 8pm on Wednesday 2 November and is already available on BBC iPlayer.

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Adam Becket
Senior news and features writer

Adam is Cycling Weekly’s senior news and feature writer – his greatest love is road racing but as long as he is cycling on tarmac, he's happy. Before joining Cycling Weekly he spent two years writing for Procycling, where he interviewed riders and wrote about racing, speaking to people as varied as Demi Vollering to Philippe Gilbert. Before cycling took over his professional life, he covered ecclesiastical matters at the world’s largest Anglican newspaper and politics at Business Insider. Don't ask how that is related to cycling.