Road Safety News

AA launches “Think Bikes” campaign

Friday 7th March 2014

The AA has launched a new campaign on the back of polls which suggest a vast majority of drivers find it hard to see cyclists and motorcyclists.

In a recent AA-Populus poll of 17,629 drivers, 93% of respondents admitted they sometimes find it hard to see cyclists and more than half (55%) were often ‘surprised when a cyclist appears from nowhere’.

In a previous AA-Populus poll relating to the visibility of motorcyclists, the corresponding figures were 85% and 57% respectively.

As a result of these findings the AA, with support from British Cycling and The Motorcycle Industry Association, has today (7 March) launched a national “Think Bikes” awareness campaign.

Initially one million free stickers will be distributed to drivers as a reminder to do a ‘double-take’ in their mirrors for cycles and motorcycles in their blind spots. The AA suggests that the cycle sticker is placed on the passenger’s side and the motorcycle one on the driver’s side.

The campaign also includes a short youTube film titled 'Now you see it', which features a naked cyclist.

The campaign was supported at its launch by the Olympic cyclist Chris Boardman, who is also British Cycling's policy adviser, and 20-time Isle of Man TT winner John McGuinness.

Free stickers will be available from all Halfords outlets and distributed by the police and directly to AA members in renewal and joining packs.

Think Bikes is part of the AA’s New Deal for road users campaign, under which all road users agree to stick to the rules of the road and treat each other with respect.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “The AA Think Bikes campaign is definitely needed when half of drivers are often surprised when a cyclist or motorcyclist ‘appears from nowhere’.

“Those on two wheels never appear from nowhere so as drivers we need to be more alert to other road users and this is where our stickers act as a daily reminder.

“Likewise riders need to be aware that they may not always be spotted by drivers.

“We hope that this campaign can reach the parts that other campaigns can’t reach.

”Greater awareness alongside education, enforcement and improved infrastructure will make our roads safer for all.”

Chris Boardman said: “This move by the AA is a welcome step in creating a culture of mutual respect between all road users.

“We know that cyclists and drivers are often the same people – nine out of 10 British Cycling members also drive a car. This sticker campaign reflects the importance of looking out for everyone on the road, regardless of what form of transport they use.

“Looking left and giving way to cyclists is a crucial part of improving safety on the roads. This is what happens on the continent and it should become part of our culture too.

“This campaign will undoubtedly contribute to promoting safer driving habits on the road.” 

John McGuinness said: "I definitely feel safer riding my bike on the track than I do on the open road. On the race track or at organised road racing events, you are riding alongside people who are acutely aware of their surroundings and the presence of other bikes.

“In the real world however, this is not always the case as too many drivers simply don't 'see' bikes and this can create a dangerous situation."

Read more about the campaign.


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As a biker I believe that what causes the most accidents at junctions is drivers not actually stopping at the junction and so not giving themselves time to take a proper look. Anyone who stops has the time to look properly. Only tonight a car failed to give me right of way while I was already on a roundabout - funny how the driving school car in the next lane remained where it was until I had passed, giving way to me.
Julian / Essex

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

Bob, what you say appears to be sound advice, but I'm afraid it does not stand up to what we know about human factors and human error. Not many of us take any time to consider how many slips, lapses and mistakes we actually make during our waking hours, but one thing is for certain the number is definitely not zero. In most cases these errors do not have disasterous consequences and we consider them to be part and parcel of the fabric of daily life. On certain rare occasions these errors do have disasterous consequences more often than not because the system in which we make these errors lacks any resilience and is not error tolerant.

The SMIDSY ocurrs because the driver has determined that there is no bike to interrupt their task process and if there is no bike why should they spend more time than neccessary searching for something that isn't there?

We all believe that our visual system gives us an actual representation of the richness of the world about us yet in truth the representataion we do have is a tiny subset of all the information that is out there.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (1) | Disagree (2)

Bob: You're right about drivers looking left instead of right. If we're waiting to pull out and there's a vehicle - of any type - approaching from our right, we should maintain eye contact with them until they've passed, so that they know we've seen them and are aware of them. Similarly, if we're on the main road and there's a vehicle ahead waiting to pull out, if the driver's looking left, expect, after no more than a brief and cursory glance right, sudden forward movement! Either way, we have to cover our brake in readiness to stop, just to be on the safe side.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

Why don't the AA and all the other car mags and clubs advise drivers that when stopping at a junction and turning left or right that they LOOK RIGHT FIRST AND NOT LEFT (about 25% of drivers are looking the wrong way first and looking right only when they are starting to pull out before or whilst turning out). And second, if the sun is in their eyes which on many occasions it is, to not try and squint directly into the sunlight but move the windscreen sun shade over to cover the side window and that will assist them to see other traffic travelling toward them. In my experience maybe one in several hundred drivers do that.
bob craven Lancs

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Yes any junction.....linger longer...look longer.....and the motorcyclist will live longer.

It's amazing the hurdles we have to overcome and what we have to do in order to be seen and be safe on a motorcycle. By looking longer, and I don't mean a mere glance but a good observational look, maybe saying to yourself what you see and scanning properly and not jumping from one object to another. By taking your time and looking and consciously identifying what you are seeing you will become a better driver and discipline yourself to do it on each and every occasion. Further, if your view is restricted, say by a van turning left and by your side, always presume what might be on the other side of that visual obstruction, as one would if driving slowly round a blind bend. Either allow it to pass by or wait till you can see a clear view before moving out. Then you won't need to wait till a motorcyclist defensively veers all over the road in order that you may see him.
bob craven Lancs

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Difficult one about looking longer and harder, until you're absolutely 100% certain it's safe to pull out?

Did you not see him at all, or did you see him but misjudge approach speed and or distance?

"Think once, think twice, think bike!" one of the better road safety messages from the past. Still valid it would seem.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh, maybe this might help. I was on my way back to the office this very lunchtime when I very nearly SMIDSY'd a biker at a T junction! Luckily for him he made a lateral manouvre and as he popped out from the background I was able to stop before crossing the white line. If it is possible for me to get it so terribly wrong what hope is there for everybody else? This biker saved his own life by spotting the potential for a collision and doing everything in his power to make me detect his presence. Now I have probably watched every video and read just about all there is to read about this problem so it would be quite false to suggest that I was 'unaware' of the problem or needed some more encouragement to be 'more alert' to other road users. In the light of this ocurrence I wonder what steps you could suggest that I should take to help prevent the same thing happening to me again?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

Duncan: I don't see what more there is to analyse frankly. You said it yourself "... so they (drivers) are encouraged to redouble their efforts, pay more attention and concentrate more". Obviously that is the solution - not just to this scenario - but just about all the others on the road as well. You've highlighted this problem many times, but seem to back away from any initiatives put forward to deal with it.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh, rather than over-analysing the problem, I don't think that it has been analysed anywhere near enough. Luckily there are a growing number of people in the industry that are no longer satisfied with facile solutions and are beginning to challenge the received wisdom that leads to them.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)

It is good to see motoring, cycling and motorcycling organisations working together to promote safety. Failure to look properly and injudicious positioning on the road are significant contributory factors. This campaign should also help engender mutual respect between user groups. Safety is not just the absence of casualties.
David Davies, London

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

You're in danger of over-analysing things. I don't think it's a question of spending money understanding the 'problem' - we already do, including the AA it would seem and their solution, far from being mocked, should be supported. The 'tens of thousands' of accidents that haven't happened may be because of ideas like this consciously or subconsciously influencing someone's behaviour somewhere down the line.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Trevor, I think that the money would be better spent in understanding the problem rather than coming up with a satisficing 'solution'. We have a saying that "the problem you are trying to solve is usually not the problem you have got" and so it is in the case of the looked but failed to see accident type. These collisions are due to a complex set of error modes in perception and no amount of encoragement to 'try harder' or 'pay more attention' can actually cure these underlying problems.

We know these are complex modes because of the tens of thousands of car/bike interactions that don't end in a collision compared with those interactions where a collision occurs. A driver may have avoided many such collisions over their driving career and may well be very diligent when it comes to being aware of bikes, but that will not stop them from pulling out on one should they suffer from one or more of these errors. Understand the error and you begin to understand the problem.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (3) | Disagree (8)

If someone, somewhere, has one of these stickers on their side window and it causes them to do a double-check before pulling out and in doing so prevents a collision which otherwise would have happened - what's wrong with that? It's worked hasn't it?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)

“A collision is a rare, random, multi-factor event preceded by a situation in which one or more road users have failed to cope with their environment”

• Road users are fallible – collisions will occur
• Humans are frail – requiring a forgiving road system
• Designers accept and share responsibility for the safety of the system
• Road users accept responsibility for complying with the rules and constraints of the system

Casualty and collision prevention and reduction has to recognise and accommodate the variety of road users, vehicles and geography using a historic road network that has developed over centuries. There is no one size fits all solution. We haven’t started from scratch. Nor is there a single approach that will work completely for any one issue. We have the infinite variable – the human being.

What is required to prevent crashes is to intervene in the chain of the multi factored event to change or remove at least one of the factors, thus leading to a different outcome. As new road users come onto the system and existing users become complacent or do not adapt to changing situations, i.e. we behave as humans beings do – we need to keep coming up with ways to raise that awareness, reawaken attention and remind drivers to look out e.g. for cyclists and bikers. This initiative is just one way of doing this and I am sure that it will work for some people, some of the time – which is all that any intervention can expect to achieve, be it engineering, information or training.

I applaud the AA for contributing a good idea to add to the mix.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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Well how about cyclists making themselves more visible through lights and reflective gear? Every road user has the responsibility of looking after themselves first and not to just rely on others.
Rob Bristol

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As usual, I agree with Duncan, this scheme will achieve nothing and waste money that could be put to better use.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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Fed up! To the "anti" "bemoaning" "distracters" trying to turn that into a positive....... So given the money that the AA etc have spent in bringing this to the public what would your alternative be - what would you do - what would your finished "product" be?
Trevor Baird

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As a cyclist, car driver and HGV driver, who spends a large amount of time driving full sized articulated vehicles into and out of London, I have quite a lot of experience from all ends of this equation. This type of campaign, whilst being useful in the short term raising awareness, is limited. The problem as I see it is the actual construction of the roads and the cycling lanes. It would be ideal if cycling lanes could be physically separated from the roads but due to the narrowness of the roads this isn't always possible. So they've done the next best thing and painted lines on the road and filled them with a pretty shade of blue. These lanes are exactly where the biggest problem exists. Before you shout me down, hear me out. These lanes have solid white lines and this gives the user, in their mind at least, absolute use of that space on the road. I've lost count of the times I've seen cyclist come racing up the inside of traffic in their own little blue lane, going far too fast to stop quickly and safely, totally oblivious to the indicators of other road users. Their target is that box at the front and nothing is getting in their way. They are in their space on the road because it has been given to them. When the lights go green and they haven't made it to the box and that car they ignored the indicators of decides to turn left..... You all know what happens. If that happens to be a truck or bus turning? The design of these lanes should be changed.
Zakki, London

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It looks like the "naked" cyclist has already attracted as many comments as the "naked aggression" towards cyclists as epitomised in Top Gear. Given the underlying contempt for anyone not using a motor vehicle in Top Gear I would prefer the ThinkBike effort any day. Cyclists have to "Think car" all the time. It won't hurt for a little campaigning going into reminding drivers to "Think bike".
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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If these campaigns had worked in the past then we would have seen a commensurate fall in the number of recorded collisions between bikes and cars. No such fall has ever been recorded during any of the many campaigns that have tried and failed to address the problem.

The motorist may well make the precipitating error, but the rider also has to make an error to finish the job off. My colleague Kevin Williams has a fantastic saying which is appropriate to this problem which is "it takes two to tangle". The understanding that collisions such as these require two coincident errors by two people shows why it's silly to try and solve only half of the equation.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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As someone who has recently returned to motorcycling and now rides a large cruiser, the biggest things that can be done for both cyclists and motorcyclists is that the rider themselves takes responsibility for their conspicuity.

Do not rely on some PR advert to reach the 30 million drivers and influence their behavior. Rely on your own action and ensure that those vehicles in the vicinity of your two wheels are aware of you. Increase the footprint of both types of two wheelers by adding appropriate lights. Many two wheelers seem to accept that the lights provided by the manufacture are adequate to provide conspicuity. Such lights simply cover UK lighting legislation.

Agree (18) | Disagree (6)

Way off the mark Duncan "... and so they are encouraged to redouble their efforts, pay more attention and concentrate more". Really? What a silly idea.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. These campaigns never work and are generally a complete waste of time, money and effort. All these campaigns do is to reinforce the idea that it is drivers who are somehow to 'blame' for these collisions and so they are encouraged to redouble their efforts, pay more attention and concentrate more. They don't work because they can't work as it is a human limitation that is at the heart of the problem and no amount of encouragement to try harder is ever going to change that fact. It's only when people in the various agencies and authorities begin to understand these human limitations that we might eventually get something that does work.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (10) | Disagree (24)

This has a similar feel and look to TfL's old 'Right Gear Campaign' but this time with a naked cyclist -in fact both rider's could be one of the same? I would just like to point out to the producers of these ads - women ride bicycles and motorcycles as well.
Gareth, Surrey

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)