After being the recipient of some verbal abuse recently I got to thinking about what it is that aggravates some people by the sight of cyclists. Why do people have such a passionate dislike of cyclists? To be clear, the cyclist-hating types are a minority and on the whole my experience of motorists here in Aberdeen lifts my heart – they overtake slowly and give us lots of space on the road. But critical thinking has been drummed into me from a young age and I will always do it, even though I’m not very good at it, so I can’t help but wonder about the minority and I have a couple of theories.
The people who hate cyclists usually justify their views by saying cyclists run red lights. It’s true that some cyclists go through red lights but some motorists also go through red lights and yet the same passionate dislike is not directed at all motorists. It’s likely that the percentage of cyclists who run red lights is higher than the percentage of motorists who do the same because there are more motorists and running red lights is more heavily policed for motorists. But it also carries a greater risk for cars since cars travel faster and they’re bigger and heavier and can cause more damage. Bicycles are lighter, there’s better visibility on a bike, and they’re more nimble. For these reasons I don’t think it’s rational to dislike all cyclists because some of them go through red lights.
Here are my theories:
- Seeing cyclists makes them feel guilty about sitting in a car and not getting the benefits of exercise while polluting the air at the same time.
- Sitting in traffic is stressful and when you’re stuck waiting in line it’s aggravating to see someone else come flying past straight to the front of the queue.
Perhaps the best way to counter this irrational dislike is to demonstrate that all of us are cyclists including our mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, cousins, sons, and daughters.