Of course I don’t really think that all motorists are idiots. There are smart people who drive and smart people who cycle, and dumb people who drive and dumb people who cycle (it’s probably not worth mentioning that many studies have found that cyclists are disproportionally better educated than the average person, is it?).
Here’s what is behind today’s controversial headline.
Earlier today I was cruising through the responses to a Facebook post from Senator Penny Wright, who was welcoming the new law passed in South Australia that demands motorists to give cyclists 1 metre when passing.
The responses are typical, with a majority of responses from angry motorists. There are many angles we could look at this from, but I have a juicy headline to back up.
Whenever there is a heated debate around cyclist/motorist issues, it seems that motorists are the dumb ones in the relationship, and all you have to do is scroll through the comments that pile up after any cyclist/motorist article or post to prove it. The Penny Wright post is a typical case.
Overwhelmingly, pro-motorist comments are aggressive, cherry pick specific events to illustrate a general point, and resort to simple name-calling more often than not. Of course, there are some reasonable responses from motorists, and some fair points made. Most of the time, unfortunately, the arguments made are something resembling, “bloody cyclists!”, “make them pay rego!”, “I’ll respect them when they respect the road rules”, “I saw a cyclist doing illegal action X!”, or simply calling for motorists to actually hit cyclists with their vehicles.
The responses from cyclists usually includes facts and reason, and lack threats and calls for cars to be banished from the roads. I know some aren’t, however, overall, there is usually a qualitative difference between their responses.
Why is the typical response from motorists primarily emotionally based, void of reason, and absent of facts (correct ones)?
Why is there such a difference in the quality of responses? Is it really that angry, mouthy motorists are less intelligent than the cyclists who are engaged in the debate? Could it be that the motorists that aren’t against cycling are more intelligent but under represented (or absent) in the debate?
I really don’t know, and it would take a rather large study to gather a large enough pool of data to examine for the quality of responses, but I bet it would be interesting.
I realize that this is purely anecdotal, biased, and probably makes me look a little bad, but I would be willing to be that it’s also true to some degree: that the motorists most engaged in the public debate are less intelligent than the cyclists who are engaged – or at least not as good at constructing and presenting a good argument.
If that is the case, as I have said before, we need to be more creative in how we deal with the whole cycling issue, because debating with numbskulls doesn’t get you anywhere. Maybe we need to make a concerted effort to disengage from the cheap tactics used by popular media and ignore the name calling from offended motorists so as not to give them any satisfaction (or fuel), and find other avenues to voice our responses and concerns.
Header image: source