Road Wars and Cyclist Intimidation

As lockdown hit, and then hit again, and then again … everyone had much more time on their hands to take up new hobbies or revisit old ones. This helped contribute to what seemed to have been a mass cycling boom during the pandemic, with cycling levels rising by up to 300% on some days.

To maintain this, and as part of the government initiative to encourage people to live a more healthy and active lifestyle it was announced that there are plans to pled £2 billion towards new cycling and walking infrastructures across the UK. However, this doesn’t seem to be encouraging people to take up cycling as cycling levels are now on the decline.  

Who owns the road?

Motorists often experience what we’d like to call road entitlement – where they assume they are the superior road user, often exclaiming to cyclists ‘’you don’t belong on the road’’. This sense of road entitlement usually causes motorists to use tactics such as trailing closely behind cyclists, verbal abuse and overtaking cyclists too fast and too close for comfort to intimidate those on their bikes.

A survey conducted by Jorvik found that 41% of cyclists found these intimidation tactics the most annoying thing when out cycling. Although they are extremely annoying, they also make cycling seem a lot more dangerous than it should be and as a result can discourage people from taking up cycling. However, with less motorists on the road during lockdown cycling levels increased dramatically.

Does this not show that cyclists feel safer on the roads with less motorists?

Cyclist fatalities on the rise…

Although during lockdown there were more cyclists out and less motorists, 2020 saw a 40% rise in the number of cyclists killed on the roads. With traffic levels down by 21.3%, it is surprising that the number of cyclists fatalities had increased so much during 2020. Following the release of these figures, Cycling UK raised concerns that although there were fewer people driving, police reports are showing an increase in dangerous driving during and after lockdown. Unfortunately, as a result cyclists are becoming victims in more and more road traffic accidents.

Who’s the culprit?

Many studies have previously found that male motorists are the usual culprits of aggressive or intimidating behaviour on the roads, but Jorvik’s study also found that male cyclists are also the most angered by these cyclist intimidation tactics.

Does this mean the motorist vs. cyclist road war is just another testosterone fuelled rivalry?

The long-standing conflict between motorist and cyclist is therefore not only a result of both parties disregarding road laws but is also another way for male motorists to exert power as some kind of masculinity performance.  

What can we take from this?

A lot of motorists don’t understand how intimidating cars can be to cyclist as many of them have never been in this position. Many people, particularly women, are too scared to take up cycling because of possibly encountering aggressive or intimidating drivers. They’re not wrong! As the cyclist vs. motorist rivalry continues, dangerous driving rises and the number of cyclist fatalities  increases, it’s no surprise cycling levels are on the decline as life and traffic levels return to normal.

Author: Editorial Team

Share This Post On