Mirror, mirror on the internet, who’s the most entitled road user of them all?

IMAGE: Look at the entitlement oozing out of the cyclist waiting at the red light, taking up all of that space.

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Listen long enough and you’ll hear (or read) it: some comment somewhere about how entitled cyclists are. We’re not talking entitlement in a good way, in the context of explaining someone’s rights.

No. We’re talking about the word “entitled” being used as an insult, meaning an assumption of privileges you have no right to. This article in the Irish Independent last year is a case in point.

You’ll find more if you look – I won’t link to them here. Yet, every time I step out of my front door, whether on foot or by bicycle, I see a road user group that is far more entitled than cyclists can hope to be. Yes, drivers, I’m looking at you. (And before you scroll down to the comments section to point this out, I know, I know: #NotAllDrivers — and in case you don’t know what I mean by that…).

People who feel entitled to public space for the storage of their private property are invariably drivers. People who feel entitled to use space specifically set aside for the exclusive use of other groups are overwhelmingly drivers. The majority of drivers feel entitled to travel at what speed they like, rather than the maximum speed prescribed for a given stretch of road.

The facts simply don’t support the assertion that cyclists are the ones who are entitled. Why, then, do people say they are?

Drivers are used to all other road users showing deference to them, generally behaving such that the driver is preferably unaware of their presence. When one doesn’t – for instance, when a cyclist takes a lane – the driver doesn’t recognise that the other road user is simply claiming the exact same right as the driver is exercising. They experience the cyclist’s perfectly legal and safe behaviour as entitlement.

This is a case of “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression“. Drivers are a privileged class on our roads, and their response to other road users not behaving with an “I’m sorry I exist!” attitude needs to be seen for what it is.

Nadia Williams is a postgraduate researcher investigating the role of social dynamics in cycling uptake and safety. She lives car-free with her family in Dundalk.

7 Comments

  1. Thought provoking Nadia. I remember when smokers thought that banning smoking in aeroplanes, cinemas and supermarkets was oppression.

  2. Unfortunately it is not just drivers who believe cyclist are entitled, it is any other road user. Pedestrians believe they are “almost mowed down” each time when a cyclist passes them closer than 3 metres. Bus passengers believe they should not hold up “80 people”, while the drivers curse at them as they cannot pass them. Garda feel they are so entitled that they should not really dare to expect the bicycle lane is unobstructed.

  3. Even cyclists think that other cyclists are entitled…. :/

  4. This entitlement stems to slip Lanes with Motorists domineering them and forcing Cyclists off the Road as they speed past them around corners.

    If a Cyclist has the Temerity of taking the full lane to block the Motorist from knocking the Cyclist down . Then the Motorist takes Umbrage and looses it and still tries to force themselves past that no good Mangy Cyclist around that corner. Has happened to me dozens of times.

    The Motorist seems to be thinking I am not going to let that F#cking Cyclist best me. Even though the Cyclist is not breaking the rules and trying to protect themselves.

  5. “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression“ is the perfect phrase to explain why it is that organisations like the AA decry measures like 30kph speed limits and reallocating small percentages of what they see as their domain to cyclists or pedestrians as the “WAR ON MOTORISTS”.

    The people writing this, or at least their target audience, honestly believes that equality, not even equality really, more like slightly less privilege, is oppression and they are angry.

  6. Everybody thinks they are ‘entitled’. Problem is drivers, whose cars take up a disproportionate amount of road space for the amount of people (the vast majority of which only contain a driver) and goods they carry, are the mist selfish of them all.

  7. Cyclists feel entitled to safe treatment.
    Drivers feel entitled to unfettered progress.
    Cyclists become angered when they feel their lives threatened, drivers when they feel they are being delayed.
    It’s a perception of respect. Cyclists want their safety respected. Drivers demand their policy appointed position of masters of all road space be respected by “getting out of their way”.
    It’s a question of safety over entitlement, not, as drivers seem to think, a question of journey time over deviant social behavior.

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