Language about cyclists in article was appalling
ON WEDNESDAY, an article was published in the Motors section of the Irish Independent discussing the issue of cyclists breaking red lights. This article, written by an anonymous RSA expert, compares cyclists to “busy bees” throughout the article, and at one point, describes us as “swarming masses”.
Dublin cyclists are a thick-skinned bunch, and we’re well used to abuse on the road. But the danger of rhetoric like this coming from the RSA is that it will legitimise dangerous preconceptions held by a small minority of drivers.
In September, there were three separate incidents caught on camera in which taxi drivers used their vehicles as weapons against three different cyclists.
In each case, the driver swerved at the cyclist numerous times trying to knock him down or cause him to crash. On the third occasion, the driver chased the cyclist to the wrong side of the road, nearly causing a head-on collision with another car in the process. These three incidents happened within a month of each other, all in Dublin city, but the silence from the RSA was deafening.
The vast majority of people would never dream of chasing and assaulting someone with a knife or some other deadly weapon. Yet put them behind the wheel of a car, and put a cyclist in front of them, and a few people are suddenly comfortable with assaulting a complete stranger with potentially lethal force. This is what happens when you dehumanise cyclists, when you encourage certain drivers to view us not as human beings, but as “swarming masses”.
While the language of the article was appalling, its content was little better, and should seriously call into question the knowledge of this RSA ‘expert’.
The writer doesn’t offer any data to back up the claims being made, instead opting for a series of personal anecdotes. Not mentioned in the article is the fact that the vast majority (88pc) of cyclists do not break red lights, according to the RSA’s own research. Nor does the writer tell the reader that red light cameras installed in the city centre showed that 77.1pc of red-light jumpers were in cars, vans, or taxis, while just 12pc were on bicycles. And these data don’t even include drivers who accelerate into amber lights. When you compare these numbers to the modal shares for the different vehicles types, it becomes clear that drivers break red lights at least at the same rate as cyclists.
This ultimately begs the question, why has this RSA expert never written an incendiary, inaccurate, and frankly dangerous article like this about the behaviour of drivers?
Lest we forget, drivers, not cyclists, are the ones who have the capacity to kill with ease on our roads. Arran Bolger
Clonskeagh, Dublin 14