Cycling provides many benefits to individuals and society through improving physical activity and reducing pollution and congestion. Yet a range of studies have found that attitudes toward cyclists are predominantly negative. Worryingly, negative attitudes toward cyclists are associated with self-reported aggression and hostility toward cyclists. Public references to violence against cyclists are not uncommon and rarely given the same condemnation as, for example, violence toward women or bullying.
A recent study conducted by the applicants (“Dehumanization of cyclists predicts self-reported aggressive behaviour toward them: A pilot study”, Transportation Research Part F) found that around half of non-cyclists held dehumanising beliefs about cyclists. Dehumanisation means treating people as if they are less than fully human, or not fully evolved, and it is usually applied to racial or ethnic groups, homeless people or psychiatric patients. On-road cyclists, in particular, look and act differently to ‘humans’: they move in a mechanical way and their faces are not often seen by motorists.
Worryingly, these dehumanising beliefs were correlated with negative attitudes to cyclists and were associated with self-reported aggression such as throwing objects at cyclists or using a car to deliberately block a cyclist.
In this study, the team aims to test interventions that can potentially reduce dehumanising attitudes and aggression toward cyclists. Ultimately, this project may help improve the often-fractious relationship between cyclists and motorists and thus improve the safety of ACT cyclists.