There is no ‘us’

A few months ago I had a bit of a near miss with a driver who, in essence, failed to expect me to come around a corner on a bicycle. Likewise, I failed to expect him to appear so suddenly – a function of the speed he was travelling at.

He was driving straight ahead into a parking space, and I was cycling straight ahead, in a path perpendicular to his. I had arrived at our point of conflict first, and he was going far too fast for the situation, but (fortunately) slow enough to be able to brake and avoid hitting me.

I instinctively yelled out as this occurred, principally, I think, out of genuine concern that I was about to be crashed into. Then, reasonably calmly, I remonstrated with the driver – a thick-set elderly man in a Jaguar – about being a bit more careful. This didn’t get the desired response – instead I was told to look where I was going, and given some abusive comments for good measure.

With hindsight, I probably should have just pedalled away at this point, but his abuse prompted me to ask whether he would talk like that to the elderly ladies who cycle on this bit of road – ladies he could well have encountered instead of me.

The conversation then took a bizarre twist. The man was parking up in front a shop (recently closed) which he had owned with his wife, and he saw fit to regale me with the number of times ‘elderly ladies’ had nearly been run down by cyclists on the pavement outside his shop. The implication was that I was somehow responsible, by association, because I was using the same mode of transport. That I was reckless and irresponsible by default.

But – quite obviously – this had absolutely nothing to do with me. I have never ridden past his shop on the pavement, nor have I terrified grannies.

Somebody else was responsible. Yet the conversation had switched from a discussion about the actual danger he had just posed to me, to a general one about how ‘cyclists’ behave. I was no longer an individual – I had become a manifestation of general cycling wrongdoing.

This isn’t the first time something like this happened. In another instance, a year or so earlier, I followed a driver into a car park to ask him to give  a little more space the next time he was overtaking someone, only to be told that ‘you jump red lights’.

A psychological explanation of these kinds of responses must lie in the fact that people who cycle are a minority – a very small minority – of the general population. It is much easier to stereotype people when they are a minority, and to lump them together into one homogeneous mass.

I’ve explored before how a Kurdish friend felt the need to write to national newspapers to explain that not all Kurds in the UK are like this man, who killed a girl on a zebra crossing, and left her to die. Rationally, it didn’t make any sense at all for her to have done this, because a calm examination of the facts would serve to demonstrate that Kurds in the UK are probably about as well-behaved as everyone else. But I can understand why she did it – the story was headline news for some time, and might have served to create the impression – in the heads of bigots – that all Kurds are like the man in question, especially when not many people in the UK are Kurds, and none of them is well-known.

The attitudes of the two men who responded to me with the misdeeds of other people who were riding bikes are essentially enabled by the fact that cycling is a minority mode of transport, and therefore a ripe target for those people cannot differentiate – or choose not to differentiate – between individuals. If I had been walking, and we had got into a discussion about how their driving had endangered me, it would have been obviously nonsensical for them to respond with the misdeeds of other people walking around – perhaps someone who had bumped into a granny, or someone who had knocked over a pram while walking along. It would have been laughable. But precisely the same form of response seemed acceptable and serious to these two, purely because I happened to be cycling, instead of walking.

It’s deeply odd, and probably worthy of being explored in more detail. But what is just as odd is that people who apparently seek to advance the cause of cycling as a mode of transport – people who cycle themselves, and want to see more of it – actually accept the logic of these kinds of arguments. They think that drivers have a poor attitude towards cycling precisely because some other people break the rules while cycling, and that, consequently, the way to address this is to attempt to stop people breaking rules while cycling.

These arguments will often in appear in the form ‘giving us a bad name’, or that ‘we’ (‘we’ being anyone who rides a bike) ‘can be our own worse enemy’. The logic is that cycling has a bad reputation – which manifests itself in bad driver behaviour around people cycling – and that this bad reputation flows from the fact that ‘we’ are quite badly behaved as a group. Superficially, it therefore seems obvious that to improve this situation we have to stop people on bikes from breaking the law.

The latest example of this kind of argument appeared in the Times in December, in a piece written by James Kennedy. He wrote

What I am arguing is that in the absence of exceptional circumstance we expect everyone to obey the laws of the road. I completely believe that were we to achieve this then cycling becomes safer and more popular in every sense of the word.

If they felt [cyclists] were “playing by the rules” all road users would be more likely to be considerate of cyclists’ needs – at the ground level drivers would be less angry with cyclists and would give them more space on the road on a day-to-day basis, and at the legislative level everyone would be a hell of a lot more amenable to cycle safety law changes if the popular consciousness wasn’t so pissed off with cyclists in the first place.

The re-categorisation of cyclists as being within the road rules and the weight of expectation of behaviour that comes with it is the only way that we will make sure everyone gets along, and we keep the eggs on the plate and off our hands.

Roads on which everyone gets along are safer roads. That will only happen when we’re all playing by the same rules.

Once again, we have the call for us to ‘get our house in order’, as a way of gaining respect, and as a way of ‘re-categorising’ ourselves as being law-abiding. To stop giving ourselves ‘a bad name’.

The basic, essential problem here is that there is no ‘us’. It might seem like that, because being a persecuted minority tends to push people together, but there really isn’t. We are all individuals. It is completely futile to expect ‘cyclists’ as a group to somehow behave perfectly, or even behave slightly better.

Human beings are miscreants. We get away with what we can get away with. The fact that some people pedal through red lights isn’t a function of them being a cyclists, it’s a function of them being a human being. All the rules, laws and guidance in the Highway Code are consistently broken by just about everybody, all the time, whether they are driving, walking, cycling or catching a bus. We break speed limits, we park in the wrong places, we pedal on pavements, we don’t look before we step into the road – in short, we do things badly, whatever mode of transport we are employing. Statistics consistently show that people cycling are no worse when it comes to law-breaking than anyone else.

Yet for some reason it is only the misdemeanours that people commit while they are cycling that contribute to a wider hatred of everyone who rides a bike.

So not only is it futile to expect ‘cyclists’ as a group to behave better than anyone else, we’re misdiagnosing the problem in the first place. You – an individual who happens to be cycling – are not hated and despised by a particular driver because they saw someone else on a bike doing something bad the other day, or last week, or last year. You are hated because they don’t understand you, because you are in their way, and because you are easy to stereotype. These issues of lack of understanding, conflict, annoyance and stereotyping will persist even if – by some holy miracle – we manage to ensure that no person on a bike ever jumps a ride light, anywhere.

When you exhort ‘us’ to stop jumping red lights, or to stop cycling antisocially, all you are really succeeding in doing is reinforcing the impression you are attempting to eradicate. You are engaging in precisely the same kind of stereotyping.

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34 Responses to There is no ‘us’

  1. It’s a fact of life cycling in the UK. A fact that makes any conversation come back down to the fact that most people I know think we are all the same. I complain that some driver cut me up on my journey there and because they are a driver and not a cyclist they start telling me about cyclists they saw once cycling on the pavement with no lights. Imagine if every time a accepted a lift from a friend, I reeled off all the times drivers had endangered my life and called them on the fact that they were doing over 30mph or that they hadn’t indicated properly on the way round the roundabout. I wouldn’t be getting many lifts. I tend to talk about how most drivers are great, that they are considerate and patient. I say the bad ones are rare, a once a day thing (still too often in my opinion).
    I can’t change this but I have made my bike a magnificent machine with a wooden box up front covered in flowers, some with lights in. I ride in a vintage style raincoat and often have a big hat on. I cycle like I’m a big machine, and command the streets where I live with a presence that would make the tractors that drive past my house feel small. It’s not a cure but it helps and people warm to my presence and I’ve become something people often see.
    There are steadily each month more mums on bikes like me, with trailers. Some stick to the hi-viz, some go more old style but we are increasing in number. We don’t conform to the stereotype.
    I still hear the same “you cyclists” stuff in the pub, but on the road, my experience is that they have to treat me and the kid cycling next to me with patience and respect.

    • ladadadada says:

      I think this increase in diversity has a greater capacity to change the public’s view of “cyclists” than a change in law abiding behaviour from existing cyclists.

      One of the most common ways cyclists get stereotyped is as the young, male, lycra-clad sports fan whose purpose in cycling is to re-live the glories they watched on screen. This group is seen as rich, entitled, arrogant and maybe most importantly, non-essential. Just pursuing a frivolous hobby rather than what the person in the car sees as their own essential journey. A common question online is “Why can’t you cycle in a velodrome and stay off our roads?” completely unaware of the fact that the person might be trying to get somewhere. It’s also easy to feel hatred for them and even accost them because they are not seen as frail or delicate. None of this changes when they scrupulously follow every law.

      Any deviation from that stereotype helps break the myth of the homogenous group and the greater the deviation the greater the effect. I mostly wear regular clothes but I’m a 36 year old male and I ride a racing style bike so I probably don’t do much to break that stereotype. The 50-year-old man I pass daily on his upright bike wearing a beret and the 40-something lady with her child in the front of a bakfiets do much more simply by being different. The woman I saw yesterday instructing her two children how to ride through the backstreets of Wapping does too.

      At some point I guess there will be enough diversity that it becomes difficult to maintain the image in their heads of all cyclists being the same.

      • Tim says:

        Old thread. But just to agree that having kids on a bike gets such a different reaction, and not just because it’s less of a cliché. Also because kids on a bike are just cute.

        My own cargo bike is a longtail, so the kids are on the back. It’s often funny to see the look on someone’s face (as they stand there blocking the cycle path) change from grumpy: “here comes another bloody cyclist” to delight: “wow – look at those kids playing on the back of the a bike – cool!”.

  2. Patrick O'Riordan says:

    “Out group homogeneity bias” is apparently the psychological term for it and it is likely to persist as long as the person behind the wheel is very likely not to ride a bike.

    It isn’t unique to cycling. I grew up in Northern Ireland and it was “themmuns…” when referring to another tribe.

  3. monchberter says:

    This report’s 12 years old now, but it’s still an excellent read on homogenising of cyclists and ‘driver logic’.

    “Whether a respondent cycled or not, not surprisingly, had an important effect on responses and attitudes. Those who were cyclists were in the favourable position of being able to see things from both the cyclist’s and the driver’s point of view. These respondents were better able to distinguish between different types of cyclists, separating the good from the bad. Non-cyclists, on the other hand, were generally guilty of linking all cyclists to the same (usually negative) behaviour by association. This phenomenon is typical of the psychological tendency to regard members of a group as more similar to each other than is actually the case (as documented by Tajfel and Turner, 1986).”

    “On the whole, however, the attitudes of those who cycled did not vary significantly from those who did not cycle. They tended to see things from the driver’s perspective and could be just as negative about cyclists as other drivers who were non-cyclists. Cyclists therefore tended to have similar views to most other non-cycling domestic drivers. It was non-cycling professional drivers (as mentioned above) that tended to hold more extreme views. Nonetheless, those drivers who cycled did have greater insight than other drivers did in some aspects. For example, they, not surprisingly, tended to know more about cycling facilities and how they operated.

    When looking at the scenarios, they could rely more on personal experience and talk about how they had reacted in real life. They could identify with such issues, as they knew that they were more commonplace than other non-cycling drivers thought (such as being ‘cut-up’ by a motor vehicle). They were more realistic when it came to how they expected cyclists to react and behave in cycle lanes.”

  4. Barnie says:

    Hmmm, unless that national hotspot for granny bashing cyclists, I’m inclined to think that his argument was grossly flawed from the outset…

  5. All drivers are bastards.

  6. paul gannon says:

    All very true, but…

    The ‘but’ is that cyclists are challenging the status quo & therefore we cannot expect but that those who live by the status quo will get angry and behave badly towards ‘us’ (sorry, but ‘we’ are/become an ‘us’ when ‘we’ are treated as such).

    I don’t think worrying about this sort of thing gets us anywhere in developing our power to overcome the vast imbalance of power we face. Trying to deal rationally with the irrational arguments used by those who see their power (to drive where and how they like) under potential threat seems to me to be probable a waste of time strategically speaking.

    My preferred approach is to not worry about this sort of thing. What we need to concentrate on is developing a strategy for changing the status quo. Lawrence Freedman in his massive new book on ‘Strategy’ (empoweringly) defines strategy as developing a way of gaining greater power than would appear to be available given the starting balance of power. This is exactly what we need to do.

    The only strategy I can conceive of is to build ‘our’ numbers as quickly as possible (which requires local action to get high-quality, attractive cycle facilities) and to exploit all the methods of campaigning to leverage ‘our’ power; the way to do this is to concentrate on the key issues and avoid being sidetracked into dealing with the inanities of ‘them’ (the counterpart of ‘us’ of course). My own logic seems therefore to back me into rejecting the suggested rejection of conceiving of an ‘us’ – due to the inevitability of a need to act as ‘us’ in order to achieve the overturning of the status quo.

    • Tim says:

      You know, it seems to me that there’s some truth in this.

      I’m sure I could make reasoned complaints about the fact that I don’t treat all drivers like uninsured drunken speeding lawbreakers, but no-one’s likely to listen or care regarding the subtleties of the argument.

      Better to focus on the positives and keep the pressure on.
      This was in our local news today…

    • I agree that there’s an “us” in the sense that “we” are trying to gain more respect from society in general when “we” make the choice to use a bicycle for transport.

      But I hate it when people say “cyclists must get their house in order” – as if this was a good idea, let alone actually possible – before “they” should expect safer and more pleasant cycleways.

      “We” and “Us” are clearly flexible groupings, and change according to current needs: just as Andy Murray is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses.

      The response to “you cyclists should get your house in order before you can expect decent cycleways” should simply be “you motorists should get your house in order before we spend any more billions of public money on new roads”.

  7. Ian says:

    I think we’re so addicted to cars that we (including Mr Kennedy) generally discount criminal acts committed while driving unless they are very extreme.

    For example, I’ve had an elderly lady admit to (practically brag about) driving in excess of 80 mph down a narrow country road, then assail me about how ‘you cyclists’ were imperrilling old folk and children by using the pavement.

    She would of course be mortified to be called criminal, but equally clearly she is more dangerous than a whole chain gang of pavement cyclists. But all her friends simply ignore the dangerous criminal behaviour of a fellow car driver, probably because confronting it would involve confronting their own issues as well.

  8. Sarah S says:

    One side of the coin is that there is no us. The other side is that even if there was, and “we” all started to behave legally and exceedingly considerately overnight, that wouldn’t suffice to disperse anti-cyclist stereotypes and prejudices. These are extraordinarily flexible and only tenuously connected with external reality. Most people who never or only rarely cycle can switch in the blinking of an eye from a pedestrian perspective (in which cyclists are annoyingly fast if they exceed 10 mph) to a driver’s perspective (in which cyclists are annoyingly slow at anything lower than 20 mph). So there is no “correct” speed that “we” could cycle at to appease the non-cyclists in our midst – non-cyclists can SIMULTANEOUSLY believe that 15 mph in a given location is too fast AND that it is too slow, depending on what side of bed they got out of that morning. So even if “we” existed – and we don’t – and even if we all had no aim in life other than to make non-cyclists happy, I don’t see how we would go about it.

    • Very good point! One should perhaps ask the angry motorist if they prefer cyclists to ride on the pavements or on the roads. The answer will, of course, be that cyclists shouldn’t be cycling at all…

  9. pm says:

    I find this whole topic quite depressing, even upsetting. Its a simple fact of life, unfortunately, that less-powerful groups are invariably regarded as possessing a kind of collective guilt/responsibility that the more powerful will never for a moment accept for themselves. Your example of the Kurdish fellow certainly illustrates that. It often comes up with regard to racial minorities in particular.

    The more I experience the reality of the roads and the more I think about cycling, the more dispiriting aspects of human nature I find myself noticing (see also, the tendency to victim-blame, and the sense that a lot of human interaction is based on the principle of might-is-right). This pychological issue may be an unacknoweldged downside of cycling (to set against the physical health benefits)!

  10. pm says:

    I agree with every word of this article, incidentally. Its sadly unsurprising that drivers (and even pedestrians) hold this irrational view, but it really exasperates me when you get well-meaning cyclists who buy into the mentality.

    Its patently ridiculous to think we can ever get everyone, everwhere who happens to use a bike to behave perfectly at all times. So I really struggle to understand why some amongst ‘us’ think it makes sense to make that a precondition to getting decent treatment. How can they think that is a rational position?

    In a way its even more absurd than when it comes up within racial minorities (where I don’t think it really makes sense either, though maybe its not my place to say) – at least in that case there _is_ a group of a kind, one ultimately based on family relationships, however distant. A ‘cyclist’ is just any random individual who gets on a bike, quite possibly with no connection at all to any other cyclist.

  11. Spot on I think. Why is it when someone finds out you cycle they have to tell you about all the cyclists they have seen without lights or those jumping red lights. I think I will start replying with “Do you drive a car? The number of times I’ve been cycling down the High Street at 30 Mph and the number of cars that overtake me…”.

  12. bz2 says:

    As a side note, I don’t agree with this quote from James Kennedy:

    “The re-categorisation of cyclists as being within the road rules and the weight of expectation of behaviour that comes with it is the only way that we will make sure everyone gets along, and we keep the eggs on the plate and off our hands.”

    For one, the word weight is very appropriate, because the figurative weight of responsibility literally comes with the literal weight (or rather, to be strictly correct with the physics, the square of the mass) of your vehicle, so as a cyclist you’re clearly not subject to the same scrutiny as motorists, as evidenced by the lack of a license requirement and lower fines, for example.

    For another, it’s just not “the only way that we will make sure everyone gets along”. In much of northern Europe, no-one seriously suggests that cyclists should bear the same responsibility as motorists, and yet cyclists and motorists do get along, you don’t get shouted or honked at, and people would feel very silly suggesting ‘road tax’ or mandatory hi-viz for cyclists.

    • Patrick O'Riordan says:

      Being pedantic (and you did say being strictly correct with the physics 😉 ), isn’t it the square of the velocity assuming you are referring to the kinetic energy of a moving object being 0.5mv2

  13. rdrf says:

    You have covered this topic before with your customary elegance and rationality. I think it is a crucial topic which DOES need to be discussed, because abuse of cyclists is oppressive and should be opposed. It is not just oppressive, but dangerous and dispiriting.

    I do have a disagreement though (one I have voiced before when this topic comes up). Here it is:

    At the risk of seeming to act childishly and simply throw this stupid, insulting behaviour back at those with whom it originates, I think there IS a sense in which classifying everybody into a group and blaming them for the behaviour of at least some of “their” fellow road users DOES MAKE SENSE AND IS NECCESSARY (forgive the blocks). But, as you may have guessed, the group I am talking about is motorists.

    The fact is that ALL motorists are allowed to get away with a variety of forms of anti-social behaviour (generally with far worse potential consequences to others than that by pedestrians or cyclists). Some may well be appalled at a lot of this behaviour (particularly at the extreme end of dangerous driving) but ALL have been given the privilege which is so routinely abused. And the kind of behaviour which endangers or hurts or kills others is not just committed by those at the extremes, but by typical everyday motorists.

    So, I am not suggesting that cyclists should start abusing motorists willy nilly, but I AM suggesting that there is something to be gained by realising that describing so much anti-social, anti-environmental behaviour as lying with motorists can restore our pride and confidence, as well as doing something which is very necessary. And that is locating danger and environmental destruction with driving and those who do it.

    For example, you quote one of the self-haters (and previously I have discussed the short term psychological relief gained by blaming yourself and how futile it is in the long run). If he wants to go into “let’s all obey the rules” that’s fine by me. Any such discussion should inevitably lead to an awareness of how the problem lies with driving (or at least mainly with driving). If that can’t be accepted there is no point carrying on the conversation – but there could be something useful gained from it.

    So: all those of you reading this who have driving licences: you don’t get rights without responsibilities in a civilised society. If you want to be taken seriously you need to have the necessary controls and regulations on your behaviour brought in ASAP.

    Does that make sense?

    • pm says:

      I agree that there _are_ contexts in which talking about different types of road-user as groups is justified.

      The problem is its a nuanced and subtle point which can easily be (partly deliberately) misinterpreted as hypocrisy or inconsistency.

      I think we are more-or-less saying the same thing, here.
      Cyclists are NOT a hive-mind group for the purposes of assigning blame. And neither are motorists. Its not fair to declare (as someone does in this thread, possibly as a wind-up) that ‘all drivers are bastards’. Some of them are well-mannered and conscientious.

      But cyclists ARE a group in the sense that they are all subject to the same danger and stigma. And motorists are a collective in the sense that society and those with political power in society tend to accord them special privileges and allow the badly-behaved amongst them to get away with it.

      The point is that motorists are no more responsible for policing each others behaviour on an individual level than cyclists are, and nor are the good drivers to be blamed for the awful behaviour of the bad ones. But they _can_ be collectively held responsible at a political level for the degree to which they support a system that lets the bad drivers off lightly and which designs roads entirely around them.

      • Ian says:

        While it clearly isn’t true that ‘all drivers are bastards’ it clearly is true that many drivers, arguably most, break the law regularly, and use their cars to bully cyclists. I do wish the CTC and others who claim to represent cycling would be clearer about this, rather than meekly parroting crap about most drivers being good people who occasionally make mistakes.

        So maybe we do need someone to say ‘all drivers are bastards’ occasionally. It’s no less true than ‘all cyclists jump red lights’.

        • pm says:

          Admittedly I do sometimes think, after an encounter with a particularly aggressive and reckless specimen, “kill ’em all, God will know his own”, but I still maintain that drivers are not, in fact, uniquely wicked and a good proportion of them behave badly simply because (a) they are human beings and that’s what human beings do given the chance, and (b) they are permitted to get away with it.

          I would argue that being too quick to blame drivers as a group just encourages them to feel justified in seeing cyclists as a collective in the same way. As I say, I think the issue is society as a whole (which includes an awful lot of drivers) being far too quick to excuse and ignore the significant number of lousy motorists (or the way even good drivers break rules some of the time).

          This might be a very subtle distinction but it makes sense to me, and its why I think its perfectly consistent to reject collective blame for ‘cyclists’ as a group while still arguing that society needs to be tougher on motorists in general.

      • When black people finally stood together back in the 50’s and 60’s (they would have felt the same – most people don’t separate themselves by their colour, any more than they would by their height or the size of their bottom) they had to stand up to the authorities, the people like the police and employers who judged them on the basis of one characteristic – the shade of their skin. The general public/press and justice expected them to behave themselves, no consideration for the fact that some do and some don’t, just like all human beings. It took alot of fighting, protesting and landmark cases to convince those that count that you can’t judge a person by their colour. There are still people out there who think you can and there are still a higher proportion of people of colour being stopped by the police in this country, although they are supposedly working hard to change this.
        We all know that even nowadays, there are a minority police officers out there who still do this, there are employers out there too, but on the whole, the law is on the side of the individual and providing you have video evidence, the police won’t be able to ruin your life.

        Completely different set of circumstances, now we have a group of travellers, segregated by their choice of mode of transport, the bike. We don’t make the country enough tax (they think – although the evidence suggests we save the country billions) so we are marginalised, forced to take risks and put our lives in danger because, just like a Victorian kid in a loom, we don’t count, even though the job we do is important.

        What we need is to demand the justice system get their house in order, including the large group of travellers who choose to drive a car. Maybe we need to ask them to sort out all their rule breakers. When the Met stopped all those drivers, they found an alarming range of misdemeanour’s. You can gather that if you did this now anywhere on any road in the country, there would be a lot of paperwork and court cases, even prison sentences, far more than our justice system could handle. Isn’t this the issue? The roads are pretty much anarchy, and it’s not the cyclists!

        Drivers don’t loose their licence, even with many times the limit of points, a car is seen as a right rather than a privilege. Even trying to get strict liability looks unlikely.

        So when a bunch of people find that they are a minority that’s being discriminated against, what do they do? Would we have race relations acts and child protection laws if people had just said “well that’s the way it is”?

        We should demand the justice system and highways sort this out. Thanks to two generations of chronic favouritism and profit rigging drivers are a large group of law breakers and killers – they need to be held to account. Road safety concentrates mostly on making cars safer and making junctions safer for cars (not for anyone else!), they don’t talk about expecting drivers to behave themselves, after all they are all just homicidal maniacs behind the wheel (no consideration for those who aren’t, the licence implies you are a good driver, the rest expects you not to be).
        Why do we put up with this?

        • Ian says:

          I have think we put up with at least in part because our society is so car-centred that even many of those who claim to represent cyclists are themselves also drivers, and feel the same sympathy for other drivers. Demanding that all drivers be held to account for the criminal behaviour is harder when you are a driver.

          • Maybe, but in the Netherlands where a far larger proportion of drivers are cyclists (the other way round isn’t true as a large proportion don’t need a car). I think that there precisely because the majority of drivers also cycle, they are better equipt to insist on equality when it comes to safety and convenience. They still have problems on motorways – there are still rubbish drivers out there but the towns and cities are laid out for the cyclists and pedestrians mostly. They run safety campaigns all the time, concentrating on driving techniques like joining two lanes together at motorway intersections (zipping) or drink driving.
            You could assert that you leave a group of people with a strict set of rules to follow and never ever again ask them about those rules, re-test them or remind them, it’s hardly surprising they are nesting coffee cups and cereal bowls in their laps, speeding, texting, watching iplayer on their iphones or Jools Holland on their huge sat navs (I really did see this) and forgetting to indicate. That’s the group that we call “good drivers” we haven’t even mentioned the serious stuff like bullying with your car, overtaking where you shouldn’t, blatant speeding (more than 20mph over the limit), not insuring, not having a licence, driving drunk, driving on drugs, failing to look properly, shaving while driving, applying makeup while driving, hit and run, and generally driving like a tosser.

  14. Peter Clinch says:

    The reality is that out-groups are categorised together, even when their personalities and behaviour are unrelated to the grouping (in this case riding a bike). It’s dumb, but it’s also true.
    My wife has cycled for transport for well over 40 years, but she’s only been “a cyclist” for 13, because she emigrated from NL to the UK in 2000…

  15. A recent example from

    shared to, eg:


    1. The conclusion of the argument (Don’t Run Red Lights) is perfectly correct.
    2. The *choice of argument* for the conclusion is
    (not only conter-productive to any effort to normalise cycling but)
    bizarre on any level.

    Why would I need an argument against RLJ in terms of group identity, when RLJ is already both dangerous and illegal? If you forgive the vernacular… is it cos I is Yellow?

    Perhaps the question is not ‘why would I need an argument against RLJ in terms of group identity?’, but ‘Why would I need to make an argument against RLJ in terms of group identity?’ That quite different question has perhaps the answer: because I am trying to assert my group identity and role within that group as a “community leader”.

  16. Skippy says:

    Typical “defence of Salesperson “, ” YOU are the 1st person to Complain about ****** “!

    So it is with Most Vehicle Drivers attempting to JUSTIFY their ” inadvertent ( hopefully )/ Deliberate (usually ) BAD Behaviours !

    Yesterday in Tirol , i was overtaken by a LARGE “linde tanker “, he passed wide , but slammed on the brakes to make a right turn onto the Client Property that he was to deliver . So close was the danger , i rode onto the property and went to the Reception desk . Having found an English Speaking Plant Manager , i was able to gain his cooperation , in contacting the Truck Company Management .

    The driver arrived after a while and stated ” You could have used YOUR brakes “! With nearly 1/2km of clear vision to decide the safest manoevre , he THOUGHT , it was for ME to avoid HIS manoevre ? He quite quickly admitted to making a mistake , he did not relish the prospect of the Polizei removing his Licence ( fat chance , since they did not see incident ) and awarding a FPN to empty his pockets .

    Yet to receive copy of the email promised from Alpquell to Linde , but whilst awaiting action , i spoke to several delivery drivers , asking they report the incident to their colleagues , and ask that they give the ” Austrian Code , requirement of 1 1/2M safe pass to Cyclists “. All up , the Client , the driver and the visitors , were reminded that Cyclists SHOULD BE treated , as they would another vehicle , the size of a car !

    Today , after a 125km ride , i realised that i have already passed 1000km for 2014 ! Not bad when you consider that the roads are normally wet/snowy/icy ? As it is i have had Autumnal , Dry & sunny weather allowing me to wear Summer weight clothing . Thursday at 15C was exceptional , whilst today was 12C and 8C as i was finishing just before Sunset

    Stay SAFE out there ! ” LIKE ” !

    The life YOU HELP to save , may well be YOUR OWN ?

  17. Andrew K says:

    And you don’t get this kind of antagonism in say, Holland as cycling is considered a normal thing there. “Cyclists” as an out group doesn’t exist. They are simply people on a bike.

  18. Tim says:

    “…simply people on a bike.”

    Like this?

  19. Pingback: A timely reminder from Thames Valley Police | As Easy As Riding A Bike

  20. Pingback: Should BCyC take up the issue of poor cycling behaviour? | Bristol Cycling Campaign

  21. Pingback: Windsor Road / Warwick Road cycle route: a better approach – Cambridge Cycling Campaign

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