Why Do They Hate Us???

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I was sitting in Cafe Racer this morning flipping through the Herald Sun and came across this article:

CYCLISTS are Melbourne’s most disliked road users.

An online survey conducted for insurance provider Budget Direct has revealed that 36 per cent of Melbourne motorists voted cyclists their No. 1 dislike followed by trucks (26 per cent) and taxis (23 per cent).

Budget Direct spokeswoman Richelle Ward said the lack of patience shown to cyclists was alarming, especially considering how vulnerable and exposed they were.

“Even though cyclists are not licensed, they still have to abide by the road rules and they do have a right to be on the road,” Ms Ward said.

Who are the worst road users? Have your say below

“The consequences for cyclists are as great as they are for motorcycles, perhaps more so, because of the lack of protection provided and drivers often being unaware of their presence.”

While the survey did not say what road behaviour annoyed motorists, Ms Ward said their main complaints were cyclists making illegal moves or slowing others down.

She said cyclists were difficult to see, which made drivers nervous. “I think some people also feel that cyclists should be held responsible for wrongdoing like going through a red light and stop sign,” she said.

In the second last paragraph it states “While the survey did not say what road behaviour annoyed motorists, Ms Ward said their main complaints were cyclists making illegal moves or slowing others down.”

The first thing that I have to say is that even though motorists see anyone who rides a bike as a cyclist, there are many different types of cyclists.  There’s nothing that annoys me more than watching the daily commuter (for example) riding on walkways, swerving in and out of traffic while running red lights without a clue that he’s within an inch of his life.   These inexperienced cyclists are trying to do the right thing by riding a bike to work but as a motorist myself I can understand why this behavior creates such disdain towards us.

There’s also another type of cyclist – the type that you and I are.  We love getting out on our bikes in the morning to train and to mix it up on the bunch rides.  We are cyclists at heart and it consumes a large chunk of our day in one form or another.  Our type of cyclist annoys motorists in a completely different way.  I think a large part of this is has to do with the way we carry ourselves and our frame of mind when we’re on the road.

Think of it like this.  Most other sports are played in a closed field or arena.  Everyone on the field is in the same mindset where the rules of sport take over.  Yelling, cursing, spitting, aggression – it’s an acceptable part of sport.  No one bats an eye at this behavior because it doesn’t leave the field.  Could you imagine if you walked off the field into a restaurant and continued pushing, yelling, swearing, etc?

Now, think of the sport of cycling.  We get all kitted up and quite often join a few mates or a bunch ride where we quickly set into the competitive sporting mindset.  The pace picks up,  the heart is pumping, adrenaline is rushing, excitement is building, gaps are opening, your mate attacks before the usual sprint line!  What a rush!

Keep in mind that everyone else surrounding us is just going about their usual day abiding by regular social rules (think of trying to relax on the beach while a bunch of teens are playing soccer kicking sand in your face).  No one else is in that competitive mindset that we’re in.  The thought of that behavior in everyday life is absurd.   However, when many of us put on the lycra and sunglasses this can be quite normal behavior during an intense training ride.  A driver who pulls up beside a group ride and all of a sudden gets swarmed and abused for not knowing what to do is thinking “what is wrong with these people?”.  This driver is heading to work, not participating in the sport that we are.   There’s a complete mismatch of social etiquette expectations going on here.

Even though we’re all lumped in together, different types of cyclists are disliked for different reasons.  I wouldn’t expect this survey to come out any differently until there’s a change in our culture.  The only thing within our control is keeping our own backyard clean.  Unfortunately it keeps getting worse and worse as the popularity of the sport grows.  It’s a problem that I don’t mind having…