File this one in the ‘what were they thinking?’ category. Future Publishing’s Bikeradar.com [UPDATE – that link no longer works, the article has been pulled by Bikeradar, see text below] has teamed up with Ingenie, a car insurance scheme for young drivers, and is backing the organisation’s open letter to the transport secretary urging, among other sensible things, compulsory cycle training and testing before cyclists are allowed to use UK roads.
Naturally, cycle advocates are up in arms over the sharetheroaduk campaign, calling it "bizarre" and "classic victim blaming". The campaign is backed by Ingenie investor Gary Lineker, who tweeted the campaign links to his near 1 million followers last night.
The campaign has stats on the numbers of cyclists who claim to run red lights and other features that are tell-tale signs the campaign isn’t as pro cycling safety as it’s made out to be (no stats on numbers of drivers who claim to run reds, for instance, or who park on pavements). Cycle advocate Dave Warnock said "#sharetheroaduk is not suggesting anything for drivers only restricts for cyclists. Blame the victims! @BikeRadar should be ashamed!"
In fact, the campaign also calls for mandatory cycle-awareness training for HGV drivers and a cycle element to be included in the driving test but it’s the compulsory cycle training and testing for cyclists which is leading cycle advocates to call into question the whole campaign.
An open letter from Ingenie to Justine Greening, the transport secretary, said:
"Mandatory cycle safety should be included in the national curriculum for both primary and secondary schools to help promote co-operation and tolerance between the motorists and cyclists of the future. Mandatory cycle safety elements should be included in the driving theory and practical test. Compulsory training and testing for cyclists before they take to the road."
Ingenie is an insurance service that offers cheaper car insurance to young drivers who install in-car black boxes to monitor their driving. The company’s ‘sharetheroaduk’ campaign is promoted with an infographic which claims to address cycle safety but also contains the demand that all UK cyclists should receive compulsory cycle training, and a test, before they are allowed to cycle on roads.
Since the 1930s motorists have been required to receive such training, and pass tests. This training and testing was instigated because of the harm caused by motorised vehicles. Cyclists have always been free of such testing because they cause comparatively little harm to others. Despite being trained and tested motorists are still responsible for thousands of deaths on the roads of Britain each year.
Compulsory training and testing for cyclists, while often demanded by motorists, has many flaws. Would cyclists who only use off-road facilities not have to take a test? Who would enforce that? Would children be required to sit a test before being allowed on roads to cycle to school?
On Twitter, the backlash against Ingenie and Bike Radar has been swift.
Corin_ja said "I’ll buy mandatory training/test for cyclists when all motor drivers do Bikeability & on-road cycle test."
Stephan Matthiesen said, sarcastically: "#SharetheRoadUK forgot pedestrians. We need compulsary testing for pedestrians. Crossing roads without license should be illegal."
Stickybidon said: "Unbelievable! A cycle test would be futile. Most people behaving like idiots on bikes likely already have a driving license."
Broadcaster Cameron McNeish, former editor of Britain’s leading outdoor magazine, The Great Outdoors, said: "Bikeradar’s support for testing of cyclists is totally bizarre. Ill conceived and totally unrealistic."
When told that many cyclists are not in agreement with Ingenie’s request that all cyclists should be tested before being allowed on roads, Gary Lineker disagreed and tweeted it was "only the uncompromising extremist ones."
Following an uproar on social networks and the publication of this BikeBiz.com story, Bikeradar.com pulled its support of the Ingenie campaign. The original article was deleted (even though it contained comments from readers, all negative) and another one took its place. This article said:
"While we agreed to take part in the debate about cycle safety, we don’t advocate compulsory testing before cyclists are allowed on the roads. That was never part of the story we published. As soon as we realised what had been said, we asked ingenie to correct their statement and BikeRadar withdrew our support from the campaign."
Jeff Jones, editor of Bikeradar.com, told BikeBiz:
"Ingenie did send us a draft press release with [compulsory cycle testing] in it that they said we were free to use and adapt to fit in with what we would normally post on the site. By the time I responded, the release had already gone out (no-one from our end had given final approval) and had been tweeted by Gary Lineker."
Ingenie’s landing page on the sharetheroaduk campaign origanally contained signatures from Jones, Lineker and executives from Roadsafe and Ingenie. The landing page now does not contain Jeff Jones’ signature.
Ingenie has now pulled the campaign landing page. http://www.ingenie.com/blog/2012/08/sharetheroaduk no longer works. We’re seeking a comment from Ingenie on exactly what’s going on.
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