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Department for Transport wants to reduce cyclist accidents by bribing drivers

A new plan suggests motorists should get cheaper car insurance if they go on a course to make them more aware of cyclists.

What it means: The number of people cycling in the UK has gone up every year since 2008. Just under a third of adult Brits now cycle, with 4 percent (about 2 million people) cycling daily. Generally, both Brits and the British government see this as a very good thing. So various government schemes are in place to up the number of British cyclists, perhaps to the level seen in the Netherlands (where 43 percent of people cycle daily) or Denmark (30 percent).  

Cycling has lots of health benefits. Fitter people are happier and less likely to need healthcare. That in turn means they’re more likely to work and more likely to be productive. That’s good for businesses (who get lots of great employees) and governments (which don’t have to spend as much on healthcare and unemployment welfare).

Bicycles can also replace cars. Less cars means less congestion (which most economists see as a bad thing because people waste time in traffic when they could be buying stuff or making money) and less pollution (which hurts people’s health and the environment).

But there is a flip side to getting more people on bikes: the number of cyclists involved in accidents is increasing. The number of cyclists killed on UK roads increased by 5 percent last year, to 100. So the Department for Transport (DfT) has come up with a 50-point plan to reduce cycling accidents. One is to change the way people drive, making them more aware of and cautious around cyclists.  

Drivers in the UK are notoriously negative about cyclists (70 percent of London cyclists say drivers have it in for them) and might react badly to suggestions that bikes should be prioritised on the roads. So the DfT is pondering whether a financial incentive might do the trick - hence the plan to promise drivers who spend time learning how to drive safely around cyclists cheaper car insurance.

Read our explainer on what governments do.

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