Why All Cyclists Aren't Jerks

While Jim Saska admits that he's a jerk on his bicycle, he argues that the general perception among drivers that all cyclists are maniacs is not supported by statistics, and is instead a function of emotion [language warning].
September 25, 2012, 6am PDT | Michael Dudley
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Saska points out that, while rates for cycling as a mode of transportation are increasing and fatality rates are dropping, this hasn't prevented a lot of drivers from assuming that all cyclists are law-breaking idiots. The reason, he argues, has a lot more to do with fallacious thinking based on our emotional reactions than reality:

"Despite...statistics, lots of drivers assume all people on bikes are ***holes like me. In doing so, these motorists are making an inductive fallacy...skewed by what behavioral economists call the affect heuristic, which is a fancy way of saying that people make judgments by consulting their emotions instead of logic.  When our emotions get involved, we jump to pre-existing conclusions instead of exerting the mental effort to think of a bespoke answer. The affect heuristic is compounded by the idea of negativity dominance: events stand out more than good ones. This causes you to overestimate both the amount and the severity of upsetting events, like almost getting some dirty hipster's blood on your windshield.

Moreover, bicycling as a primary means of transportation is a foreign concept to many drivers, making them more sensitive to perceived differences between themselves and cyclists. People do this all the time, making false connections between distinguishing characteristics like geography, race, and religion and people's qualities as human beings. Facts and logical arguments that do not conform to the emotional conclusion are discounted or disregarded."

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Published on Monday, September 24, 2012 in Slate.com
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