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Cars vs Bicycles – The Motorist’s Warped View Actually Reveals the Problem

December 11, 2014

11 December 2014

Three days ago, Danish adventurer Thomas Andersen, gained major media attention by revealing Australia was the worst place to ride a bike: “Australia has wonderful people, but some just don’t like cyclists. Sydney was the only place in the world that people would wind down the window and shout ‘F***ing cyclist!’ It happened about three times, it was quite strange. In Denmark, everyone cycles to work and school. Hating cyclists would be like hating walkers.”

Mr Andersen, who has been cycling around the world for 4 years and done 5000 kms in Australia alone, identified culture and poor infrastructure as reasons behind this horrendous situation. Amazingly, “the motorist”, in their warped way, validates this premise.

Five key grievances were made in an editorial in Melbourne’s major newspaper, the Herald Sun, today. Some are actually genuine. The problem is that the motorist’s fury is poorly directed. The true culprit is decades of government inaction, over zealous nanny state regulations, and an obsession with turning cyclists into “vehicles”.

THE MOTORIST

The road was made for cars. It’s a road that’s slowly being shrunk and chopped up so bike lanes and Lycra-friendly nooks can be carved into parking spaces across the city. As a motorist I don’t mind sharing the road. With other cars. But cyclists often take things too far, and I’m not just talking about their leg grooming habits. Some of the things they do on the road simply drive me mad. So here they are.

1) WHEN YOU TAKE UP A QUARTER OF A LANE YOU MIGHT AS WELL TAKE UP THE WHOLE LANE

Cycling 30cm from the gutter means the cyclist is being responsible and allowing cars to use the whole lane, right? WRONG. The motorist is faced with getting stuck behind the bike or choosing the right time to daringly swerve into the adjacent lane to get around the cyclist and keep traffic moving. If you take up a quarter of the lane, you’re taking up the lane per se.

Answer: Infrastructure. Don’t blame cyclists. This is the key government failure. Without dedicated routes or safe alternatives for cyclists, they are forced onto the busy roads. They have the same right to transport themselves about just like anyone else. Using footpaths is dangerous to both cyclist and pedestrian, and typically illegal unless you’re a child. Even then, once 13, it’s onto the roads in some states. The systemic failure to provide them a suitable means is a national disgrace.

2) DON’T TOUCH MY CAR

Everybody’s stopped at the lights and the cyclist realises that two wheels don’t stand up on their own. Thankfully my car is there to lean on! No need to ask, just lean on the car and smudge up that duco. What would happen if a pedestrian leaned against a bike at the lights? The cyclist would tell them to get f***ed and stop touching their expensive bike. Well, get f***ed and stop touching my expensive car. But try telling that to a cyclist. They squirt you with their $60 water bottle and hit the bonnet with an open palm. There’s no recourse for the motorist, since even the slightest nudge from a real vehicle can kill somebody on a 20kg metal frame wearing almost nothing.

Answer: Such a puerile action from both sides, if this is even a major issue. While there’s no doubt cases of lycra louts about, the reaction here reveals the visceral hatred towards cyclists more than anything. For ordinary riders, they can be caught by a sudden late lane change by a car, so after braking hard and taking evasive action, uses the closest thing possible to not lose balance and fall. Yes, that might be your car. It’s better than it scratched by a falling bike.

3) YOU CAN SEE ME INDICATING SO WHY PULL UP NEXT TO ME?

I intend to turn left at the lights and the cyclist intends to go straight ahead. So why pull up on my left side where I can’t see you, then get all upset when I nearly run you over? The cyclist knows they can’t pull away from the lights in time. They just expect everyone to wait for them. Please wait behind my car. But don’t touch it.

Answer: The law says cyclists are allowed to go forward. In fact, “bicycle boxes” are often painted onto roads in front of cars to encourage cyclists forward and wait there. The idea is that the motorist can clearly see the cyclist. Of course, that means cyclists are also blocking motorists that want to go straight. Yes, infuriating if you cop a sequence of this, much like stuck behind a tram. Personally, if I see a left-turner, I sit behind them. It’s a dopey law that’s rarely seen in mature cycling countries. Note, that even with a dedicated bike lane, the cyclist is still to your left. Patience is the answer and a cyclist obviously needs to not stop in the blind spot of a motorist.

4) YOU WANT ROAD? OBEY ROAD LAWS

Motorists pay through the nose for annual registration and are subjected to all sorts of increasingly absurd measures to keep an eye on our speed and behaviour, including a new super camera than can spot a numberplate from 700m away. All cyclists have to do is wear a helmet, and often not even that is adhered to. And red lights? Nah, don’t worry about those red lights. Just have a gander around and mosey on through. What’s the worst that can happen? A red light camera will log the rego plate? No rego plate! Ha ha. Outrage. If I took the same attitude to intersections, I’d be in front of a magistrate faster than Silvio Berlusconi at schoolies. If you want to be on the road, obey the law. And a bike registration system isn’t a bad idea either.

Answer: Laws are obeyed most of the time by everyone. In fact, there’s probably a higher adherence by cyclists than by motorists, of whom 95% admit to speeding and there’s rampant use of mobile phones while driving. These are truly dangerous actions that put others at harm, whereas the cyclist has their own safety as key deterrent to reckless behaviour. Only need to check police statistics to see that plenty of cyclists are fined.

Registration is the most flawed idea ever pushed. Most roads that cyclists use are funded by everyone, typically rates and taxes to local councils. Car rego and fuel taxes go into major highways and freeways, or to maintenance, of which motor vehicles are nearly 100% responsible for the deterioration. Even then, motorists only fund about 50% of all road expenditure. Registering cyclists will only make them feel more entitled to the roads, demanding a lane, as all “vehicles” get. That will mean 30kph speed limits on single lane roads and cycling only lanes elsewhere. Can you live with that?

Things like helmet laws, while good intentioned, only serve to be an extra law for a cyclist to break. They are rarely seen outside Australia, and have been integral in the depressing plight of the nation’s cycling infrastructure, safety and culture. The main law registration would serve is the act of being registered itself. It won’t make the streets wider or cyclists less inconvenient, or cyclists more obedient as police can readily stop them already. There should be less laws overall, with existing ones and penalties tailored to cyclists specifically. Nanny state Australia has it fundamentally wrong.

5) YOU GO SLOWER THAN CARS SO DON’T PRETEND YOU’RE A CAR

I’m turning out of a side street, patiently waiting until the traffic is clear. Finally I get my chance. But wait. There’s a lone cyclist pedalling at 15km/h about 20m up the road. Should I pull out? Maybe I’ll hit them. But, they’re going very slowly, I guess … Well, now it’s too late. You’re slow, so don’t pretend you’re a car. And you’re not Cadel Evans either.

Answer: Idiotic impatience. There could just as easily be a lone car in the gap of clear traffic that stops you. This highlights the pure bigotry of the motorist towards the cyclist than any real issue. Few cyclists pretend to be a car. If they had a choice, they would not be on the road.

Conclusion

The key source of frustration for motorists remains the need to accommodate cyclists, especially on busy roads. Calls for registration and licensing is just petty jealousy and spite by the motorist wanting revenge. It won’t solve the key problem at heart. Only separation will. Bikes and cars don’t mix. Both the cyclist and the motorist agree there. Time to solve the problem properly rather than blaming the victim.

*Tomorrow the cyclist gets their say on the Herald Sun website. No doubt “the cyclist” will be of the lycra-clad road warrior variety, emphasing the second big cultural problem of cycling in Australia.

Sources

Cars vs Bikes: the things cyclists do that make the road hell on earth
(The comments section make the most graphic and poignant reading about the status of cycling in Australia)

Australia the world’s worst place for cyclists

Part 2

Cars vs Cyclists – The Road Cyclist’s Smug View Actually Confirms the Problem 

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From → Cycling Free

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