Cyclist hatred is 'almost like racial discrimination,' says AA prez
Why do some people hate cyclists? Can we collectively ride and drive away from the 'them and us' mentality?
Many motorists run red lights and habitually park with wheels on the pavement. Motor vehicles killed 359 pedestrians in 2011. In cities, cars that can accomodate three or more passengers tend to carry just the driver, leading to congestion and contributing to high levels of air pollution. Yet, for some people, cyclists are the real villains of the piece and the wrong-doings of the minority are projected on to the majority: "all cyclists run red lights" and "all cyclists ride on the pavement".
The sins of a few projected on to the many is one of factors that leads to an irrational hatred of cyclists. You really don’t have to go very far on the internet before finding this sort of stuff. Using search terms ‘cyclist’ and ‘road tax’ on Twitter, for instance, will bring up lots of unbidden hate, or follow @cyclehatred which is a collection of comments from Twitter users who feel it's socially acceptable to write "get off my road" threats against cyclists and joke about knocking into, and even killing, cyclists.
Sometimes the hatred is spouted by incoherent dunderheads but there’s also plenty spouted by what appear to be, from reading their Twitter timelines, otherwise decent people.
The highly ingrained beliefs that “all cyclists run red lights” and “all cyclists ride on the pavement” - even though motorists do the same - are part of the problem but the hatred goes deeper than that. It's irrational prejudice, and that's why in The Times yesterday, Edmund King, president of the AA, said invective aimed at cyclists was a "road safety issue."
King has long argued that motorists and cyclists are often the same people and that the 'them and us' mentality must be eradicated. Animosity shown by cyclists to motorists, and by motorists to cyclists, needs to end. He said: "When we release our grip on the steering wheel or handlebars, the differences disappear."