Drivers dehumanise road users on bicycles, according to new research from Australia. And this could explain why many are aggressive – sometimes uncharacteristically – towards cyclists.
Researchers canvassed 442 people, with both cyclists and non-cyclists represented. They were asked to rank cyclists on a scale from ape to human. They were also asked to rank cyclists on a scale between cockroach and human…
Over half, on both scales, said cyclists weren’t fully human. In fact, non-cyclists rated cyclists as only 45 percent human. Even more weirdly, those who considered themselves cyclists only rated their fellow pedal-pushers as 70 percent human.
Researchers believe this dehumanisation can be directly linked to drivers’ attitudes and aggression towards cyclists on the road. Regarding driving behaviours such as blocking, driving closely and cutting off, 17 percent, 11 percent and 9 percent respectively said they’d exhibited them.
The more we see cyclists, the more they rile us up, too. According to the research, drivers who came across cyclists on the road at least once a week reported as much as four times more aggression towards them.
We’re not fully convinced, but the rift between cyclists and drivers is clear. As we’re encouraged to get out of cars and onto bikes, hopefully such attitudes will start to change.