Does cycling make you a better driver?

Will these children drive more carefully later in life?
Will these children drive more carefully later in life?

A report has been released by Sports Harbour as a result of a 10 month study of driving habits of teenagers. The study was intended to investigate whether teenagers who cycled were safer and more aware when they drove a car. You may recall we asked for participants on the survey in an earlier blog post.

A copy of the report can be downloaded by clicking here (44 page Word document): Cycling Driving.

The basic conclusion was: Yes, teenagers who cycle demonstrate better awareness and safe driving habits. Some of the key statistics from the survey were:

  • Cycling was the second most recommended activity for preparing teens to drive by driving instructors.
  • 68% of driving instructors believed cycling is good preparation for driving.
  • 88% of driving instructors believe when driving, young people who cycle demonstrate a better understanding of the road environment and 77% demonstrate a heightened awareness of other road users.

The report calls for bicycle training to be part of driver training. This seems like a great idea and when we look at the much lower traffic fatalities (half of New Zealand’s) in countries with large numbers of cyclists, at least some of that must come from a different attitude towards driving. And in the US the proliferation of separated cycling facilities shows that this creates an environment that is safer for all road users, not just the ones on bikes.

Dutch children cycling
Dutch children cycling

I am sure few of you are surprised by this. I cycled 3-4kms to school from the age of 10 and I can say without a doubt it has made me a safer, calmer and more courteous driver. Being on a bicycle makes it obvious how vulnerable we all are, whether on a bicycle or in a car, and how important it is to look after each other and be aware of each other.

One issue is how we can start children off cycling in a safe environment. A recent article on Cycling in Christchurch points to a fantastic bike training park in Adelaide and also some in Christchurch. I did some quick Google research on similar facilities in Auckland but none of them seem like a great standard. Does anyone know of any better bike training parks in Auckland?

Although I don’t personally subscribe to the vehicular cycling philosophy that cycle education is the panacea for safe cycling (bicycle infrastructure is much more important), I do think there is a current gap in cyclist knowledge, especially among children. I am becoming increasingly aware of the skills I have as a cyclist of 30 odd years that are not shared by many people and I notice it much more in Auckland than Christchurch – which still has some semblance of cycle culture.

I hope this report may encourage more official support for cycle training in New Zealand schools. A good quality bike training park would also be a boon (if it doesn’t exist already).

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