Why are Cyclists defensive?


I’ve noticed that if you mention to cyclists any problems about people cycling, quite a few will respond in a very defensive way. Rather than admit cyclists may fail to follow the rules of the road, they will respond by attacking motorists or the state of roads or thinking of some excuse. I think there are 2 reasons why cyclists are often on the defensive.

Guilt by Association

A while backĀ  a friend was walking along a canal bank when a cyclist rode into him from behind. My friend was knocked to the ground without any warning; the cyclist only let out some expletives as he rode off. Later a friend accosted me and said ‘I have a bone to pick with you. One of your lot, just knocked me to the ground’ He then proceeded to tell of his experience.

I had sympathy for his accident, but, we should cyclists feel any guilt by association? If a motorist kills a young child in a hit and run accident, we don’t go around berating all motorists for being child killers. We appreciate it is a particular person who has driven a car in an irresponsible way. There are good motorists, there are reckless motorists; but we can’t make sweeping generalisations that all motorists are the same. Cyclists are often defensive because there is a tendency to label irresponsible cycling behaviour with all cyclists. Responsible cyclists get fed up with being associated with loutish people riding bikes. (probably the same people who behind a steering wheel, will drive aggressively and dangerously)

Sense of Injustice

If you ride a bike for any length of time, you feel a sense of injustice about dangerous driving. Cars which pass very close, cars which cut in front of you, cars which put your life in danger. Sometimes the dangerous driving may not contradict any specific part of the highway code; but, you know a slight mistake, could have left you in hospital. It is easy to spot people going through red lights as a bad thing. It is harder to deal with dangerous driving, which invariably goes unpunished.

2 Responses to Why are Cyclists defensive?

  1. Dan H August 11, 2008 at 5:42 pm #

    The odd thing about the “guilt by association” is that it works both ways. If you don’t get regaled with stories about the friend’s poor experience of some cyclist on the street, you instead get, “Oh, you should be careful. One of my friends nearly died when he was cut up by a car last month,” or some such. Surely, that’s the appropriate time for the story-teller to go round all his motorist friends with a bone to pick about “their lot,” but no, it’s the cyclist who gets the bad news, every time.

  2. WestfieldWanderers August 5, 2008 at 4:54 pm #

    Quite agree. It’s not about the bike. It’s not about the car. A road-hog is a road-hog, regardless of what type of vehicle he/she uses.

    There’s some pretty daft pedestrians too, but it’s difficult to allocate them to a “tribe”, ‘cos that’s all of us.

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