#IAmNotACyclist — why this website avoids the term ‘cyclist’

COMMENT & ANALYSIS: Why do people who cycle bicycles have to account for the actions of others who cycle bicycles when the same isn’t done for motorists?

Why do so many people bring up ‘cyclist’ behaviour when cycle routes are proposed as a reason not to build that infrastructure when the same is unthinkable for motoring infrastructure?

YouTube channel Not Just Bikes has a video worth watching on this — including detailing an example of how there’s real-world consequences of the cyclist stereotype:

The majority of motorists speed, many people still see it as their god given right to make calls while driving, play with their phones while driving slowly and brushing it off as harmless despite people walking and cycling around them, drunk driving is more socially unacceptable but still continues, parking on footpaths and cycle tracks in many areas is epidemic, and the actions of motorists kill and injure themselves and others at a level we have become accustomed to because it’s not as bad as a few decades ago.

But unlikely the action of ‘cyclists’, there’s little or no acceptance that there’s collective responsibility among motorists.

Worse still, when the safety of people cycling is raised as an issue when cars or vans are blocking cycle lanes, people quickly react saying a balance is needed. As if the balance is the status quo of motoring getting most of the space and priority — and that in 90%+ of the cases there’s an easy alternative than blocking the cycle lane in the first place.

But if you try to explain why some people who cycle break the law because they fear for their safety, that’s quickly dismissed.

These contradictions are part of the reasons why this website avoids the term ‘cyclist’. Especially in terms of reporting on collisions, as outlined in new UK guidance on the reporting of collisions.

If a ‘cyclist’ is involved in a collision, they will nearly always be mentioned in the headline. Which is in stark contrast to other road users — people who are killed or injured are usually referred in headlines to as who they are (ie a man, woman, teenager or child). If a person cycling is involved in a collision with a motorist or pedestrian, the person cycling features heavily but often motorists are hardly referred to in articles… nearly as if there are autonomous cars, vans and trucks.

In an interview a few years ago, Ian Walker, who deals with transport and environmental psychology, has said: “Not only are cyclists an outgroup, they’re also a minority outgroup. Moreover, they are engaging in an activity that is deemed slightly inappropriate in a culture that views driving as normative and desirable and, arguably, views cycling as anti-conventional and possibly even infantile.”

Despite some people — including self-described cyclists — dismissing Walker, there’s a lot out there which seems to support him.

I am editor of IrishCycle.com and have reported on and commented on cycling in Ireland for over a decade. My background is in journalism -- I have a BA in Journalism from DCU and HDip in Print Journalism from BCFE. I wrote about cycling for national newspapers, and then started CyclingInDublin.com for overflow stories. Later the website was re-branded to reflect a more national focus.

2 Comments

  1. Fair play & well said.

  2. Thanks Cian; great piece! I’ve heard ‘using a bicycle’ compared with ‘using a toothbrush’. If you use a toothbrush (a perennial and ubiquitous device just like a bicycle), are you a ‘toothbrushist’!?

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