Cyclists vs. motorists, what a heated debate this will evoke. Especially now that a study has found that drivers see cyclists as less than human. But is it the motorist who is always at fault? I don’t think so.
I am not one to stir up trouble, but I do like to see both sides of the coin. I am a motorist and not a cyclist, but I have many friends and family who are both. So believe me, I know both sides of the argument. I like to consider myself an exceptionally considerate driver and so when it comes to cyclists, I am patient and safety conscious. But still I have been on the receiving end of an unjustified cyclist rant and it is this that I battle with, the general attitude towards motorists.
HEAR ME OUT
Before you start throwing shit at me, hear me out for a second. I believe that all road users should be treated with respect and courtesy. I believe that drivers should be extra cautious around cyclists…if anything because of their vulnerability. My issue is with the behaviour of the few cyclists who give them all a bad rep.
I live along a route that is exceptionally popular among the cycling community. It is, in fact, a section of the Cape Town Cycle Tour. So I encounter many cyclists on my every day commute. From my not so experienced calculations, I would guess that I witness about 9 out of 10 riders breaking road rules. The main one being to never stop at traffic lights or pedestrian crossings.
I realise this might be an inconvenience for cyclists due to the click thing they have to do with their shoes and pedals (I don’t know the lingo), but I have witnessed a mother and her toddler almost being knocked down by a cyclist who ignored the red traffic light. I have seen this happen more times than I can actually count. Not to mention the thousands of times I have nearly knocked down a rider who went through a red traffic light…and I would be to blame!
I have also witnessed too many cyclists who do not cycle in a single file and so have almost caused head on collisions for motorists who have tried to overtake them (safely). There just seems to be this attitude of. “I am a cyclists, I can do what I please, but don’t you dare knock me off my bike.”
MOTORIST’S SUCKY ATTITUDE
Now I am no way saying that motorists are blameless. I have witnessed some shocking behaviour on motorists behalf. It makes me see red when a motorist overtakes a cyclist on a blind corner or when there is so little space to do so, endangering not only the cyclist but that of all other motorists as well. I have also seen the shocking attitude that some motorists have towards riders and the total disregard of their safety.
Far too many motorists appear to think they are the only users of the road. This is evident in the carnage we witness on a daily basis.
There is this perception among motorists that cyclists are a mere inconvenience and so are treated as such. They are not really seen as a fellow motorist who happens to be on a bike and therefore contributing to less traffic and environmental damage. Surely, cyclists should be seen as good samaritans rather?
SEEN AS LESS THAN HUMAN
Mybroadband reports that the research paper titled: Dehumanisation of cyclists predicts self-reported aggressive behaviour toward them: A pilot study, has found that in many countries attitudes toward cyclists are largely negative.
“Public and humorous references to violence against cyclists are not uncommon and a significant minority of cyclists report harassment and aggression,” the study found.
It is hypothesized that these hostile attitudes and behaviours are caused, in part, by the dehumanisation of cyclists among some individuals.
Dehumanisation refers to any situation where people are seen or treated as if they are less than fully human.This dehumanisation of cyclists was also associated with self-reported aggression toward riders.
CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
The researchers said it is possible to improve the attitude towards cyclists and through this reduce aggression towards them.
“If we can put a human face to cyclists, we may improve attitudes and reduce aggression directed at on-road cyclists,” the researchers said.
“This could result in a reduction in cyclist road trauma or an increase in public acceptance of cyclists as legitimate road users.”
DO YOU AGREE?
I think this is a great idea, but I fear the problem runs far deeper, especially in this country. Drivers in this country show little regard for any road user or even road laws, so to expect them to respect cyclists is a huge task. And herein lies the real problem. General consideration.
If every single road user considered other road users, we would have far fewer accidents and road deaths. If we all considered the laws of the road, accidents would drop significantly.
I think that both sides of this argument need to adjust their attitudes. It won’t work to just humanise cyclists if they continue to ignore basic road rules. It will only continue to enrage motorists. But motorists need to see cyclists as fellow road users and be extra vigilant and cautious when driving among them.
If we could all just get along, hey!
What are your thoughts? Are you a cyclist? Have you been involved in an incident you care to share? Let me know.