Cyclists are a “hazard,” “untrustworthy,” a “nuisance” and “idiots.” That at least is the impression given by users of the search engine Google.co.uk, with its autocomplete feature adding those words, in that order, to any search beginning “cyclists are … “
After seeing a post on Facebook from Peloton magazine that flagged up the most common autocomplete phrases for “Cyclists are …" on Google.com, we decided to conduct our own research.
We’ve already mentioned the top four results if you are searching about cyclists in general, so we thought we’d look at some other terms – mountain bikers, road cyclists, taxi drivers and motorists on Google.co.uk to see what happened. Here’s what we found.
Mountain bikers are “stupid” or “awesome,” according to the top two results, while road cyclists are “snobs.”
London taxi drivers being “rude,” and motorists “selfish” are the most searched terms for those groups.
It's not all bad news for runners though top results may be "annoying," "jerks" and "weird" but the next one is "good in bed" - that's probably runners searching though, before "slim", "fat" and rather confusingly "slim/fat".
While triathltes may be "annoying", "selfish," "douchebags" they're also "hot" and "tough".
Results vary depending on which country version of Google you are on. In a country with a rich heritage in the sporting side of cycling, Italy, for example, “Ciclisti sono tutti dopati” – "cyclists are all dopers" – is the top result.
Switch to Google in the Netherlands, however, and the top result is transport, rather than sports related. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s “fietsers zijn asociale weggebruikers” – which translates as “cyclists are antisocial road users.”
This article from SEO Blog explains how Google arrives at those autocomplete results, and points out that for some individuals or companies, they can result in reputation management issues, and businesses exist to help weed out those unfavourable phrases.
Type in “Halfords are … “ and among the top results, you will get “rubbish” and crap; for those searching on one clothing brand that polarises opinion, the burning question is, “are Rapha clothes worth the money.”
Just in case you thought Google’s search algorithm is simply a gateway to a sea of negativity, there are search results that turn up positive descriptors of the subject in question.
Taking the Netherlands as an example, the results that follow that one about cyclists being antisocial cast them in an altogether more favourable light.
They are “happier than users of other modes of transport,” “good customers,” and, simply, “welcome.”
Fittingly, there’s a positive result for Lance Armstrong too, who can perhaps take comfort in the fact that he “is still my hero” comes out as the top autocomplete result on a search on his name.
For the record, the most searched terms on Google.com for cyclists were, in descending order, “Untrustworthy,” the charmingly Stateside expression, “douchebags,” “rude” and “a hazard.”
Of course, as any regular road.cc user knows, the only word that really completes the sentence, “Cyclists are … “ is “awesome” – and you can buy our window stickers to proclaim that fact to the world here.
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.