Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Hating cyclists: some preliminary findings

In the aftermath of recent events, I've decided to undertake a research project on cyclists/motorists conflicts from a psychological standpoint. I recently collected 570 online comments that were published in relation to the (alleged) 'road rage' event involving the 'Coluzzi bunch’ on Southern Cross Drive last month. My preliminary analysis found that 303 comments (53%) held positive representations of cyclists, 242 comments (42%) were negative, and 25 comments (5%) were identified as mixed or other.

Of the negative perceptions of cyclists, the following representations were the most common.
Each of these perceptions is discussed in further detail below:

1: Cyclists are inferior or illegitimate road users

This perception represented cyclists as an inferior class of road users. It was suggested that cyclists should not be allowed on the roads without some system of taxation, licensing and registration. Many commenters argued that cyclists were unpaying (‘free riding’) and undeserving because they were not being taxed. A perceived lack of individual and legal identification (registration and insurance) was also presumed to make cyclists unaccountable to both the road rules as well as any accidents they may cause as road users.

In this era of user pays why is it cyclists can take up the whole road during peak hour without forking out a cent ? (1.28)

Do they know that cyclists in European countries have to pay rego to ride on the road? So don't complain when you are free-riding! (3.25)

When will cyclists realise they do not belong on any roads! If they want to be a road user - let them pay for it. At least then it would soften the blow of having to put up with them. Car, truck and motorbike owners must have current registration, which we pay for, a licence, which we pay for and Compulsory Third Party Insurance, which we pay for. We are then expected to give up the roads for non paying and hazardous cyclists. (3.27)

Cyclists don't pay road taxes as cyclists......yet they get all these great privileges. They need somewhere to cycle. Why can't councils and governments create dedicated cycle routes? If cyclists aren't paying for the roads then it's no big deal if they don't pay for the cycle paths. I drive along Beach Road and continually get pissed off with cyclists on the road...... (3.56)

The roads are paid for and upkept from car rego's and petrol. It is only obvious that if bikes want to use the roads then they should help pay. (5.35)

2: Cyclists are unlawful road users

This perception argued that cyclists were unlawful road users. Common proponents of this opinion suggested that cyclists did not follow the road rules, that cyclists ignored the laws by running red lights, riding on footpaths, and holding up traffic in large bunches.


They can cry that they have as much right as a car to use the road but they should also follow the road rules too. (1.42)

there have been numerous reported cases where these large packs of cyclists have shown themselves to be irresponsible, law breaking goons who don;t give a crap about anyone else on the road as illustrated by the group that went through red lights and killed a man not so long ago... (1.68)

Excuse me bike riders, but you say that you are within the law to ride on the road. Well it also is the law to stop at red lights, stops signs and to give way at roundabouts. I'm sorry, but you can't hide behind the law when you don't abide by the law. (2.53)

And as for road rules they seem to have a secret set of their own. (4.54)

It seems to me that cyclists want to use the roads but not by the rules that apply to all the other road users. (4.109)

3: Cyclists are foolish road users

This perception constructed cyclists as being foolish, crazy, stupid, morons and idiotic. Generally, it was suggested that cyclists were devoid of intelligence by virtue of not acknowledging the risks or perceived dangers of riding on the road.


Although it was a silly thing to do. I can understand this drivers frustration. What a stupid time and place to be cycling. Peak hour on a main road!! (1.42)

as far as it is concerned they are all a bunch of freakin morons... (1.168)

I can tell you that riding in a pack of 50 in peak hour on Southern Cross Drive is insanity. (1.77)

Cyclists have a right to use the road - but at their own peril. They are bloody idiots if they think they're going to be safe on Sydney's roads. (2.23)

Get one thing straight cars kill cyclists not the other way round. Only the mentally challenged would incourage thier children to do this. Do you educate the crocs up north to beware of dumb swimmers? (4.49)

4: Cyclists are arrogant road users

This perception identified cyclists as being arrogant and/or selfish road users. Cyclists were particularly characterised as being inconsiderate towards other road users. Cyclists were also perceived as being ‘tall-poppies’ or having a misguided sense of superiority. In many cases, cyclists were identified as elitist, righteous and pious.


Ban these elitist wankers from the road and give the car driver a medal. (1.14)

You expect consideration to be showed yet most of you are inconsiderate when on the road (3.5)

Get these jerks of the road during peak hour, actually get them off the road period. If its pushed him to the brink of moving overseas good pissoff overseas. bloody latte sipping wankers. (3.35)

Bike riders are not Pandas and don't deserve special protected status. Bike riders should have some bloody manners on the road and act like any other road users. Its pretty simple guys, don't hold up traffic. (3.45)

Its great to see those holier than thou cyclists get their noses rubbed in it – (4.55)

5: Cyclists are ‘in the way’

This perception constructed cyclists as being ‘in the way’. Primarily, cyclists were perceived to be ‘holding up traffic’. Cyclists were identified as a hassle, pain, and a nuisance. The presence of cyclists was also regarded as frustrating, annoying and enraging for motorists.

Examples :
You hold up traffic and annoy the crap out of everyone. (1.82)

At peak hour, everyone is trying to get somewhere, they are simply clogging up the already crowded system and can do it somewhere else!(1.122)

I hate it wen im stuck behind cyclists, adding a xtra ten minutes on my trip when ive already spent a hour and a half driving.... (2.42)

Obviously they were blocking traffic. Obviously many many motorists were very angry and frustrated. (3.10)

I drive along Beach Road and continually get pissed off with cyclists on the road......with a bike a bike path about 1 metre away. Another thing to drive motorists crazy is when they hold up traffic while you try and get around them and then sneak up the inside at the lights. Then you have to go through the same thing again (3.56)

6: Cyclists are ‘to blame’

This perception identified cyclists as being ‘to blame’ for being hurt on the road. Some comments related to the specific incident on Southern Cross Drive while others characterised cyclists for being ‘to blame’ for generally riding on roads. In others comments, it was suggested that cyclists were ‘asking for it/trouble’, ‘had it coming’ or ‘should know better’. Some commenters sympathised with the actions of a ‘road raging’ motorist and believed that such events ‘served them right’ and ‘taught them a lesson’.

Maybe they will learn their lesson now and not take up a whole lane in peak hour traffic. They really bring this all upon themselves. (1.121)

I must say that I am horified that these cyclist were targeted by some idiot. But really, what did these cyclists expect? (1.77)

So these cyclists rear end a car, because they were going to fast, then have a 50 bike pile up cos they didnt give themselves enough safe space to stop, and now the motorist is going to be charged?. (1.94)

Yes - I'm with the car driver. Many a time I have had to deal with great packs of riders taking up most of the road. It is dangerous and if they get hurt, then they generally have themselves to blame. (4.69)

if you go for a swim and get bitten by a shark is it the sharks fault your in their world?, (4.129)

7: Cyclists don’t belong on roads

This perception constructed cyclists as not belonging on the road. Many commenters believed that cyclists should be ‘banned from the road’ or at least confined to other ‘safe’ places such as bike paths or velodromes. Many commenters also assertively argued that ‘cars are for roads’ and that ‘roads are built for cars’.


This is simple, if the riders where not on the road nothing would have happened. (1.110)

isn't there a nice velodrome out at homebush where they can ride around in circles for hours on end without having to worry about cars???? (1.132)

Well i think they should be banned of the road, the think they own it! (1.140)

When will cyclists realise they do not belong on any roads! (3.27)

You wanna ride your bike? Go for it - though do it somewhere safe, otherwise quit your complaining and deal with the consequences - the roads are for motor vehicles - DEAL WITH IT! (3.87)

This is only a very preliminary analysis of the data and there is a lot more work to do. The next step is to analyse the data in terms of mood, gender, uses of expletives, and most importantly to identify various emotions and to see how the may or may not correlate with perceptions. After reading through all the comments (and feeling very ill at times) it was great to find some people made really thoughtful comments. I thought that the following was probably one of the most insightful:

There are issues with both motorists and cyclists using roads.

Melbournians would remember the cyclist in the 'hell ride' who hit a pedestrian when they were trying to cross the road. The pedestrian was killed and a furore erupted about cyclists and road use.

The fact that these incidents can cause such emotional reactions shows there are deeper issues at stake. Like the ever more divisive nature of Australian society...its not simply about cars and bikes...its about consideration for other people, or the growing lack of it these days. (4.134)


thePig said...

Wow, a great piece of research. It is very interesting to see what people think.

Part of me wonders if the overriding view is all about 'Cyclists not belonging on the roads'...and perhaps the other reasons are just the excuses they choose to verbalise.

Anonymous said...

I think that the other theme that comes through from your comments is an anger at cyclists sense of entitlement.

Adrian said...

Thanks for the comments 'thepig' and anonymous. I'd say that there is some variability sround the 'cyclists not belonging on the roads' perspective but certainly there are many (maybe secondary) arguements that cling onto it. In regards to the issue of entitlement, it hasn't been specifically coded but is certainly present within the "inferior or illegitimate road users" perception as well as "cyclists are arrogant" perception. In the first, cyclists are accused of not being entitled (to the road) while in the later they are accused of being arrogant for presupposing a sense of entitlement (on the road).