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Safe Cycling IOM

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Psychology of cyclist hatred

Why do some motorists have a deep hatred of cyclists?

Why do the actions some of cyclists trigger a disproportionate rage in a small number of motorists?

Why do some socially conscious individuals transform behind the wheel.


    -There's no consensus; it is likely to be a number of interacting factors.

Ignorance and Confusion


If a motorist does not appreciate the differing needs and vulnerabilities of cyclists, or the rules and restrictions that apply to them, they are likely to be less sympathetic and less tolerant.



The anonymity of driving permits poor behaviour. Some the key attributes of human interaction (eye-contact, body language) are lost. Drivers are cocooned in an increasingly safe and impervious shell, leading to a sense of invulnerability and being separated from the consequences of their actions. A similar process is blamed for the phenomenon of “internet troll”.

'The Free Rider Problem'


Civilised society is structured in such a way as to be cooperative and lawful. 'Free Riders' seem not to respect the rules, and yet still derive the benefits of the society.


Driving is very ordered, with numerous legal and informal rules of the road (look at the intricate dance of traffic at Quarter Bridge in rush hour). Cyclists do things that break these 'rules', like overtaking a string of queuing traffic, travelling much slower than the prevailing speed.


Other examples include people that avoid paying taxes but still gain from public services, or parents that don’t get their children immunised; relying on diseases being kept at bay by the majority ('herd' immunity).  

Ordered civilizations have been pivotal to the success of humans. Evolution has built in a hatred of free riders. Cyclists trigger this in some motorists.




Some motorists are aware of the vulnerability of cyclists and it frightens them. They realise that they as motorists could seriously injure or kill. Think about the disproportionate anger at seeing cyclists without helmets or lights at night, when in reality, they are only putting themselves at risk.

Outgroup Homogeneity Effect


Members of a minority group (or outgroup) seem more similar to one another than members of the majority. Cyclists are a small minority compared to motorists. They seem homogenous, with similar attire, waving to each other and riding in groups.

So when one negative behaviour by a cyclist is witnessed, some motorists will generalize to the rest of the group. 'This cyclist broke the law, ergo cyclists in general have a tendency to break the law'.

It is easy to form negative opinions of groups you are not a part of. Also, as motorists seem more of a mixed bunch, the existence of bad drivers doesn’t define motorists as a whole.

Emotional Judgements


Humans will often make judgements based on emotions rather than rational thought, especially in threatening or fearful circumstances. However these are subjective and not based on logic, evidence or calculation.

For example, some clown on 2 wheels has just tried to kill himself with your car. Your initial response is fear then fury, concluding that all cyclists are *******. It will be a judgement that’s hard to shake off.

Negative Dominance / Confirmation Bias


We tend to pay more attention to negatives, especially if they confirm our beliefs. Repeatedly seeing safe and respectful cyclists will not change the opinion of a motorist that has a belief that cyclists are erratically moving hazards that shouldn’t be allowed on the road. Instead, you notice things that back up your stance. Soon you will have a collection of anecdotes and news stories that, to you, feels like a body of evidence. Clearly, it is nothing of the sort.

As a kid I had a dream - I wanted to own my own bicycle. When I got the bike I must have been the happiest boy in Liverpool, maybe the world.

   – John Lennon

SC7 rage

'How exactly do you report cyclists who think they are above the law? Oh wait, you can't so they'll continue doing what they want!'

    - comment on IOM Police Facebook page 3/4/2015

'Loads of em on the roads heading out this morning'

'Perhaps if you cyclists gave us motorists some room'

   - comments on IOM Police Facebook page, 3/4/2015