The question of how many drivers in Britain have the experience of regular road cycling interests me. It feeds straight into the 'us v them' debate. How divided are we? How common is relevant cycling experience with drivers?
Is our society really one where drivers exclusively drive, or does the majority have on-road cycling experience? Hence know what it feels like and hence understand how to behave around a person on a bicycle.
To find out, I needn't go far. A simple look at the Department of Transport's National Travel survey (NTS) does the trick. It's most recent issue (2011) released travel data for 2009. (If anyone knows why it takes two years to release data, please let me know!)
In any case... let me tell you it's not looking rosy for the we-are-all-good-friends-we-share-the-same-experience camp.
Cycling makes up 2% of all trips. With around 1,000 trips per person per year, that makes 20 cycle trips per person per year. Equating to one bike trip in a fortnight. Oh, my! I would not call that regular cycling!
And it's getting worse when you start taking into account this...
1) To give more detail, consideration could be given to the distribution of cycle trips. Some people may cycle more (are dedicated cyclists or have even reduced or totally forgone car use altogether) that means that some drivers cycle even less.
2) The one cycled trip a fortnight does also not take into account whether it's on- or off-road. For all we know, it might well be a journey where you are free to choose your route, call it a leisure trip (as opposed to utility journey to work, shops etc). People would tend to stay off-road on traffic-free tracks then.
In conclusion to the question whether UK drivers have regular on-road cycling experience, the simple answer is "Nope, they damn well have not".
Next time a drivers tells you he* is a keen cyclist too (and that some of his best friends are cyclists), ask him how much he uses his bike, when he's last clambered on it, and where he cycles.
Sorry to break it to you like this:
On our roads it really IS us v them. If we continue our chummy we-are-all-friends approach, we'll keep getting laughed at. It's never been a plain playing field. We are 'at war with the motorist' (as well as the status quo, oil corporations, the political and economic system).
Or she, for total inclusion. Fewer women than men cycle... a women driver therefore is rather unlikely to cycle, even less likely she cycles regularly, and on the road.