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Cyclist antipathy

Do some motorists dislike cyclists because they think our use of the roads is without a legitimate purpose? 

While we see going for a bike ride to enjoy an hour or so riding out as normal behaviour, do they see that as not a legitimate reason for using the road? If someone is dressed in lycra is this antipathy further exacerbated as they are clearly dressed for a sporting endeavour not for going to the shop, place of work, pub, friend's house? 

If cyclists were perceived as being on essential or unavoidable journeys would it change the perception?

I am not sure it would entirely but I do think there is a feeling among some motorists that cyclists lack legitimacy hence the repeated calls for Tax and Registration and Insurance. Then Cyclists would have to obey the rules of the road wouldn't they? I mean no car driver has ever sped, jumped a light, have they? People that behave less than well exist in every class of road user. 

I do think the advent of 20mph limits for cars will see cyclists eventually having to observe the 20mph limit as well. When 20mph roads were uncommon it did not matter but as they become more common I think it is inevitable. How they bring it in I don't know, speedometers on a bike fitted from new would have to happen but what about people like me riding bicycles built in the 1970's I do have a phone but I don't always have it with me or turned onto a bike computer app especially if I am miles from home it is then probably on google maps so I don't get lost.

 

 

If you're new please join in and if you have questions pop them below and the forum regulars will answer as best we can.

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34 comments

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arckuk | 4 weeks ago
12 likes

I think a lot of this would be fairly inconsequential - I don't really care hugely whether as a cyclist I am perceived poorly - but for the fact that the potential outcomes of interaction between cyclists and motorists are important. Risk of injury and worse increase pretty quickly as the amount of care that others take around us reduces slightly, so even a slight feeling of antipathy from those whom we are sharing roads can have really important consquences. Those stirring up and encouraging these feelings need to reflect on this an awful lot harder than they appear to be doing now.

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JLasTSR replied to arckuk | 4 weeks ago
2 likes

Totally agree with this. 

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mattw | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

Agree with much of the post.

My point is that it is important to distinguish between eg:

- trolls (Who inhabit parts of eg twitter, facebook and nextdoor),
- unthinking followers of the trolls,
- the readers of the trolls who may be convinced,
- those with platforms who are looking for personal or political advantage (eg Telegraph journos, Mr Poophole, IDS),
- those with real concerns which must be addressed not dismissed (eg visually impaired people who have been hit by people riding cycles, hacked e-cycles etc on footways),
- those who may have a point but need to be educated,
- those making ill-informed assumptions from lack of knowledge (eg who support broad-brush PSPOs that ban 'cycling' rather than implement appropriate enforcement on ASB),
- those who cannot see how they can credibly do less driving in 2024 given the state of the roads.
- those who have embraced pieces of conspiracy theories, or swallowed them wholesale.

And sometimes there are mixes of these. All that can give an ida of how particular people or groups can be influenced.

For example I'd see IDS and his allies as both ill-informed and ignirant, and proposing a measure that looks attractive to some who he wants to vote for him, but which is ill-conceived and will not work. Can any of his followers be influenced by proposing something better, rather than saying "nah nah nah" and dancing on his political grave? How much of this is is fear or silo thinking rather than dedicated ideological opposition? The former are easier to address imo.

In Change Management, different groups with different attitudes are addressed by different tactics eg encourage, engage and educate, emoliate, exclude, eviscerate - depending on the attitude, and the desired outcome.

I tend to block drive-by trolls on twitter, as irredeemable, but they may have readers who can be educated or convinced, or indeed may educate me.

There are imo useful ideas around these in how we handle public debate. 

The Telegraph need to be treated harshly because they are shit-shovellers who know exactly what they are doing, but their 'supprters' may have narrower real concerns which can potentially be stood down from "bloody cyclist - bash the lot", to something more focused. IDS can imo be treated as a soon-to-be-sunk-cost, who will leave a potentially-to-be-filled gap in the debate.

I think one area where good work has been done on social media is around demonstrating that a large majority of cyclists have insurance, for example.

There is a good presentation over at Active Travel Cafe by the leader of the Green Group in Darlington Council about the problems caused by timidity and conservatism amongst Officers and Councillors, and some tactics they have used. One is 'cycle safari' - putting a colleague on a cycle and getting them to do ordinary things eg "go and buy a loaf of bread from Tesco", aiming  to let them see in a mirror that their own policies are not serving elements of the community.

Worth a listen.
https://youtu.be/nw_gBxUx_ss?t=598

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JLasTSR replied to mattw | 4 weeks ago
1 like

I am pretty sure the Telegraph has a wider range of readers with interests that encompass a huge range of activities. However you are right it is often that like most papers when you take a position of; outraged at what is going on; you are more likely to appeal to your audience. "Nothing to see here" is a terrible headline. 

While I do a little shopping on the bike it is not really great for shopping as I have nowhere to put anything, but then I have never tried to make it a load carrying machine. Quite a good idea that, I might equip one with shopping carrying accoutrements.

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chrisonabike replied to JLasTSR | 3 weeks ago
3 likes

To remix Mark Twain - get a shopping bike *. You will not regret it, if you Lidl.

* or convert an existing one - but my experience has been that there is a reason why Dutch bikes are designed how they are. That includes not *just* "practical and very low maintenance" but something about the upright position being really cheerful for shorter trips (yes, if you're doing a tour stage to get there or are just unhappy below 18mph something else is more suitable).

've done shopping on every bike I've owned but my most upright one is now my go-to and I actually enjoy the mundane chores!

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the little onion | 4 weeks ago
10 likes

It's all about "othering" - seeing other people as outgroups, the binary opposite of you and people like you. So illegitimate versus legitimate road users. Reckless versus safe. Them not us. Freeloaders versus hard-working. 

 

It's all constantly reinforced by media, and a lack of empathy or understanding. You never will, nor do you want to, experience their point of view, because their view and experience is not valid. It leads to dehumanising the other.

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JLasTSR replied to the little onion | 3 weeks ago
1 like

A very Peter Gabriel Not One of Us position. Groups feeling stronger by excluding others. 

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kingleo | 4 weeks ago
12 likes

Winston Churchill got it right when he abolished road tax, because as he said' motorists will believe they have moral ownership to  the roads'

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lonpfrb | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

The product of mainstream media click bait i.e. hate speech to identify an out group now that the law prevents their public disrespect and hatred of protected characteristics.

So they can't indulge their confirmation bias against your skin colour, race, sexuality, gender but heaven help you for the wrong choice of transport!

No, they haven't connected this to national success at Olympic level as thinking is a bit of an unwelcome imposition...

Anti-cycling bingo is a badge of ignorance, worn by the MSM and their audience.

Imagine not knowing how your tax is spent and why vehicle excise duty costs more for unsustainable vehicles...

There's a strong narcissistic tendency
Me! Me! Me! Me!
and sod the public good...

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giff77 | 4 weeks ago
11 likes

I honestly feel that it's very much a phenomenon that has grown and developed over the last 10/15 years. As a young adult in the eighties I never really heard peers ​grumble about people cycling and if they did it wasn't to the same levels as we hear today. Even when out on the bike in the seventies I never experienced close passes that have engrained themselves on my formative mind to a level that would put me off cycling.

As a middle aged man I do have experiences of shocking driving behaviours that I can drill down to the minuscule detail that are now permanently etched in my memory and have had days where I've been close to feck it,  I've had enough and I'm not going to put friends and family through the trauma of my not coming home because of some distracted or vindictive motorist. 

This antipathy has been driven mainly by various columnists over recent years with their uneducated rants and social media with yet even more uneducated posters who have convinced themselves that this information is carved in stone and believe it completely. It shows how persuasive some of the negative arguments have been. Many motorists have become more selfish, aggressive and impatient on the roads which flys in the face of my being taught the three c's of consideration, care and courtesy many years ago.

I once asked somebody if they were as nasty to other people as they were to those who cycled. They couldn't give me an answer. 

People have convinced themselves that people who cycle are the pariah of society and that they need taken down a peg or two  in the same way they've convinced themselves that there's also a war on the motorist with speeding fines, ICEs being phased out, LEZs being established, 15 minute cities  the list is endless.

 

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mattw replied to giff77 | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

I like your definition of Middle Aged Man.

Said the 50+ youthful whipper-snapper.

Good comments, too.

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brooksby replied to mattw | 4 weeks ago
7 likes

Every now and again I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror or in a window as I ride past, and I think, "Oh - sh!t - yeah, I'm old, aren't I?"

(I'm 53)

What is it they say - it's weird to think that I'm the same age as old people.

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wycombewheeler replied to giff77 | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

giff77 wrote:

...I've had enough and I'm not going to put friends and family through the trauma of my not coming home because of some distracted or vindictive motorist. 

Unfortunatelely I've come to the conclusion that between house equity, my pension fund and death in service insurance, my children (now young adults with almots no hope of buying a home) would be better off financially if some distracted motorist did stop me coming home permanantly. So I only now worry about the chance of coming home with permanant disability from a distracted driver.

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JLasTSR replied to giff77 | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

As a 57 year old with a replacement hip due on July 7th I am working on the fact that my average age will actually go down this year! Feeling old this past 6 months since a collision speeded the hip and concussed me quite badly. Strangely I still struggle to focus on things I should focus on.

I do remember one close pass when I was 13 a Metal Box lorry passed me in Gay Bowers so close it really scared me, and on another occasion when I was 16 in Great Waltham I I was left hooked so badly I had to turn left with the car and eventually came off because the kerb got too high and the space too narrow but by then I was just about behind the car.  

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Tom_77 | 4 weeks ago
8 likes

I have occasionally seen people express the view that a bicycle is essentially a child's toy (much like a space hopper or pogo stick) and that no adult should use one. I don't think this view is particularly widespread though. There's no shortage of anger towards Deliveroo cyclists who are clearly cycling for work.

There was an article a while back on the BBC suggesting that cyclists are perceived as free-loading - not paying road tax, jumping queues, etc.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20130212-why-you-really-hate-cyclists

 

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hawkinspeter replied to Tom_77 | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

Tom_77 wrote:

I have occasionally seen people express the view that a bicycle is essentially a child's toy (much like a space hopper or pogo stick) and that no adult should use one. I don't think this view is particularly widespread though. There's no shortage of anger towards Deliveroo cyclists who are clearly cycling for work.

There was an article a while back on the BBC suggesting that cyclists are perceived as free-loading - not paying road tax, jumping queues, etc.

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20130212-why-you-really-hate-cyclists

That doesn't make sense to me as why would an adult want to punish children? If an adult is seen playing with a "child's toy", then one logical deduction would be that maybe the adult has developmental difficulties and so drivers should take extra care around them - it certainly wouldn't be an appropriate response to shout at and scare such an individual.

Anyhow, there's plenty of toys that are popular with children and adults, so who makes them the arbiter of what age is appropriate for the toy? I mean I once completed a jigsaw that said 3-5 years on the box, but I'm pretty cool as it only took me a few hours.

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giff77 replied to hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
4 likes

I did have a work colleague comment on would it not be better to come to work in a car rather than a toy. He shut up when I told him my bike was worth more than his car. 

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JLasTSR replied to Tom_77 | 4 weeks ago
1 like

Good point about deliveroo and courier riders, that rather shoots my idea down. Ho him back to the drawing board. 

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GMBasix replied to JLasTSR | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

JLasTSR wrote:

Good point about deliveroo and courier riders, that rather shoots my idea down. Ho him back to the drawing board. 

But that blatent utilitarian function is helpfully outweighted by the FACT that every single Deliveruber rider is trained to ride fat bikes with 7kW motors at spine-chilling speeds along the footway and through every traffic light (but only on red).

We are also obliged to overlook the economic pressures that encourage both work-related cycling and delivery van drivers* to take shortcuts with the rules in order to bring home the bacon.

(* their defence is, of course, that they are doing a hard day's work, and where would your Amazon tat come from if every 3rd vehicle on the road wasn't a delivery van #waronmotorists)

Therefore, riding for work is a Bad Thing.

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hawkinspeter replied to GMBasix | 3 weeks ago
1 like

GMBasix wrote:

But that blatent utilitarian function is helpfully outweighted by the FACT that every single Deliveruber rider is trained to ride fat bikes with 7kW motors at spine-chilling speeds along the footway and through every traffic light (but only on red).

We are also obliged to overlook the economic pressures that encourage both work-related cycling and delivery van drivers* to take shortcuts with the rules in order to bring home the bacon.

(* their defence is, of course, that they are doing a hard day's work, and where would your Amazon tat come from if every 3rd vehicle on the road wasn't a delivery van #waronmotorists)

Therefore, riding for work is a Bad Thing.

I'd interpret all the bad behaviour by Deliveruber riders as being an indictment of our roads and how designing them primarily for cars isn't working as well as we've been promised. If you want to get around the place quickly (and cheaply), then a car isn't going to be of much use.

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mattw replied to Tom_77 | 3 weeks ago
5 likes

That tends to be a trope alongside "hobby" and "recreation".

IMO it's just an attempt to avoid addressing the issue of travel equality, and the need to look in the mirror and ask some self-questions.

Marvin in H2G2:
"If human beings don't keep exercising their lips, he thought, their mouths probably seize up. After a few months' consideration and observation he abandoned this theory in favour of a new one. If they don't keep on exercising their lips, he thought, their brains start working.”

or, if you prefer, Matthew 13:15 !

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chrisonabike replied to mattw | 3 weeks ago
2 likes

Two Good Books in one post!

I go for the simple explanations here. I think humans are big chimps (the mimic chimp if you will) with some (very impressive) icing / sprinkles on top - much of which is reuse of existing cognative / emotional abilities.

We definitely have to deal with "we don't like cheaters" and "in-group" (we're better / I aspire to be like x) vs. "disdain for out-group". I think that explains most of it in the UK. Cyclists are in the way, they're not us, they're a weird minority so I'll find reasons to say they're not good (lowering their social status to boost that of me / my group).

Media and politics are just big advertising boards for that - after all most people don't cycle so expect for "media interest" I bet most people only think about cyclists very rarely if at all.

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hawkinspeter | 4 weeks ago
11 likes

I don't think the angry drivers really think much beyond "cyclist in my way" even though their journey is mainly being delayed by all the other drivers.

I suspect that a lot of drivers feel very frustrated from driving in congested traffic and then see cyclists filtering past them, seemingly without a care in the world (I personally enjoy overtaking/filtering past drivers stuck in long queues). The lack of responsibility and expenses for cycling is also a likely antagoniser.

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JLasTSR replied to hawkinspeter | 3 weeks ago
0 likes

Where I am it is very rarely congested traffic, if ever. Equally I never do any filtering. I still get passed at 60mph and less than a metre very occasionally, not too often though thankfully. By and large I cause little hold up and I don't break rules of the road.

I hear people say though how much they dislike cyclists and when I ask why I get told about: how it isn't safe to cycle,  how we hold people up, how we jump red lights, how we are there for no good reason, how entitled we are. Most of these know I cycle a fair bit, they all know I drive cars. They too are seldom in traffic except if they go to a biggish town when you expect it to happen. 

I do see in Cambridge some people driving and cycling that is just frankly dangerous. I will relate one anecdote from when I worked in Cambridge which perhaps illustrates the entitled bit. 

Three cyclists were travelling abreast up a motoring cul de sac which had another road the otherwise of some bollards that you could cycle through to access that road. 

There was a dustcart parked in the middle of the road while the chaps fetched bins and fed the back of it. 

The three cyclists were talking with each other. The two on the outsides split to go round the truck. Their friend in the middle never looked forward he did not deviate nor slow down but sailed straight into the back of the truck. Everyone looked aghast. 

He jumps up looks at his bike hurls it at the ground in fury and then proceeds to berate the driver and the entire dustcart crew for being in the way, blaming them wholly and squarely. The chaps on the receiving end looked at one another and tried to stop laughing. Is that an entitled cyclist, I think perhaps it is. 

 

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hawkinspeter replied to JLasTSR | 3 weeks ago
1 like

JLasTSR wrote:

Where I am it is very rarely congested traffic, if ever. Equally I never do any filtering. I still get passed at 60mph and less than a metre very occasionally, not too often though thankfully. By and large I cause little hold up and I don't break rules of the road.

I hear people say though how much they dislike cyclists and when I ask why I get told about: how it isn't safe to cycle,  how we hold people up, how we jump red lights, how we are there for no good reason, how entitled we are. Most of these know I cycle a fair bit, they all know I drive cars. They too are seldom in traffic except if they go to a biggish town when you expect it to happen. 

I do see in Cambridge some people driving and cycling that is just frankly dangerous. I will relate one anecdote from when I worked in Cambridge which perhaps illustrates the entitled bit. 

Three cyclists were travelling abreast up a motoring cul de sac which had another road the otherwise of some bollards that you could cycle through to access that road. 

There was a dustcart parked in the middle of the road while the chaps fetched bins and fed the back of it. 

The three cyclists were talking with each other. The two on the outsides split to go round the truck. Their friend in the middle never looked forward he did not deviate nor slow down but sailed straight into the back of the truck. Everyone looked aghast. 

He jumps up looks at his bike hurls it at the ground in fury and then proceeds to berate the driver and the entire dustcart crew for being in the way, blaming them wholly and squarely. The chaps on the receiving end looked at one another and tried to stop laughing. Is that an entitled cyclist, I think perhaps it is. 

Well, if someone doesn't spot a whole dustcart and crew in the road, then maybe even a bike is too much speed for them, though I suppose he probably learnt an important lesson that day.

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JLasTSR replied to hawkinspeter | 3 weeks ago
1 like

It was probably why nobody yelled watch out to him. Everybody assumed he could not fail to see it. It was like a slapstick comedy. You could see it happening but your brain refused to believe what your eyes were seeing.
He was so angry with the dustcart and all the chaps working there. His front tyre went bang in a quite alarming way when it burst so that added to it.

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brooksby | 4 weeks ago
5 likes

Quote:

Do some motorists dislike cyclists because they think our use of the roads is without a legitimate purpose? 

That's a red herring, IMO.

Many motorists dislike cyclists just because.  They dislike cyclists in normal clothing with panniers and the shopping just as much as a club ride of roadies in lycra.

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JLasTSR replied to brooksby | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

You could well be right about quite a lot of them.

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CyclingGardener replied to brooksby | 4 weeks ago
10 likes

This. Cycling in work clothes, big boots and obviously carrying tools, I'm the 2-wheel equivalent of 'white van (wo)man'. Still get close passed/cut up, even by people in white vans!

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chrisonabike | 4 weeks ago
3 likes

I'm sure that's one reason.  The top ones I'm guessing are:

1) We're in the way.  Also - Schroedinger's cyclist - holding everyone up and going way too fast.  This points to:

2) Features of individual psychology - we seem to have low-level mechanisms for a) detecting "cheaters" and b) "us vs. them" / in-group and out group.

The first gets triggered by cyclists sharing the same spaces as others (road, shared use path) but not "playing by the same rules" e.g. on roads cyclists can filter ("undertake") cars and of course we "don't pay road tax" and ride through red lights.

In spaces shared with pedestrians cyclists can "cheat" by also choosing to ride on the road (pedestrians aren't going to walk there).  We are going faster for less effort and are reluctant to come to a complete stop.  (Cyclists are also fast and quiet - we maybe trigger an "alert! predator ambush!" response?)

Our "out group" triggers means that - at least while there are only a few "cyclists" in society - it's very easy to stereotype and misunderstand.  (This of course can affects anyone in some ways - "bloody BMW drivers" etc.)

On top of all that there may be cultural points - which may be useful for media / politicians to take advantage of which further shifts the dial.  So cars are associated with status / respectability / responsibility.  As you say - we have to drive; we're not doing it for fun you know!

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