The cycling safety campaign emphasises similarities between cyclists and drivers
The cycling safety campaign emphasises similarities between cyclists and drivers

Government THINK! cycling campaign misses the bigger picture

A new government advertising campaign on cycle safety has been launched, although with just £80,000 behind it, it's unlikely to have any discernable effect on driver behaviour. Worse still, the campaign includes some poor advice to drivers on overtaking.

The campaign's main image shows twins, one of whom has a bike, the other a car. The message "drivers and cyclists are more alike than you think" aims to break down the feelings of animosity and is backed up by the figures which show that cyclists are just as likely to be car drivers than non-cyclists.

The message that road users should look out for one another is sensible, and welcome, but misses the point that the vast majority of cyclist injuries in crashes with cars are blamed by police on drivers, not cyclists.

Give cyclists space

Where the campaign is worst is in the accompanying advice to drivers. Early drafts included some utterly spurious advice to cyclists, which was only improved following considerable pressure from the cycling organisations. However, the final version now suggests drivers "give cyclists space – at least half a car’s width." This is far less than that recommended in Highway Code Rule 163 which says: "give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you  would when overtaking a car" - ie far more than half a car's width in most cases.

£80k or £1.2m?

Any benefits of the campaign are likely to be extremely limited thanks to the very small budget behind it. Earlier this year a motorcycling safety campaign was launched with £1.2m behind it - 15 times the size of the budget made available for cycling. That campaign, aimed squarely at drivers only, claimed it would reach 92% of drivers an average of 8 times. By contrast, this campaign is likely to have barely any impact amongst the public at large.

Chris Peck