Here’s why 22% of British motorists are wrong about cyclists

AA survey reveals a worrying attitude towards people on bikes, at odds with Highway Code

A new survey by the UK’s Automobile Association (AA) has found that nearly a quarter of motorists get annoyed about large groups of cyclists, despite the Highway Code stating that riding two abreast is perfectly legal.

The AA-Populus summer poll canvassed 21,877 AA members and found that "groups of cyclists drove [nearly a quarter of them] mad”. BikeBiz quotes the AA as saying that these motorists “resented” groups of cyclists on the road, and consider them the second most annoying aspect of driving during the summer.

The number one pet peeve for drivers is litter louts (29% annoyance level), so at least us cyclists aren’t as annoying as those who can’t be bothered to find a bin for their rubbish. But we are more annoying than drivers who park inconsiderately, slow caravans and “car ghetto blasters”. And we’re considerably more annoying than large groups of motorcyclists.

A needless menace

Litter louts are motorists' number one pet peeve, just above cyclists
Litter louts are motorists' number one pet peeve, just above cyclists

Edmund King, AA president, said: “Car litter louts are a needless menace who cost the country millions, spoil our environment and put road workers’ lives at risk. There is no excuse for tossing out litter; car occupants should bag it and bin it at home.

“Many of the other most common pet hates concerned other road users slowing drivers down by being lost, slow or indecisive. Drivers need to be more patient in the summer on the roads because anything can happen.”

Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the legal right that cyclists have to use the roads (there’s no such thing as road tax, after all), but it does underline the fact that what annoys car drivers most is anything that holds them up, whether on two wheels or four. Or horseback.

What the Highway Code says about cyclists

In case you were unsure — cyclists have a legal right to be on the road!
In case you were unsure — cyclists have a legal right to be on the road!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, here’s what the UK's Highway Code says about cycling in a group (Rule 66): “You should never ride more than two abreast, and ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding around bends.” So there’s some room for argument on what does, or does not, constitute a “narrow or busy road”. 

And for the motorists, Rule 160 states: “Once moving, you should be aware of other road users, especially cycles and motorcycles who may be filtering through the traffic. These are more difficult to see than larger vehicles and their riders are particularly vulnerable. Give them plenty of room, especially if you are driving a long vehicle or towing a trailer.”

Jamie Beach

Deputy Editor, UK
Jamie's been addicted to bikes from the moment his stabilisers came off. Earliest cycling memory is the chipboard-ramp-on-bricks, but happiest one is bombing down a Mallorcan mountain pass that seemed it might never end. Always on the hunt for the perfect rain jacket, a keen collector of hats.
  • Discipline: Road, gravel
  • Preferred Terrain: Big mountains with long climbs, equally long and fast descents, the chance to get above the treeline.
  • Current Bikes: Genesis Croix de Fer, Brompton M3L
  • Dream Bike: BMC TeamMachine SLR01, Moots Routt
  • Beer of Choice: Augustiner
  • Location: Bath, Somerset, UK

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