Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll probably have noticed that the hatred drivers harbour towards cyclists has grown significantly. And not without reason. In the past few months alone, there have been at least 3 documented cases of road-rage between cyclists and drivers stemming from improper road etiquette and a reluctance to share the road.
As someone who drives fairly frequently and cycles whenever time permits, I completely understand the vitriol from both motorists and cyclists. Whenever I’m behind the wheel, nothing irritates me more than having to keep a watchful eye out for the slow, spandex-wearing, two-wheeled riding monstrosities lest I hit and send them into a coma.
Whenever I’m on the saddle, however, I can’t help but feel motorists are the assholes, speeding everywhere and cutting me off in the process. Once, I was even sideswiped by a lorry driver as he broke Mach 3 on a small back-alley lane.
But to see if my own feelings of anger and empathy were something shared by others, we surveyed 2508 people* on their attitudes towards cyclists and to see what they thought of possible solutions.
Only 1% of respondents indicated that cycling was their primary mode of transport, compared to the 12% who drive, and 81% of whom take public transport. 1 cyclist for every 12 cars might not seem like much, but when you consider the size/surface area of their respective vehicles (not to mention huge buses), everything changes.
Even before a cyclist gets on his bike, he’s already at a huge disadvantage, and it doesn’t help that both cyclists and drivers alike see cycling as a form of exercise rather than as a necessity.
In other words, cyclists don’t really have to be on the road. Motorists do.
When the question, “What are your reasons for cycling?” was posed to everyone, 22% indicated that they cycled mainly as a form of exercise, followed closely by 19% picking convenience and 17% indicating leisure. These results were largely reflected amongst the cyclists who cycle ‘all the time’, ‘frequently’, and ‘somewhat often’ as well, with the only difference being that almost half of them said their top reason for cycling was to keep fit.
It seems as if neither party takes cycling seriously as a mode of transport, and because of this, it comes as no surprise that cyclists are treated like the scum of the road. To drivers, a cyclist’s quest for better cardiovascular health or bigger thigh muscles can hardly compare to the real-world consequences that result from being late to work or an important business deal.
Cyclists are slow. They are in our way. And they are definitely not welcome.
Our outright contempt for cyclists translates into just over half of them feeling uncomfortable whenever they hit the road. More interestingly, 67% of cyclists who also drive feel the same way.
Just like a horribly awkward blind date, neither side feels at ease in the presence of the other.
And perhaps the anger and frustration drivers feel also stems from the alarming 27% of cyclists who only follow road traffic rules ‘frequently’ as opposed to ‘always’.
As any safe driver will tell you, road traffic rules are simply non-negotiable unless you have a death wish or want your license revoked. We stop at red lights; we keep to the appropriate lanes and speed limit, and we definitely don’t drive against the flow of traffic.
And yet we see some cyclists flouting these rules on a daily basis, endangering themselves and leaving us to shoulder the blame.
Even though we share the same road, it feels as if the rules don’t apply quite the same way to cyclists, and they avoid consequences unless the matter goes viral on social media. It leaves a bitter taste in our mouths.
When it comes to taxing cyclists for road usage, unsurprisingly, only 35% of cyclists would be willing to do so, opposing the 63% of drivers who would prefer that they did.
To this end, maybe all drivers really want to know is that everyone—regardless of the vehicle they pilot—has paid for their usage of the roads and therefore deserve equal entitlement to something we all share. Maybe, just maybe, we don’t mind the inconvenience so long as everything is fair.
Or perhaps it’s because as easy as it is to say the idea of licensing and cycling lanes are great, we don’t actually believe that there will ever come a day where cyclists and drivers can co-exist peacefully on the roads.
Drivers are already annoyed that cyclists don’t pay their dues and yet enjoy the same benefits as those who slog day in and day out just to afford a car. Add to this the stress that comes with having to look out for errant cyclists. Add to this the few bad apples who simply don’t give a damn; who will sucker punch your side mirrors if they have to.
Add to this the fact that it’s simply too easy, in the moment, to assume that we’re in the right, and the whole situation is one that’s a recipe for disaster.
But does this mean drivers can do no wrong? Of course not. As people whose vehicles are capable of ending the lives of fellow road users in an instant, the onus is on them to be the bigger person despite their frustrations.
Until we get to a point where bike lanes are actually being built, it still comes down to being a decent human being.
As a cyclist friend so aptly puts it: “When you’re on the road, respect the road’s rules and live and let live. A little patience and grace go a long way.”
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