Government focus on cycling awareness and training in boost to cycle safety

Driving instructors to receive bespoke training in a pilot scheme launched by Cycling Minister Jesse Norman

• £500,000 funding for a pilot scheme to improve driving instructors’ cycle safety awareness
• crack down on ‘close passing’ with additional resources for police
• Cycling Minister Jesse Norman launches new initiatives at a conference in Manchester

Driving instructors will be offered bespoke training to ensure cyclists’ safety is at the forefront of their minds when they teach new drivers, in a pilot initiative launched today (29 June 2018) by Cycling Minister Jesse Norman.

Alongside this training – backed by up to half a million pounds of funding – the government is also launching a new UK-wide initiative to help the police crackdown on the dangerous practice of ‘close passing’, which leads to accidents and puts people off cycling.

This will include providing training materials and support for police forces so more drivers are made aware of the need to leave safe distances when overtaking cyclists.

Speaking at the Cycle City Active City conference in Manchester, Cycling Minister Jesse Norman said:

"The benefits of cycling and walking are enormous. For people, it means cheaper travel and better health. For businesses, it means increased productivity and increased footfall in shops, and for society as a whole it means lower congestion, better air quality, and vibrant, attractive places.

"But we will only achieve our ambitious aims if people feel safe when they walk and cycle.

"We shouldn’t only concentrate on catching and punishing drivers when they make a mistake, but try to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge to drive safely alongside cyclists in all conditions."

Bikeability – a government-funded training standard for cyclists – will run the training for driving instructors over the next year.

This announcement also coincides with a new partnership for the Bikeability cycle training programme in collaboration with Halfords and the Bikeability Trust. This will help 25,000 more primary school children access safe cycling programmes.

Duncan Dollimore, Head of Campaigns at Cycling UK, said:

"Cycling UK has long argued that driver training and testing processes should ensure that drivers are made aware of and understand both cyclists’ needs and their safety. Training the trainers, and embedding cyclists’ safety in the mindset of driving instructors, is a fantastic first step towards achieving this.

"But education and awareness on its own is not enough, which is why close pass operations by police forces have proved so effective in places like the West Midlands. It’s great that there’s now a commitment to make additional government resources available to help the police crackdown on close passing.

"Cycling UK look forward to working with the Department for Transport, as we have with willing police forces, to try to make sure this initiative helps lead to close pass policing being the norm, not the exception."

PC Mark Hodson, from West Midlands Police’s Road Harm Reduction Unit, said:

"Cycling groups are telling us that, on the whole, motorists are becoming more considerate and understand we will prosecute them if they endanger vulnerable road users. We’ve seen reports of close-passes halve in the West Midlands since we started the project and the number of cyclists seriously hurt in collisions fall by a fifth − that’s incredible against a backdrop of increasing numbers of people cycling on our roads.

"Drivers who endanger vulnerable road users need to understand that we run operations to catch them, and if they avoid our officers we can still prosecute them using footage provided by cyclists and other motorists."

Graham Stapleton, CEO at Halfords, said:

"We are delighted to partner with the Bikeability Trust, and we are really proud to be able to help 25,000 more children to discover the joy of riding a bike. Safe cycling unlocks confidence and encourages daily activity. By helping more children cycle more safely and more often, families will be inspired to get out on their bikes."

Earlier this month, the Department for Transport announced over £7 million of funding as part of its first response to the Cycle safety review.

This will be spent on a range of improvements to encourage more people to cycle safely as part of their everyday journeys – from a new 6km cycle route in West Yorkshire to improving crossings for cyclists and pedestrians in Bristol and Cambridge.

The UK’s modern Industrial strategy sets out the government’s ambition for the UK to become a world leader in shaping the future of mobility, helping move people, goods and services around the country more efficiently and innovatively. Cycle safety has increased year on year, and alongside the government’s £3.5 billion plan to dramatically reduce emissions from road transport and Clean air strategy, these new initiatives will help more people to enjoy cycling safely and freely as a greener way to travel.