Jargon Watch: Bikeism


cyclist and driver interaction in Toronto a few years ago. Photos Adam Krawesky via Spacingwire

We have seen it many times in the comments in TreeHugger: Drivers complaining that cyclists are generally irresponsible "lycra lizards" who ignore traffic signals and are rude to drivers. Tom Vanderbilt quotes an Australian writer who calls it Bikeism -

"tarring an entire class of people with the extreme acts committed by a few (or a stereotypical image of that behavior). "Unfortunately, many motorists who don't ride bikes and don't understand cycling seem to think that all cyclists are ego-driven menaces who run red lights."

He quotes an earlier report from the UK:


from BikePortland

"The underlying unpredictability of cyclists' behaviour was seen by drivers as stemming from the attitudes and limited competence of the cyclists themselves, rather than from the difficulty of the situations that cyclists are often forced to face on the road (i.e. drivers made a dispositional rather than a situational attribution). Despite their own evident difficulties in knowing how to respond, drivers never attributed these difficulties to their own attitudes or competencies, nor did they do so in relation to other drivers (i.e. they made a situational attribution about their own and other drivers' behaviour). This pattern of assignment of responsibility is characteristic of how people perceive the behaviour of those they consider to be part of the same social group as themselves, versus those seen as part of a different social group. In other words, drivers saw cyclists as an 'out group,' and blamed them accordingly for what was seen as negative behaviour, whilst exonerating members of the 'in group', namely themselves and other drivers.

Non-cyclists, on the other hand, were generally guilty of linking all cyclists to the same (usually negative) behaviour by association. This phenomenon is typical of the psychological tendency to regard members of a group as more similar to each other than is actually the case."

Vanderbilt wonders if

"the hostility and marginality cyclists often feel actually encourages some to adopt a certain "outlaw" stance, which then only feeds the cycle of behavior."

An interesting thesis. Read more at How we drive.
Should Cyclists be Allowed to Blow Through Stop Signs?
Cyclists , Motorists and the Law
Survey: Should Drivers Who Give Out The Door Prize Be Charged ...
Book Review: Traffic By Tom Vanderbilt
Quote of the Day: Yet Another View on Bikes and Stop Signs ...

Tags: Bikes