More than half of car drivers think cyclists are not fully human, according to new study

The word ‘cyclist’ contributes towards the hostility people on bikes face, researchers say

A university has study has shown the number of drivers who don't consider cyclists 'fully human' (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

More than half of car drivers think cyclists are not completely human, according to new university research.

A study exploring attitudes to different road users found that the word cyclists face deliberate hostility from 17 per cent of drivers.

The research, which involved 442 participants from three states in Australia, found that cyclists are considered a minority group and are a target of negative attitudes and behaviour.

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Lead author of the study, Dr Alex Delbosc from Monash University, said: “When you don’t think someone is ‘fully’ human, it’s easier to justify hatred or aggression towards them. This can set up an escalating cycle of resentment.

“If cyclists feel dehumanised by other road users, they may be more likely to act out against motorists, feeding into a self-fulfilling prophecy that further fuels dehumanisation against them.

“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.”

Participants were given either the iconic image of the evolution of ape to man or a different version from cockroach to human and asked about their attitudes.

The results found that 55 per cent of non-cyclists and 30 per cent of cyclists believed people who ride are not completely human.

According to the study, 17 per cent of respondents said they had used their car to deliberately block a cyclist, 11 per cent had deliberately driven their car close to a cyclist and nine per cent had used their car to cut off a cyclist.

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Co-author of the paper, Narelle Haworth said: “The bigger issue is that significant numbers of both groups rank cyclists as not 100 per cent human.

“Amongst people who ride, amongst people who don’t ride, there are still people who think that cyclists aren’t fully human.

“Let’s talk about people who ride bikes rather than cyclists because that’s the first step towards getting rid of this dehumanisation.”

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.