We hate to break it to you cyclists, but there are a lot of drivers who find you annoying. They don’t like your Lycra outfits. They don’t like your fancy hand signals. They think you’re slow and unpredictable, and that you gum up traffic.
Some of them also think you’re only about 45% human, if a recent Australian study is to be believed. Even other cyclists placed cyclists at about 70% human on the evolutionary scale.
Assuming the survey respondents weren’t just making it up, that’s a lot of disdain towards bicyclists. Or rather, dehumanization of bikers. Could it translate into actual aggression on the road?
Dehumanization may translate into aggressive behavior
The Australian survey also asked drivers to self-report if they had ever acted aggressively toward a bicyclist. Seventeen percent of the survey respondents admitted to using their vehicle to block a cyclist on purpose. Another 11% admitted driving close to a cyclist deliberately, and 9% said they had actually cut a biker off intentionally.
Interestingly, the level of actual aggression that drivers reported tracked with the amount of time they spent driving around cyclists. Those who encountered bikers at least once a week reported four times more aggressive behavior than those who encountered bikers less frequently.
If riding near cyclists increases the amount of aggressive behavior in the drivers of vehicles, that could have important policy repercussions. For example, cities might want to stop asking drivers and bicyclists to share the roadway and focus more on providing limited-access, protected bike lanes.
Vehicle-bicycle crashes are up sharply in the US
In 2011, the Federal Highway Administration said that it’s often hard to determine who is at fault in a vehicle-cyclist collision. Yet a 2014 report by the League of American Bicyclists found that two scenarios accounted for 52% of all cyclist fatalities. The first was a vehicle striking a cyclist from behind. The second was a vehicle striking a cyclist from the side. In neither scenario is it likely the biker was at fault.
Unfortunately, biking fatalities are up even though other types of motor vehicle wrecks are trending downward. Federal data shows a 25% jump in bicycling fatalities since 2010. In 2017, 777 bikers were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the U.S., and thousands more were injured.
Look, we all know where cyclists really fall on the scale of evolution: completely human. Maybe even a bit advanced, right?
Be safe out there. If you do get injured by a car or truck, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for help.