Calls are being made to stop aggression on our roads and make them safer for everyone – including taxi drivers who earn their living behind the wheel.
Whether they run black cabs or private hire vehicles and operate in busy city centres or rural surroundings, taxi drivers can experience aggressive behaviour from other drivers, as well as cyclists and pedestrians.
Everyone who spends time on our roads knows how busy they are and that everyone is in a rush. People don’t like to wait and try to take every shortcut possible, even if it only shaves a few seconds off their journey. This includes cutting in between lanes and forcing other drivers to give way, blocking junctions and ignoring traffic signals.
This often leads to angry exchanges, especially if it is a dangerous manoeuvre that puts other road users at risk, with angry exchanges often caught on dash-cams and mobile phones. The problem became so bad that the government brought in new laws to clamp down on aggressive driving – but most drivers feel the problem has got worse.
One of the major sources of conflict taxi drivers face is with cyclists. With more couriers and delivery firms opting for two wheels instead of four, especially in busy cities, cyclists seem to be everywhere and observe the Highway Code to varying degrees.
The cost-of-living crisis – which has also hit taxi drivers who face rising prices for fuel, maintenance, repairs and taxi insurance – has led to many commuters swapping cars for bikes as a way of saving money. This means more cyclists weaving their way through traffic, many of whom haven’t been on a bike for years and who take unnecessary risks or are unaware of changes to traffic laws.
As a result, a survey by road safety group IAM RoadSmart has found that many road users feel there is more aggression on our roads than there was before the pandemic.
There have been several new laws introduced in a bid to reduce the conflict between taxi drivers and cyclists. Changes to the Highway Code last year created a new hierarchy on the roads, giving priority to the most vulnerable, meaning someone driving has more responsibility to watch out for people cycling, walking or riding a horse.
Motorists must now leave at least 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph, and leave more space at higher speeds. The government also introduced life sentences for dangerous drivers who cause fatal crashes.
But IAM RoadSmart believes the changes have made little difference.
The road safety charity surveyed 2,100 drivers and 60% said aggressive cyclists are more of a problem now than they were three years ago. And 65% believe aggressive cyclists are a threat to their safety. A higher proportion of people (78%) believed people driving motor vehicles aggressively put their safety at risk.
They survey also asked taxi drivers if they would support laws which would find motorists responsible for collisions involving cyclists and pedestrians. A similar proportion – 61% – said they would not support such changes.
Laws were toughened up after 494 cyclists were killed in collisions with vehicles on British roads between 2012 and 2012. In the same period, four car occupants died in collisions involving cyclists.
IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research Neil Greig told London’s Evening Standard: “The Government has introduced a range of laws in recent years in an effort to fix the daily conflicts we see between motorists and cyclists.
“However, if our research is anything to go by, this has largely been to no avail, with the majority of respondents still reporting aggression and conflict among road users.
“There is no quick fix to this issue, but our research sheds light on the urgent need for the Government to maintain its education campaigns on the new Highway Code and continue to invest in safe road markings for more vulnerable road users to minimise the chance of conflict wherever possible.
“In the meantime, all road users, whether on two or four wheels, should exercise calmness and restraint to help us all use Britain’s roads safely.”
Duncan Dollimore, heading of campaigns at charity Cycling UK, agreed.
He told the Evening Standard: “There’s no excuse for aggressive behaviour – people can behave badly no matter what mode of transport they’re using.
“The consequences are, however, disproportionate, with statistics showing poor driving far more likely to lead to a fatality or serious injury.
“The Highway Code changed last year to emphasise the additional responsibility those in charge of larger vehicles, because they were more likely to cause harm if there is a collision.
“Cycling UK has repeatedly called for a long-term well-funded public awareness campaign by the Government to ensure that the changes are better communicated and understood, which in turn will make our roads safer for everyone.”
Have you experienced aggressive behaviour from cyclists?
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