Like this guy you will no doubt have encountered more and more people on bicycles in our towns while driving around. All seem to behave in a different way. Some are meek, cycling near the kerb, allowing drivers free passage, while some seem defiant, riding in the middle of the lane, glancing back as if to challenge the driver behind them, some are law abiding and some break the law, jumping lights and riding on and off pavements. Clearly as a driver owning the roads he prefers the meek law abiding ones that stick to the gutter, stay in the cycle lanes, wear helmets in case he hits them and behave themselves. Like him you probably prefer cyclists to keep out of your way and treat you with the respect you deserve as a driver .
So why do they all ride so differently? And how can we all get cyclists to treat drivers with the respect we deserve? Or even give up cycling in favor of more civilised driving. Recently we’ve been studying the psychology of personal constructs (PCP) which may hold the answer. This theory suggests that the way we view (construe) the world will dictate our behaviour and changing how someone construes things can lead to change in behaviour. We continually test our theory of things and (may) modify behaviour as we experiment. Sometimes, when we transition from a construct to another we may kick back and be hostile to the new way of seeing things, we may shuttle back and forth between the new way of seeing things and the old, we may have a fragmented view and behave in a way that contradicts how we see things. Also some people are more able to change their construct than others whose view may be more rigid.
So how do different cyclists view drivers? If, for example, a cyclists also enjoys driving, then the chances are that they can empathise with drivers wishing to get past so keep out the way, tuck into the kerb and pull in when we wish to pass on narrow roads. Or if a cyclists thinks drivers and cars are bad, pollute, are noisy and drivers are dangerous, careless and sloppy, they think that people shouldn’t drive or use the roads when the driver could walk or cycle, they may ride defiantly, sticking to the middle of the lane, overtaking cars in queues (as if they are on a motorbike), not use the cycle lanes provided, refuse to wear helmets expecting the drivers to take care not to hit them, etc. It’s the behaviour of these latter menaces we need to change, and understanding their construing of drivers can help this change. (Though HGV some may kick back and be hostile and become more defiant initially).
How can we change how people ride bikes? Education: There are ways that each individual driver can change the a person cycles through educating them. If you encounter a rider in your way and you just wait patiently behind them until there is room to overtake chances are that you validate their belief that they have a right to ride that way, instead ride close them them revving your engine and hoot aggressively, try and squeeze past and swerve into them to teach them a lesson and roll down your window and tell them to “Put your fucking mouth shut” some get hostile if you do this so try and get away before they smash your window with their lock, or just knock them down). The more drivers that do this the quicker they will learn who owns the road! We also think that there is a roll for compulsory cycling proficiency testing teaching them to stay as far left as possible, -see below for the FLAP law idea. Images of people on bicycles in the middle of the lane should be banned. There should be ‘Think car!’ campaigns reminding them of their duty to keep out of the way of drivers at all times.
Enforcement The Law is a handy tool to help people change how they view things and behave. If helmets were compulsory fewer people would cycle which would be good. Bikes should have license plates, pay road tax, get bike MOTs and be insured. The law should also make them stick to their cycle lanes and, like the FRAP (Far right As Possible) law in some US states, we should have a FLAP law in the UK. Any cyclists riding on pavements or jumping lights should be jailed. This will soon change their behaviour.
Engineering This one is a no brainer and many cyclists will agree with us that cyclists should only be allowed to ride on segregated bike lanes taking them off our roads completely. We don’t mind investing in this space for cycling so long as they are banned from using roads with cars. It’s for their own good as well as drivers. If we put into place these three Es then cyclists will change their arrogant ways, give up cycling or keep to the left and ride in their cycle lanes so drivers will not have to tolerate their defiant behaviour and traffic will move more smoothly as more people give up 2-wheels and take to 4-wheels.