A group of experts want people to stop using the word “cyclist” because they believe that the word “dehumanises” people who ride bikes.
It all started with a study, conducted by researchers at Queensland University of Technology and Monash University, which found a connection between the dehumanization of bicycle-riders and aggressive acts toward them.
The Daily Mail reports that QUT professor Narelle Haworth said that the study found that 55 percent of non-cyclist respondents actually said that they consider cyclists to be “not completely human.” As annoying as people on bikes can be when they’re blocking up the road, that’s obviously pretty insane. What’s also insane, though, is what Haworth wants to do about it: Push people to stop using the word “cyclist,” and instead use the much wordier “people on bikes.”
“If we used the term ‘people on bikes,’ instead of ‘cyclists,’ we’re giving a term that is more human-like and less like a species,” Haworth said to Daily Mail Australia.
“We need to spread the idea that those people [cyclists] could be any of us,” Haworth continued. “There is need to grow a culture of mutual respect for people on bikes.”
Haworth also recommended making the infrastructure more bicycle-friendly so that cyclists (whoops, sorry!) wouldn’t have to share the road with vehicles.
Don’t get me wrong: This study found that people are pretty mean to cyclists. One in five drivers surveyed admitted that they had deliberately blocked cyclists on the roads, and one in ten acknowledged that they had actually, purposely used their car to cut a cyclist off. Obviously, this is a huge problem — but the truth is, no longer calling bike-riders “cyclists” wouldn’t do anything to change that.
What’s more, I say this as a former cyclist myself. It’s true: Although I may get irritated when I get stuck behind one now, I can admit that I used to be a cyclist myself. When I lived in Los Angeles after college, I couldn’t afford a car, so my bike was my only mode of transportation. I rode it absolutely everywhere, and that gave me plenty of opportunities to learn just how rude people driving cars can be to people riding bikes. The thing is, though, I have huge doubts that the reason for their rudeness was that the term for me was “cyclist.” I think they were rude because, hey, let’s be honest; having to share the road with some slow-poke cyclist when you’re trying to get somewhere in your car is kind of annoying, and Haworth’s idea won’t change that. Honestly, this is just another example of a push to change words — branded as some kind of truly productive social-justice-activism — that won’t actually change a thing. After all, there’s one thing that a change in terminology can’t change: reality. And the reality is always going to be that most drivers would rather cruise on roads that are free of people riding bikes, no matter what we call them.