Have you ever typed ‘cyclists’ into a Twitter search bar seeking cycling news? First of all, if you haven’t already, we don’t recommend it, especially not if you want to continue with faith in humanity.
If you do choose too, being armed with facts or examples to counter the usual “you don’t pay tax” or “you run red lights” arguments probably won’t help you, according to one hypothesis.
According to something called the ‘Affect Heuristic’, people’s tendency to argue against something, even when presented with facts showing the contrary, is an almost hard-wired function of the human brain. Put simply, it’s easier for the brain to reach an emotional conclusion – based on fear, pleasure or surprise – than a logical one, with the latter often requiring problem solving research, as opposed to an anecdote.
As put by Daniel Kahneman, a Nobel Memorial Prize-winning behaviourist; when buying insurance a company may offer two things that are the same, but badged differently. People have been asked “how much would you pay for an insurance policy in case of death for any reason”. They were then asked the same question, but this time the cause of death is a terrorist attack. The value of the second policy ranked higher, despite the same outcome. Emotional reaction, based on fear, won over, with little or no pause for logic.
Could that theory apply to cycle hate? I tried to find out. Reluctantly putting myself in the firing line earlier this month, it turns out the theory bears fruit rather quickly.
Not one for an argument, especially with the ‘close window’ button so close, I put myself in the shoes of cycling rights advocates such as @cyclingmikey for the morning. The conclusion after just a few hours of ‘chatting’ with keyboard warriors? It’s terrifying. Rarely can you offer evidence contrary to anecdotes without being given a tirade of ‘f’s and ‘c’s in return.
Cycling Mikey is also the owner of an even more terrifying YouTube channel which illustrates what any regular cyclist will already know; this isn’t just a problem on the internet.
There have, however, been cases where the internet has proved a valuable record in cases where incidents have occured. Think Emma Way.
With the courts sytem in the UK seemingly favouring the motorist, again regardless of evidence, is it all worth it though?