Drivers need better training and testing on cyclists' needs, says CTC

Drivers need to be more rigorously trained and tested on cyclists' needs
CTC has told the Government that the system for training and testing drivers needs to boost their understanding of cyclists and how to share the roads with them safely and considerately - and that including cycle training as part of the process would help achieve this. We've also called for the licensing process to toughen up on bad driving.

In response to a Government consultation that includes re-thinking the practical driving test to reflect ‘the modern driving experience’, CTC has stressed that modern drivers are now encountering more cyclists more often on the roads, and must be better trained and tested on their needs.  

After all, cycle mileage in Great Britain has grown by around 20% over the last ten years, and the average person in England made more cycle trips in 2014 than in 2013, as well as cycling more miles.

The Government’s consultation on transforming and streamlining both the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and the DVSA (Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency) has therefore been a timely opportunity for CTC to press for raised standards and new elements in the training and testing process to improve both private and professional drivers’ awareness and understanding of cyclists.

In particular, we advocate integrating practical cycle training to Bikeability Level 3, which offers an effective, personal insight into cyclists’ needs. It also gives novice drivers a head start because, by covering complex road junctions and road positioning, it helps prepare them better for their test and pass first time, one of the Government’s stated aims.

Specifically, apart from urging the Government to guarantee that any streamlining and moves to boost pass rates do not compromise road safety for the sake of speedier services, we have called on it to:  

  • Integrate cycle awareness training into the instruction and testing of all drivers;
  • Improve the driver training and testing process to place more weight on ensuring drivers’ appreciation of cycle safety and the reasons for road traffic laws such as speed limits and the prohibitions on mobile phone use;
  • To help prepare them better for their test, strongly incentivise candidates to undertake Bikeability training to Level 3, if they have not already done so;
  • Make cycle awareness and practical cycle training to Level 3 a core and mandatory element of the training/testing requirements for HGV drivers;
  • Introduce ‘Graduated Driver Licensing’ (a system that allows new drivers to build up their driving skills and experience gradually), with concessions for those who have completed Level 3 Bikeability training.

We also want the licensing system to toughen up on those who put vulnerable road users at risk. This is vital, given the frequency with which cyclists encounter dangerous or inconsiderate driving. Indeed, the risks of cycling are rising: 2013 saw an increase in the risk per mile of a fatal or serious cycling injury of around 15% over 2008, whereas for car occupants, it fell by around 28%.

We have therefore stressed that any measures to make it easier to gain licences must be accompanied by stronger mechanisms for losing them, principally by strengthening roads policing and prosecutions. Equally, re-testing would make it easier for the authorities to remove the licences of anyone who should not be on the roads due to unfitness or because they have fallen into bad habits.   

To tackle the disproportionate threat that lorries pose to cyclists, we have highlighted the London Freight Enforcement Partnership between TfL, the police and the DVSA as a good example of a concerted initiative to target rogue haulage operators.