Driving Instructors Can Help Bring Motorists and Cyclists Together
Driving instructor teaches why cyclists sometimes ride in the middle of the road.
Driving instructors have an enormous influence on the next generation of drivers. Getting a family member to teach road-craft is a famously bad idea. This is because of the almost inevitable arguments but also because “amateur instructors” likely won’t know what modern driving examiners are examining. There are also rules in place that too few people know about, such as the fact a qualified driver is not allowed to use a mobile phone while in the passenger seat.
Yet picking up bad habits isn’t restricted to those who get their nearest-and-dearest to teach them to drive. Despite it being – cough – 25 years ago I remember vividly one of the key how-to-drive learning points from my professional driving instructor. He told me I had to accelerate up to the speed limit as soon as possible. I know he was trying to teach me to do what other drivers do but two mistakes don’t make a right – the speed limit is a maximum, not a target. Now, perhaps he book-ended his instruction with advice to first look out for other road users, especially pedestrians and cyclists, but I don’t remember it – I’ve just retained the advice that you are expected to floor it as soon as you get into a car.
How to pilot potentially fast and definitely heavy machinery in places where there may be squishy humans is a key life-skill, and therefore driving instructors are important people. Their advice is taken as gospel. It’s important that they should be emphasising empathy for all other road users. Drivers may eventually accelerate out of every corner like a F1 pro, because, sadly, that seems to be a Clarksonian norm, but they certainly shouldn’t be taught that’s the “right” thing to do.
Advice on how to share the road with squishy cyclists and pedestrians should be given much more prominence by the 42,000 approved driving instructors in the UK, also known as ADIs. And I’m glad to say I’ve been able to help with this. I produced a short film starring a driving instructor who teaches driving instructors, and he has handed down some sage advice to those he teaches. Blaine Walsh runs driving-instructor.tv, an online resource of 300+ information-dense videos for those wishing to become driving instructors (or brush up on their driving skills). The video is available to watch below. It also stars Michael Frearson, director of the Association of Bikeability Schemes – Bikeability is “cycling proficiency for the 21st century”, a teaching scheme based on the National Standard for cycle training.
Blaine starts by stating the “two tribes” mentality is unhelpful and inaccurate, and that the road is a resource for everybody, not just motorists. He also discusses why cyclists sometimes ride in the middle of the road, a subject that’s had a staggering 88,000 Facebook-likes on this very site. Michael goes on to demonstrate the so-called “primary position” while riding his bike, and explains that a cyclist “riding in the middle of the lane” isn’t “getting in the way” of a motorist, he or she is a road user that got to that particular roadspace first and so has priority. Blaine explains that “priority” is the preferred term because “right of way” is a loaded phrase, often used to push aside other road users.
When the video is published – for free – on Blaine’s website it has the potential to reach 20,000 driving instructors who, in turn, could influence 300,000+ learner drivers. It would be good to think that at least some of these new drivers will pick up on the advice to “share the road” rather than assume that cyclists are “in the way.”
Carlton Reid is the executive editor of BikeBiz.com and the author of Roads Were Not Built For Cars, a best-selling history book that shows how motoring was created by cyclists. He drives a Nissan, slowly but safely.
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