Cycling safety has become a major concern on South Africa roads, with hundreds of fatal crashes and accidents involving cyclists occuring every year.
In a recent incident one cyclist was killed and others seriously injured when a driver of a white Toyota Tazz ploughed into them in Centurion.
There was an outcry about the incident, which was aggravated by the fact that the driver ran away after the crash.
Despite numerous campaigns to improve cyclist safety on public roads accidents involving cyclists are still common in the country.
Drivers see cyclists as less than human
New research may have an answer as to why drivers are not doing enough to ensure cyclist safety and protect them against accidents.
Australian researchers have found that in many countries attitudes toward cyclists are largely negative.
This is one of the findings published in the research paper titled: Dehumanization of cyclists predicts self-reported aggressive behaviour toward them: A pilot study.
“Public and humorous references to violence against cyclists are not uncommon and a significant minority of cyclists report harassment and aggression,” the study found.
It is hypothesized that these hostile attitudes and behaviours are caused, in part, by the dehumanization of cyclists among some individuals.
Dehumanization refers to any situation where people are seen or treated as if they are less than fully human.
This dehumanization of cyclists was also associated with self-reported aggression toward cyclists.
Fighting aggression towards cyclists
The researchers said it is possible to improve the attitude towards cyclists and through this reduce aggression towards them.
“If we can put a human face to cyclists, we may improve attitudes and reduce aggression directed at on-road cyclists,” the researchers said.
“This could result in a reduction in cyclist road trauma or an increase in public acceptance of cyclists as legitimate road users.”