This post aims to explain why cyclists are often perceived as entitled road users. Being a driver and a cyclist, I will try to be as objective as possible.
First, let’s start with the definition of entitlement.
Entitlement is the belief that one deserves certain privileges simply for existing/participating and without continuously investing personal effort to earn them.
What Is a Cyclist Entitled To?
The list below contains a code of conduct necessary to keep cyclists safe. Thus, cyclists are entitled to it for safety reasons.
One of the biggest problems that cyclists encounter on the road is the lack of respect from motorists.
As a cyclist, I’ve faced this issue multiple times. I’m often cut off regardless of what the traffic signs say. I’ve been in multiple situations when I have to let a line of cars pass even though I am the one that should go first according to the traffic laws.
At the end of the day, many motorists do not see bicycles as equal. They consider cycling a sign of low economic status.
The fragility of bicycles doesn’t help either because respect often boils down to force and power. And since motorists have more of those, they feel superior.
This could be easily understood if one imagines a tank on the street. The tank will be treated differently because it can flatten a car to the ground.
Well, cars can do the same to bicycles.
It depends on the country, but in most cases, the law says that a car should keep at least a 1.5m distance from cyclists on the road.
This is necessary for the following reasons:
- Avoid hitting cyclists
- Give cyclists enough room to maneuver
- Prevent the loss of equilibrium due to air movement caused by a passing vehicle
Free Bike Lanes
Motorized vehicles should not park or drive on bike lanes. Pedestrians should respect bike lanes too.
Transporting the Bike on Public Transport
If the law allows the transportation of a bicycle on public transport (buses, metro…etc.), then cyclists should have the right to use that service without being criticized.
When Does a Cyclist Become Too Entitled?
If a cyclist expects special behavior outside of the scope above, he/she is too entitled.
The most common expression of “cyclist’s entitlement” happens when a cyclist violates traffic laws and then expects the rest of the participants to change their behavior for him/her.
Below are a few common examples:
- Many cyclists ignore red lights and pass through traffic by zig-zagging around cars or pedestrians. This is a very dangerous behavior that could lead to serious injuries or death if the rest of the participants do not invest extra effort to protect the cyclist.
- Riding through pedestrians zones (e.g., sidewalks) while expecting pedestrians to make space for you is also an overly entitled behavior that annoys people.
- Riding against traffic – a very common phenomenon that annoys even cyclists themselves when it’s done to them.
- Riding two abreast – cyclists should ride in a single file to minimize the space that they occupy on the road. Cyclists who ride next to each other create traffic jams.
- Riding without lights at night (a.k.a. invisible mode) is another instance when cyclists display unhealthy entitlement.
- Riding behind large vehicles – some extreme cyclists get behind a large vehicle like a truck to get the advantage of the reduced drag. This technique allows cyclists to reach the speed of motorized vehicles. However, this tactic creates a risky situation for the driver and the cyclist. If the driver has to brake suddenly, the cyclist may fail to stop and hit the rear of the vehicle. The outcome could be death.
In short, a cyclist is overly entitled when they break the laws while expecting special treatment from the rest of the participants simply for being on a bike.
What Makes Cyclists Behave in an Overly-entitled manner?
A Sense of Superiority
As people, we bring our egos wherever we go. This leads to frequent fights for superiority.
Some cyclists see drivers and pedestrians as individuals using an inferior form of transportation. Pedestrians are losing time due to the lack of efficiency whereas drivers of motorized vehicles are pointlessly sitting in traffic while polluting the city.
Meanwhile, cycling offers speed and efficiency without pollution. On top of that, cycling has a large cardio element that’s beneficial for one’s health.
An entitled cyclist often thinks as follows:
“The losers in the cages (cars) create nothing but pollution while getting fat in the process. Because of them, we have traffic jams, severe accidents and visible air. People like me, on the other hand, choose to live differently. We’re saving the planet and deserve respect for it.”
While there’s truth to this statement, it doesn’t give a cyclist the right to disobey traffic laws and expect others to tolerate it.
Cycling raises one’s adrenaline levels. When your adrenaline is high, you’re more likely to take risks. Risky behavior from cyclists annoys drivers and makes cyclists look bad.
Smaller Chances of Injuring a Stranger
A person is more likely to take risks when they don’t endanger other people. An accident between a bike and a car always ends up in favor of the car. Regardless of how strong your bike is, a small hit from a motorized vehicle will break it.
Of course, a cyclist can injure a pedestrian, but a lethal end is unlikely (although not impossible) because bicycles are slow and the most likely point of contact is the front tire which is a lot less forgiving than the bumper of a car.
If the collision is between a cyclist and an adult, the hit will be around the leg/hip area and thus the injury is less likely to be lethal. The most vulnerable people are the elderly (weak bones) and children (kids are small and the cyclist may hit them in the head).
The fact that a cyclist is less likely to hurt another person actually encourages reckless behavior that would appear entitled on the surface.
Slipping Through The Law
Since cyclists represent a small portion of the traffic participants and are a lot less likely to hurt someone, law enforcement doesn’t punish them with large fines.
Also, bicycles do not have license plates and when you add the helmet and the glasses, a cyclist becomes unrecognizable in a video recording.
Look At My Skills
Another reason why cyclists often create dangerous situations is the need to show their cycling skills and decision-making.
Summary: What You Need To Know
- Cyclists often break traffic laws and behave like they own the road. As a consequence, drivers of motorized vehicles label cyclists as “entitled pricks” who expect special treatment simply for being on two wheels connected via hollow tubes.
- Simultaneously, cyclists are often disrespected due to the inherent weakness of their machine, and very often cars, motorcycles and buses do not treat bicycles as legit vehicles. This drives an even bigger wedge between cyclists and drivers and encourages hatred.
- Drivers of motorized vehicles see cyclists as “losers” who can’t afford a better form of transportation while cyclists consider car drivers lazy people who destroy the planet and make cities awful to live in. As a result, both groups develop a sense of superiority that dictates road behavior.