Image : @space4cyclingbn on twitter

More than 70 per cent of London cyclists are paranoid that other road users are hostile or want to cause them harm, a study has found. And according to psychologists it’s a “normal and understandable response”, given the significant and real threats of urban cycling. 

The study by Royal Holloway University of London and King’s College London, published in Psychiatry Research, surveyed more than 320 regular cyclists in London, and asked how paranoid they were about other road users during a typical journey.

More than 70 per cent reported experiencing short-lived paranoia while cycling, including that drivers were hostile, wanted to upset, wanted to harm or had it in for the cyclist.

“We wanted to see how cyclists felt and how they reacted on their journeys in London,” Royal Holloway’s Dr Lyn Ellett said. 

“We found that paranoia towards other drivers is common when cycling in London, which we view as a normal and understandable response to an urban environment containing significant and very real threat.”

One respondent, for example, said, “I honestly view every driver as if he’s trying to kill me.”

“Normalising the experience of paranoia when cycling is vital, as tragically we know the risk of harm by others is all too real when cycling in London,” Dr Ellett said. 

“We frame paranoia in this context as a normal and understandable response to a high threat urban environment.”

The results would likely be replicated in Australia.

Earlier this month, cyclists in Brisbane, led by Greens councillor Jonathan Sri, staged a “die-in” to protest against unsafe road conditions for riding. 

The protest came following an accident where a 19-year-old cyclist was rammed at the intersection of Vulture and Stanley streets in April, and hospitalised with head injuries.

Mr Sri said the council was failing to prioritise bike safety improvements over vehicle traffic movements.

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  1. Much more needs to be done to ensure road safety for cyclists, especially ongoing investment in bike paths and separated cycling lanes on all roads faster than 20km/h. At the same time, the safety of cyclists themselves should be considered with boosted mandatory regulations for bike use, particularly from sunset to sunrise, lighting is all too often inadequate and should be at least 10 lumens, flashing, visible from >200m away, and mounted on the bike not on moving bags or helmets. Reflective clothing should be encouraged as well to make cyclists much more visible to drivers that may moving at up to 5 times their speed or with rain reducing visibility.