More than half of car drivers thought bicyclists were not completely human in a study conducted by researchers in Australia.
The researchers studied 442 people in Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland, asking them about their attitudes toward cyclists and asking whether they were cyclists or noncyclists themselves, according to a statement from Queensland University of Technology, which conducted the study with Monash University and the University of Melbourne.
Fifty-five percent of noncyclists and 30 percent of cyclists rated cyclists as not completely human. Dehumanization was “associated with self-reported aggression toward cyclists,” according to the study abstract.
“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,” Alexa Delbosc, senior lecturer in the Institute of Transport Studies (Faculty of Civil Engineering) at Monash University, said in the university statement.
“They might be joking, but that joking can get dangerous,” Delbosc told an Australian radio station.
Delbosc was the lead author of a pilot study published in the journal Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behavior.
“If we can put a human face to cyclists, we may improve attitudes and reduce aggression directed at on-road cyclists. This could result in a reduction in cyclist road trauma or an increase in public acceptance of cyclists as legitimate road users,” the study abstract said.
As part of the study, participants were given two charts. One was the iconic silhouette of the evolution of ape to man; the other showed stages of evolution from cockroach to human. Delbosc said the chart of cockroach-to-human evolution was developed because of slurs against cyclists comparing them to “cockroaches” or “mosquitoes.” The reactions people had were similar for both charts, according to the statement.