Study finds some drivers see cyclists as subhuman

“It can have very nasty consequences if you don’t see another group of people as fully evolved or fully human,” she said.

“We were a bit surprised to find around half of non-cyclist drivers did not regard the average cyclist as fully human.”

Dr Delbosc said they found drivers who also cycled were less likely to dehumanise cyclists, but 30 per cent of that group still did view cyclists as sub-human.

The scale used by researchers from Monash University and QUT's CARRS-Q to determine drivers' level of dehumanisation for cyclists

The scale used by researchers from Monash University and QUT’s CARRS-Q to determine drivers’ level of dehumanisation for cyclistsCredit:Monash University

In addition to drivers admitting to dehumanising cyclists, 17 per cent of respondents admitted to deliberately blocking a cyclist with their car, 11 per cent deliberately drove too close to a cyclist, and 9 per cent had actively cut-off a cyclist with their car.


Co-author of the paper and CARRS-Q Director Narelle Haworth said while road rage was a problem across the board on the roads, a car-on-car situation was relatively equal, while a car-on-bike incident was inherently more dangerous for the rider.

“If you’re being aggressive to another driver and you’re travelling too close potentially you might have a rear end collision,” Professor Haworth said.

“But if you’re acting aggressively in the sorts of ways these drivers said they were towards cyclists then there’s the strong potential for serious injury or death.”

“So the importance becomes greater because the potential consequences are greater.”

Professor Howarth said there needed to be moves to “rehumanise” cyclists in the eyes of drivers and suggested retiring the term “cyclist” in favour of just referring to “people who ride bikes”.

“We’re all people using the road, some people are in bikes, some people are in cars,” she said.

“We need to break down those barriers and reduce the de-humanisation.”

Dr Delbosc said she didn’t think the term “cyclist” needed to be retired, but people needed to start by remembering cyclists were human beings, not cockroaches.

“Cyclists are people too,” she said.

“They’re somebody’s mother or brother or aunty. They’re somebody just trying to get by on the road just like you.”

Stuart Layt covers health, science and technology for the Brisbane Times. He was formerly the Queensland political reporter for AAP.

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