Who is the most confident on Queensland roads?

Study tests whether cyclists are more confident than motorists.

Researchers at the Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety-Queensland (CARRS-Q) have found cyclists are more confident on the road than motorists.

QUT Professor Narelle Haworth said the results, which came from a survey of 595 people, compared driver’s licence holders who regularly cycled to those who did not cycle and asked them to assess their own skills, confidence and risk in various traffic scenarios.

“We found that cyclists overall were more confident, less inattentive and more in favour of stricter laws,” Prof. Haworth said.

“Cyclists feel highly vulnerable in traffic but seem to resolve the cognitive dissonance of continuing to engage in such risky activities by downplaying the consequences of crashes, by demanding more enforcement and rules, and by having more confidence in their road and cycling skills.”

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Researchers from CARRS-Q were surprised by the discovery as Australia has one of the lowest rates of cycling in the world.

CARRS-Q researcher Wanda Griffin said the study also found women perceived higher risks of being on the road, regardless of their method of transport, than men and were generally more risk-averse.

“Like in other low-cycling countries, Australian non-cyclists – and women in particular – perceive cycling to be extremely risky,” Ms Griffin said.

“For many potential cyclists, these perceived risks are a big reason why they don’t ride.

“But, importantly, we found that female drivers thought being on the road was just as risky as female cyclists. So, avoiding cycling did not make them feel any safer.

“Being able to better understand the factors influencing these perceived risks means being able to counter them and get more people riding bikes and reaping the health benefits.”

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The findings come after a joint 2019 study between CARRS-Q and University of Melbourne’s School of Psychological Sciences found more than half of all motorist did not view cyclists as human.

The study, Dehumanisation of cyclists predicts self-reported aggressive behaviour toward them, revealed 17% of drivers had used their car to deliberately block a cyclist, 11% of drivers had deliberately driven close to a cyclist and 9% of drivers had used their car to cut off a cyclist.

Prof. Haworth, who co-authored the 2019 study, said the strained relationship between motorists and cyclists was so extreme that some cyclists had taken matters into their own hands and many organisations avoided using the word “cyclist” due to negative connotations.

“Last year, I saw a cyclist and on the back of his jersey it said, ‘I am someone’s dad’,” she said. 

“That simple act takes away the dehumanisation aspect and shows that I am like you and if you hit me it will impact my family.

“When I speak to organisations like the Brisbane City Council, they always try to say, ‘bike rider’ as it can denote anyone – a young child, a mother – and not just the lycra-clad male many associate with cyclists.”

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RACQ Manager Motoring Advice Joel Tucker said both motorists and cyclists were afforded equal rights on the road. 

“Under the road rules, bicycle riders and motor vehicle drivers have basically the same rules they must follow and everyone must share the road safely,” Mr Tucker said.

“Roads were built for people – whatever mode of transport people choose to use to get from A to B.

“It’s about the person on the bike, the person in the car and remembering the other person has family and friends and is out there doing the same as you – trying to get around safely.”

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