“Cyclists are always so aggressive and angry.” This is a statement that I see regularly in the media.
Why have bicycle riders come to be stereotyped in this way? You would think, given that cyclists are exercising outdoors doing a pursuit that they love, they would be happy and carefree.
I have a theory, and it is based in the fight or flight response -– see Wikipedia for an introduction.
The fight or flight response is a physiological reaction that was hardwired into our brains and bodies in prehistoric times. When facing danger, the body automatically primes itself to either run away, or stand its ground and fight. This response is very evident in the way that we, as humans, operate today.
When a cyclist is faced with two tonnes of metal in close proximity to them, often every few seconds for the duration of their ride, the fight or flight response will occur.
One response is to get angry and aggressive, in other words, to fight. Take away the threat to cyclists’ lives every time a vehicle approaches or passes, and bicycle riders are much more likely to be friendly and accommodating.
The flight response can also be used to explain the way cyclists behave in traffic. Yes, they are weaving through the traffic; it is hardwired into their brains to escape their aggressors!
If you want cyclists to change the way they behave, governments need to do a better job of separating vehicles from bicycles. Vehicles, the ‘aggressors’, are always going to prompt a fight or flight response in cyclists, it is hardwired into humans’ brains!