July 16, 2021

Department of the Obvious: Cyclists as ‘Hazards’


‘Hazard perception’ has become an integral part of novice driver education and training. Cyclists are often identified as one of many ‘hazards’ to look out for. We speculate that constituting cyclists as ‘hazards’, something that presents a danger or threat, may foster negative attitudes toward cyclists.


This is the part we like: it shows that French post-modernism has made it into something like the Journal of Transport Geography.  

Informed by Michel Foucault’s work on discursive practices, the analysis focused on the ‘road safety’ literature (1900–2017), the changing context in which road safety knowledge has been produced and the implications for the production of road space. This literature is important given the authority of scientific knowledge in western societies and its role in managing and governing populations.

We found a shift in the middle of the twentieth century from drivers being identified as ‘hazards’ to drivers being identified as perceivers of ‘hazards’.


What to do?  Change the words.

While ‘scientific’ studies constitute cyclists as potential threats or sources of harm they lend authority to negative views of cyclists. We suggest ‘traffic participation’ as a more inclusive approach to driver education and training.


Next up: Cycling and Critical Race Theory.

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  1. Foucault is more accurately known as a post-structuralist, not a post-modernist. If you’re looking for the later, try Jean Baudrillard.

  2. Isn’t it just a matter of perspective?

    A hazard is something other than yourself – whether a pothole, a lampost, wayward geese (of which there are far too many), another road user, etc.

    A drunk driver is a hazard to another driver.
    A reckless cyclist is a hazard to another cyclist.

    “Hazard” is a relative term – it is not fixed.

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