Confused.com, a car insurance comparison site, has issued a press release using inflammatory language against cyclists, yet produces an excellent video showing a motorist swapping four wheels for two who finds out what it’s really like for cyclists on Britain’s roads.
Confused.com may think it’s being kind to cyclists by producing a ‘cycle safety map’ that looks to "take action to make the roads safer for everyone," but the wording on a Confused.com press release and a survey conducted by the organisation appears to show that Confused.com lives up to its name. The website address for its press release where Confused.com "reveals the danger of cycle rage" has this in the URL: cyclo-paths-and-two-wheel-tantrums
Three items are highlighted by the Confused.com press release:
"Cycle rage grips the UK." (It doesn’t say whether this is cyclists raging against motorists, or motorists raging against cyclists – although ‘cyclo paths & two wheel tantrums’ suggests it’s the former).
"A quarter of drivers say cyclists should pay road tax." (What, the duty which the DVLA says stopped paying for roads in 1937?)
"More than one in eight cyclists have been knocked off their bike by a motorist." (Aside from the facts that eight cyclists seem to be sharing the same bicycle, and there’s a single motorist stalking them, this is the first indication from Confused.com that there may be an unequal battle going on here).
These three conclusions came from a survey conducted in October for Confused.com. 1000 cyclists and 1000 motorists were surveyed (the groups are not mutually exclusive, of course, the majority of adult cyclists hold driving licenses).
The survey revealed that 31 percent of motorists said "a cyclist caused me to swerve in my car." 22 percent said "a cyclist slowed down my journey and made me late." (Did the remaining 78 percent realise it was the cars in front slowing them down, not slim, flighty cyclists?)
46 percent of drivers said they are "annoyed by cyclists being on the road."
Survey respondents were then offered nine ‘solutions’. One of them was ‘Cyclists should pay road tax like motorists’.
Confused? Quite. Motorists haven’t paid ‘road tax’ since 1937. Thanks to campaigning by iPayRoadTax.com, orgs like the AA now call the duty by the more accurate name of ‘car tax’, which doesn’t carry with it the connotation that motorists pay for roads and that cyclists should steer clear of said roads.
Confused.com said "A quarter of motorists now insist ‘irresponsible’ cyclists should share the burden of rising travel costs by paying road tax."
Thing is, more than two million of motorists don’t pay Vehicle Excise Duty, including motorists who own cars in Band A. Low-emission cars pay zero VED; no emission bicycles would pay the same. Nothing. Zilch. Nada.
In today’s Metro newspaper Confused.com’s press release was picked up and the headline shouted: "25% of drivers want road tax for cyclists."
The newspaper also picked up on Confused.com’s comment that cyclists were thought by drivers to be "free-loaders" for using Britain’s roads. In fact, roads are paid for by general and local taxation, not Vehicle Excise Duty.
"The winning idea with motorists however, was that cyclists caught running red lights should be punished," said Confused.com. The insurance website did not state that motorists are even more guilty of this crime.
Of the questions asked of the 1000 cyclists the only answer given in Confused.com’s articles on the subject is that cyclists want more bike lanes. However, Confused.com found out in a video it produced, such bike lanes are often blocked by motorists. The video shows a motorist switching to a bicycle for a week of commuting and finding it’s quicker than driving but that motorists don’t give cyclists enough room and cut in front of them without due care and attention.
Confused.com has had a chequered history with its inclusion of cyclists on its website. An article from last year said: "It looks like cyclists are here to stay…[and] as cyclists pop up on Britain’s roads, the nation’s motorists have a new obstacle to contend with." Obstacle?
"We all know that drivers would face prosecution if they jumped a red light, overtook dangerously, or drove beside another car in a single carriageway, for example. But the bad news is, when it comes to cycling, there aren’t many concrete laws, or they’re a lot more difficult to police."
Confused.com said: "Although the Highway Code does spell out some basic rules [for cyclists], they’re not all legal requirements in the same way driving rules are imposed."
This is incorrect. Bicycles, in law, are carriages and cyclists have to adhere to almost all of the same laws as motorists.
To be fair to Confused.com, the confusion possibly came from an interview with Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, who, if the quotes attributed to him are correct, ought to know better.
He’s reported to have said: "Generally speaking, for anything without a motor or a licence it’s unlikely to be an offence.”
Mr Howard may wish to re-read the Highway Code and the statutes it refers to.
“Fundamentally there is very little that is against the law for a cyclist,” continued Howard.
“The biggest thing for drivers is that they feel to some extent persecuted with things like costs, parking and tax. Then they see the road being hogged by cyclists and it’s frustrating.”
Confused.com press manager Sarah Wenham said: "The campaign is not against cyclists, in fact the opposite. The point was to highlight safety issues on our roads which is why we got a drive to experience what a cyclist’s life is like."
The Guardian reporter Peter Walker has waded into a growing backlash against Confused.com on social media. He called the company "bumbling insurance goons" and followed up with "can we have an apology for your ‘road tax’ bumbling? It’s a pretty basic error."
However, elsewhere on the web, car review website Carbuzz.co.uk gets it right on ‘road tax’, informing motorists that the duty doesn’t exist.