The Lemming Effect

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Lemmings are small rodents that have been known to follow each other as they charge to their deaths off the edge of cliffs.  This is actually an unsubstantiated myth about Lemmings, but they’ve become a metaphor for people who go along unquestioningly with a group with potentially dangerous consequences.  The “Lemming Effect” is an innate psychological phenomenon, a survival trait, an inborn instinct in the majority of people. You see this happening in many occurances from bad investment decisions (remember the dot com boom?) to fashion trends (hipsters).   This Lemming Effect enables entire segments of a society to lose their sense of judgment all at the same time.  Yes, we even see this phenomenon taking place with cyclists.

Cyclists, like lemming,  sometimes behave collectively.  You see it all the time.  We join the bunch rides and a few cyclists run a red light, the rest follow.  Riders go through a roundabout with oncoming traffic, we follow.  An echelon starts fanning out over the center line, we follow.  We make heaps of irrational decisions on the road based on our nature to follow and assume everything will be okay.   Circumstances and traffic conditions may have changed from when that first rider decided to cross the intersection or yellow light, yet we still put all our trust in that guy in front.

Take the Hell Ride for instance.  I can only think of 2 or 3 regular bad apples in that bunch, but everyone else (including myself at times) has the tenancy to follow the odd bonehead move .  When you get a bunch ride over 100 in size, it doesn’t take much before things add up to a lot of bad decisions being made.  This is when things get out of control.

Should that wheel you’re hanging onto really be making all your decisions on the road?