Raise your hand if you think the word “cyclist” is dehumanizing?
You probably said no, but according to a study that was conducted by researchers in the Queensland University of Technology and Monash University in Australia, there is an observable and direct link between the “cyclist” and road rage against cyclists by other users of the road.
Professor Narelle Howarth said that the study found that 55% of people who don’t cycle think that those who do cycle are “not completely human.”
That study included 442 people from the Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland areas.
I mean, yes, it’s natural to get a little annoyed by people riding bikes when they’re doing it incorrectly – ie riding on the sidewalk or cycling in the middle of a traffic lane. But to call them “not completely human” is a bit too much.
Included in the survey was an actual “dehumanization trait scale” which featured options such as “I feel like cyclists are mechanic” and “I feel like cyclists aren’t sophisticated”.
Keeping that in mind, Professor Howarth suggests that we altogether abandon the word “cyclist” and instead use the much longer phrase “people who ride bikes”.
Professor Howarth is also a Director of the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety in Queensland and like many others, she feels it’s both important and necessary for drivers to see cyclists as real human beings.
She’s definitely not wrong there.
Howarth told Daily Mail Australia, “If we used the term people on bikes, instead of cyclists, we’re giving a term that is more human-like and less like a species. We need to spread the idea that those people [cyclists] could be any of us. There is need to grow a culture of mutual respect for people on bikes.”
She doesn’t stop there. While changing the name “cyclist” would be fine, what would be better is being able to separate bikes and cars all together.
“Infrastructure is paramount. The best thing would be not to have to share the road,” she stressed.
After the results of the study it wouldn’t be a half bad idea.
According to the study’s findings, 1 in 5 drivers deliberately block cyclists on the road, while 1 in 10 have admitted to using their car as a means to cut off a cyclist.
It has also found that drives have admitted to shouting and even throwing things at cyclists.
Who else is glad they’re not a person who rides a bike in Australia? Are there any brave souls out there reading this who are? What have your experiences been?