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

December 12, 2014

12 December 2014

Yesterday it was the motorist’s view in Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper in the “Cars vs Bikes” war. Today it’s the cyclist’s view. Or is it? As predicted in yesterday’s conclusion, it’s the lycra-clad road warrior that is speaking on behalf of cyclists, emphasising the second major cultural problem of cycling in Australia: it’s dominated by Cadel Evans wannabes. The first cultural problem was the hatred towards cycling. Both problems are intrinsically linked, fuelling each other. Voiceless is the harmless recreational, commuter and utility cyclist that simply wants to get themselves about in the safest possible manner, is the safest and least obtrusive cyclist, yet is lumped with the snot-ejecting, banana-munching road cyclist.

Most of the grievances of the cyclist are predicated on the simple legal entitlement to be on the roads and screw any motorist that believes otherwise. As discussed yesterday, this entitlement has been propagated by decades of government inaction on decent cycling infrastructure and telling cyclists, yes, you are vehicles, you have every right to be there, and we’ll even fine you to the level of a motorist as proof. As for the regular rider, helmets will make you safe, jacking up fines and adding more ridiculous laws will earn respect, and slogans like “share the road” will curtail the danger of the automobile.

Since “the cyclist” involved here is really the sporting “road cyclist”, that’s the term that will be used from now on.


OK, so there are probably three people on the planet who look good in top to toe Lycra, or with their right sock tucked into their jeans. That doesn’t give motorists the authority to bully cyclists off our roads. I’m pretty sure that Australian roads were originally built for horses, carriages, drovers and penny farthings. Cars came much, much later. But you’d never know that the way drivers carry on about sharing the roads with cyclists.


Whether you like it or not, bicycles are allowed on the road. It’s the law. And don’t tell us there are plenty of bike paths we should be using. Have you actually tried to ride a bike down any of these? Kids on scooters, tourists meandering like Brown’s cows, joggers, wheelchairs, dogs, prams, rollerbladers … the list of obstacles is endless, particularly along The Esplanade and Beach Rd. The paths are great for a recreational ride with small kids or a rickshaw ride with your nanna but useless for those cycling for exercise — you know that thing that keeps us fit and healthy and goes a long way to stopping us becoming the world’s fattest and sickest, clogging up the hospitals and costing us all money. And P.S. if you’re on Beach Rd or Yarra Blvd, there’s a chance that cyclist may very well be Cadel Evans or Simon Gerrans or another world champion.

Answer: As with the grievances of the motorist, the key grievance by the cyclist has the same origin: poor infrastructure. Yes, the few paths about are dangerous. Most are “shared paths” with pedestrians, are narrow and winding, and dangerous to all users. The first time I tried to use the Gardiners Creek path, which happened to be at night, I ended up with a broken collarbone and wrist after somersaulting down an embankment (under the High St Bridge in Glen Iris, heading south, for those familiar). Even for regular riders, they can be dangerous. So what choice a road cyclist than to use the roads?


What problem is this solving? Yes, it might catch a few cyclists running red lights but at what price to the state (imagine the VicRoads budget blowout to set up an entire department to administer the registration process). Yes there are idiots on bikes, just as there are idiots driving cars, but law-breaking riders are not the issue here. Registration or licensing may be popular dinner party conversation but it’s not very practical and it’s not a solution. The problem is cars killing cyclists, not the other way around.

Answer: As stated yesterday, registration is just a petty form of revenge by the motorist. It will solve none of the problems that cause the frustration, it’s cost prohibitive, impractical and, of the type proposed with number plates and a yearly fee, unprecedented anywhere in the world. Of course, that wouldn’t stop idiotic Australia from trying. Everything else is backwards compared to mature cycling cultures.


Is there a fire at your house, a national emergency that requires your immediate and urgent attendance? Waiting patiently behind a cyclist for a safe time to overtake or make a turn – or whatever – would delay your journey by a few minutes at worst. Instead you could honk your horn, make obscene gestures, yell abuse out the car window and generally make a** of yourself. Yeah, maybe that’s the way to go.

Answer: It’s more the succession of delays that’s the problem. Or, passing a rider, and then again overtaken at the next red light, and that red light was caused by the initial delay behind the cyclist. Add that to the delays already from traffic and whatever, let’s be realistic, it will infuriate most people. Who enjoys delays? Expecting someone to behave differently just because they are in a car is some of the selfish entitlement of road cyclists that peeve motorists. Again, the real problem, is being forced to share space that was never intended for such use.


Going to pose a few questions: Why are you angry about a person on a bike taking up lane space but you couldn’t give a toss about a parked car taking up even more space? Why are you angry about the establishment of bike lanes when you complain about bikes taking up space that you want reserved for cars? Why are you angry about cyclists riding two abreast in pelotons when it’s quicker and safer to overtake a group than a long conga line of single-file riders? Why spread tacks in the shoulder of a road when all that does is force the cyclist into the middle of the road making it even more frustrating for the car driver? Makes no sense.

Answer: Maybe it’s the abuse the road cyclist gives to the motorist? Really, this puerile behaviour all stems from poor cycling conditions in Australia, and therefore this vengeful anti-cycling culture.


So you don’t really agree with bikes being on the road – bloody nuisance. But the law’s the law so guess you’ll have to suck it up. Oh look, here’s one of those “cockroaches” up ahead. They should move over to let you pass, you don’t need to make room, they want to “share” the road then that’s what you’ll do, “share”. What happens next is you overtake so close that the cyclist is forced into the gutter or into the gravel or grass on the roadside, or touches the wheel of his fellow rider or he is momentarily shocked and loses control of the bike, falls off and presto heavy bruising, broken collar bone, or worse into the path of a car behind you. If there’s one small thing a car driver doesn’t do that can have catastrophic consequences it’s not leaving enough room between himself and the cyclist. And while we’re on the subject, that “cockroach” (thanks Derryn Hinch, a dumber more devolved attitude there surely cannot be) is someone’s dad, son, sister, mum, aunty or best mate. Like the campaign says, a metre matters.

Answer: Again, infrastructure. This impossible situation to share roads in such a way never intended is the source of the problem. Ideas like “a metre matters” and “share the roads” are trite slogans only designed to make authorities feel good about themselves. They serve no practical purpose because all human beings are selfish by nature and crave, most of all, freedom. As a law, “a metre matters” is dubious and unenforceable. It’s also detrimental in achieving criminal justice. Just look at dooring. After a strong campaign from the Greens and various cycling groups, dooring was made a serious offence in the state of Victoria with a $1200 fine. Guess what happened when a motorist doored and eventually killed a cyclist? Convicted of dooring and fined $1200! So if a car hits a cyclist from behind, what will be the charge? Failing to keep a metre clearance and a petty fine! There’s already laws for hitting “vehicles” (of which a cyclist apparently is) from behind, so just enforce that, making it 100% responsible on a motorist to keep clear, otherwise it’s negligent assault/manslaughter.


If it wasn’t obvious after the motorist’s view, it certainly is after the road cyclist’s view. Cars and bikes don’t mix. No amount of slogans, excessive regulation and, most of all, enmity will solve the problem. The difficulty will be in achieving it. The best start would be from government and an educational process. They need to stop being afraid of the motoring lobby and remind them that the roads cyclists most commonly use are funded by everybody. There must be a concerted promotional push that cyclists of all types are entitled to move themselves around freely and in safety. There needs to be a campaign that cycling is a distinct, separate type of transport with its own specific needs. An immediate declassification of cyclists as vehicles, with laws and penalties tailored to match, will reinforce that. Most of all, there needs to be an admission of neglect. This will help shift the antipathy against cyclists, and start building the political momentum to finally get cycling moving in this country and end the vitriolic division in our society.


Car vs Bikes: How motorists think they own the roads
(The comments section make the most graphic and poignant reading about the status of cycling in Australia)

Part 1

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


From → Cycling Free

  1. crank permalink

    I was never going to read that on herald sun, so thanks for posting this.

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  1. Cars vs Bicycles – The Motorist’s Warped View Actually Reveals the Problem | The Warrior Factor

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