On yer bike – and be a better driver

The health and environmental benefits of cycling are well documented. But recently published results from a study conducted by two Australian academics suggest that riding a bike makes you a better driver.

The study was carried out by Dr Vanessa Beanland (University of Sunshine State, Brisbane) and Lisa Hansen (Australian National University, Canberra). They assembled a test group of drivers aged between 30 and 50 in which some of the drivers were cyclists and some were not.

The group were asked to carry out situation awareness tests to see if they could spot changes in images featuring road signs, cars, pedestrians and cyclists. Perhaps not too surprisingly, the driver/cyclists were the quickest to spot changes involving other cyclists. But more generally, the results showed that the driver/cyclists were much quicker at identifying all types of changes.

The cognitive benefits of cycling, and the potential road safety benefits, have been highlighted in previous studies. A 2014 review in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine compared cycling’s beneficial effect on the brain as, “like doing Sudoku at warp speed”. The review concluded that: “Riding results in increased cognitive control and stimulates the part of the brain that regulates executive function and decision making.” All factors that help when we’re behind the wheel of a vehicle.

Commenting on the findings, Roger Geffen, Policy Director, Cycling UK said: “However much it might upset Jeremy Clarkson, based on previous research, the idea that cycling makes you a better driver comes as no great surprise. Cycling UK believes the Government should look at how modern ‘Bikeability’ cycle training could become part of the training and testing process for learner drivers.

“As well as helping them pass their test more quickly, it could also help them retain the cycling habit for day-to-day journeys. This new evidence suggests it would also make our roads safer for everyone who uses them: pedestrians, cyclists and drivers alike.”