A new Australian study has found a frightening number of drivers see cyclists as “not completely human”.
A new Australian study has found a frightening number of drivers see cyclists as “not completely human”.

Australian drivers don’t see cyclists as ‘real humans’

WHILE a new Australian study has found a link between the dehumanisation of bike riders and acts of deliberate aggression towards them on the road, it seems Brisbane drivers are doing okay in the tolerance stakes.

The study has found that more than half of the nation's drivers think cyclists are "not completely human", leading to them treating them with a certain amount of disdain.

Researchers at QUT's Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Queensland (CARRS-Q), Monash University and the University of Melbourne's School of Psychological Sciences looked at a road-user group with the problem of dehumanisation, which is typically studied in relation to attitudes towards racial or ethnic groups.

They believe if drivers can put a human face to cyclists, it could reduce aggression directed at cyclists and road trauma involving riders.

 

Sharing the road will be a lot smoother if drivers could see cyclists as real humans, the study found.
Sharing the road will be a lot smoother if drivers could see cyclists as real humans, the study found.

 

Disturbingly, the study found 55 per cent of non-cyclists and 30 per cent of cyclists rated cyclists as "not completely human".

Lead author Dr Alexa Delbosc, senior lecturer in the Institute of Transport Studies (Faculty of Civil Engineering) at Monash University, said the study found 17 per cent of drivers admitted using their car to deliberately block a cyclist, 11 per cent had deliberately driven their car close to a cyclist and 9 per cent had used their car to cut off a cyclist.

"When you don't think someone is 'fully' human, it's easier to justify hatred or aggression towards them," Dr Delbosc said.

"Ultimately we want to understand this process so we can do a better job at putting a human face to people who ride bikes, so that hopefully we can help put a stop to the abuse."

Co-author of the paper CARRS-Q centre director Narelle Haworth said the study revealed that the problem of dehumanisation on the roads was not just a case of car driver versus cyclist.

"Amongst people who ride, amongst people who don't ride, there is still people who think that cyclists aren't fully human," Prof Haworth said.

 

Generic pictures around Perth of dangerous , traffic obstructing , road rule breaking cyclists . Cyclists on Leach Hwy in Bullcreek .
Generic pictures around Perth of dangerous , traffic obstructing , road rule breaking cyclists . Cyclists on Leach Hwy in Bullcreek .

 

"The dehumanisation scale is associated with the self-reporting of direct aggression.

"Using your car to deliberately block a cyclist, using your car to deliberately cut off a cyclist, throwing an object at a cyclist - these acts of direct aggression are dangerous."

While it's not hard to find horror stories about cyclists and drivers sharing the roads, it's a long way from reality for Stafford cyclist Tom Eckert.

The 23-year-old rides up to 200km every week - both commuting and socially - and said he rarely experienced conflict with drivers.

"In my experience, it's pretty good," he said.

"You get the odd bogan who gives you a bit of lip yelling 'get off the road' or 'pay rego', but most people are actually pretty good."

But Mr Eckert agreed there was an "us and them" mentality from both sides, which needed to stop.

"Putting a human face to cyclists - making drivers see us as real people with families - would definitely help the situation.

"We're all just people sharing the roads.

"If you're in a car, then that's cool.

"If you choose to be on a bike trying to get a bit of exercise or reducing your carbon output, then that's cool too."