Screenshot: Monash University

About two years ago, I was biking in lower Manhattan when I pulled up to a red light and came to a stop next to the passenger’s side of a black Mercedes sedan. As I waited for the light to turn, the driver rolled down the passenger window, leaned towards me, and in the quietest voice possible such that I could still hear him amidst the city noise, calmly asserted, “If you touch my car, I will fucking kill you.”

So it is no surprise, to me at least, that researchers have found some drivers do not view cyclists as fully human, at least in Australia. The views of Mercedes-driving Manhattanites remain un-researched. 

The study, conducted by researchers at Monash University, gave 442 respondents a “scale” of cockroach-to-human on which to rate cyclists. Why did the researchers choose this scale? As Dr. Alexa Delbosc, the lead author, told phys.org, “the insect-human scale [above] was designed for the study because of the many informal slurs against cyclists comparing them to ‘cockroaches’ or ‘mosquitoes.’”

There was also an ape-to-human scale in the study, but regardless of which was used, researchers found 55 percent of non-cyclists rated cyclists as not fully human.

Furthermore, rating cyclists as non-human corresponded to people reporting prior acts of aggression towards cyclists. More from phys.org:

Acts of aggression towards cyclists were not uncommon, with 17 per cent saying they had used their car to deliberately block a cyclist, 11 per cent had deliberately driven their car close to a cyclist and 9 per cent had used their car to cut off a cyclist.

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Please, do not do this. Any of this. Don’t use your car as a weapon against other people. Do not call people on bicycles “cockroaches.” Do not consider them any less than human. Do not be an asshole. Even if you’re Australian.