A new study from Australia found that an alarming number of people do not see cyclists as human, with those riding bicycles while wearing helmets or safety vests seen as less human compared to those without.
The research comes from Mark Limb of Queensland University of Technology and Sarah Collyer of Flinders University, and was published in Volume 95 of Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour.
Noting that efforts to increase cycling uptake are hindered by negative attitudes towards cyclists, the survey asked 563 people their views on cyclists and attempted to provide empirical evidence that explains these dehumanising perceptions.
Of 563 people surveyed, 30 per cent considered cyclists less than fully human, and the researchers looked to evaluate how wearing helmets and other safety clothing may affect the way cyclists are viewed.
"We tested this hypothesis through a survey comprised of two-paired alternate forced choice questions to identify which image of a cyclist respondents consider to be less human," the study's abstract explains.
"We then analysed the results using a Bradley-Terry probability model. We found images of cyclists wearing helmets or safety vests to have a higher probability of being selected as less human compared to images of cyclists wearing no safety equipment. The results have implications for research on cyclist dehumanisation and its mitigation."
Cyclists with helmets were perceived as less human compared to those without, while cyclists with safety vests and no helmets were perceived as least human.
The researchers concluded that dehumanisation related more to visible safety gear than obstruction of hair or eyes and the perceptions of dehumanisation also varied based on respondent gender.
On the same lines, cyclists wearing a cap were viewed as more human than those wearing a full helmet.
"Our findings add to this growing research, suggesting that cyclists wearing safety attire, particularly high-visibility vests, may be dehumanised more so than cyclists without safety attire," the study concludes.
"As dehumanisation has been found to be predictive of hostile and aggressive behaviour (Kteily & Landry, 2022), our finding highlights a potential conflict around the perception and utility of safety gear such as high-visibility vests; although designed for safety, they may inadvertently increase levels of hostility and aggression towards this group of vulnerable road users."
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.