Cyclists feel more aware and more confident on the road than car drivers, according to a new study into the attitudes surrounding cycling in Australia.
The research, from Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety-Queensland (CARRS-Q), found cyclists were "more confident, less inattentive and more in favour of stricter road laws" than their car-driving counterparts.
Researchers surveyed 595 licence holders from cities and inner regional areas to assess how they handled various traffic scenarios, as well as their own confidence, perceived skill and opinions about risks.
The respondents were separated into two groups: Those who reported cycling at least once a week (cyclists) and those didn't ride bikes at all, or ride bikes infrequently (drivers).
The survey found that while most cyclists reported feeling vulnerable in traffic, they were able to justify engaging in the risky behaviour thanks to their confidence in their own skills.
"It wasn’t that they were saying it wasn't risky, it was that they were saying they were confident riders, skilful riders, who wanted more enforcement of the rules," CARRS-Q research professor Narelle Haworth told CarAdvice.
The research also found that drivers were aware of their cars' high injury potential in crashes with cyclists.
Interestingly, there was a significant gender divide when it came to attitudes towards cycling, with women perceiving a higher risk to being on the road than men, regardless of whether they were in a car or on a bike.
"Men are almost twice as likely to ride bicycles in Australia than women," Professor Haworth said.
"Women are more cautious or risk averse than men, so when a mode of transport like cycling is optional and is considered risky they will avoid it.
"Women have a general higher level of perception of risk, but driving is almost mandatory to get around and so even though it’s risky, women will still do it."
While this gender divide is consistent with previous research, Prof. Haworth said the divide disappears in cities with "good cycling infrastructure" like Copenhagen.
"We don’t find that difference in places with good infrastructure. If you provide safe places to ride, women will ride," Prof. Haworth said.
With the research, CARRS-Q was seeking to investigate why Australia has one of the lowest rates of cycling in the world, by analysing levels of perceived risk (which does not reflect actual risk).
A 2019 National Cycling Participation Survey conducted by Austroads found that only 10 per cent of women and 17 per cent of men in Australia reported cycling in the previous week.
MORE: Road safety news