Monday 29 April 2013

Showing 'respect' to motorists?

Something I often encouter is claims that cyclists don't show respect on the roads. This is repeated, parrot style, over and over to the point where it sounds like it might even be true. Repeat the same fallacy often enough, people start believing.

This has got me thinking, what does it actually mean?

I've previously dealt with the 'mutual respect' fallacy, a dangerous myth perpetuated by those whose innate lack of understanding constantly leads them to the flawed concept that the correct position between 'right' and 'wrong' is somewhere in-between. Those who seek consensus between going about your business in a harmless fashion and some other fiction where to do so presents a problem.

But this is different; apparently we don't show enough respect on the roads.

The means by which we should show respect rather escapes me. Do they want us to wait in traffic with them? I mean, would we be showing respect by staying the same place in traffic rather than passing them? So, then we'd be adding to the queue of traffic, and the motorists would take longer to get through each junction, and we'd merely be slowing down our journeys for no gain, for anyone? I'm meant to stand there breathing in their traffic fumes while they wait in traffic out of respect? 

Do they want us to show respect by maybe cycling passively in the gutter? I'm meant to respect them by riding in a way that increases risk to me, again for no real gain for them? Simply put I'm getting to my destination faster than they are; I can move to the edge of the road to make their overtakes faster and closer, and then catch them up at the traffic lights anyway, but then they'll just do it again. I'm not showing disrespect by cycling safely nor am I in any way adversely affecting their journey times.

I suppose I could ride dangerously in the gutter AND wait in traffic, encouraging lots of dangerous overtaking while not getting to my destination. I could do that. Why that would be showing 'respect' I don't know.

How precisely can I ride with 'respect'? I'm not showing disrespect when I use cycle lanes, nor by using the road where the cycle lane is outright dangerous. I'm not being disrespectful when I turn right or left at a junction or pick the lane I actually need to be in. In short, nothing I'm doing is demonstrating a lack of 'respect' for other road users. I'm riding to get where I'm going, I'm not expressing an opinion about drivers as I do so.

Does 'respect' mean I have to get the hell out of your way because you're more important than me? Does 'respect' mean I should be the hell out of your way? Am I meant to show 'respect' by smiling at you? JUST TELL ME WHAT THE FECK YOU WANT WILL YOU?

Ultimately the whole 'respect' thing is a myth - borne from the weird sense of entitlement many motorists have. They want us to 'respect' them by showing subservience - the idea that we're showing disrespect by merely cycling comes from the false idea that we should at all times be beneath them. That they've got an automatic right to more than we have because they're cars and we're bikes. Everything about this tells us whats wrong with our motoring culture - its law of the wild on our roads and the way they see it there's a food chain. And we're meant to be at the bottom.

Hey, motorists, respect has to be earned. Start earning it by understanding that simple fact.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. What they mean by "respect" here is "deference". Motorists are higher in status than cyclists, so if a cyclist fails to show deference to a motorist, this is perceived as a threat to the social order.

  3. They want you to show "respect" in the same way masters expected slaves to "respect" them, by bending and doing everything to their bidding and meeting their expectations. It certainly is not "mutual" at least not from their side.

    Most of the time, it's because cyclists have different lines and behaviour on junctions etc which they have no understanding or appreciation of, and this is something that could change over time for new drivers with including cycling in the school education, and later on in the driving test and is why I think it should be included.

  4. your post reminded me of the famous monty python sketch on class