Friday, October 30, 2009

Roads are not for inconsiderate people, regardless of whether they are pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists


In yesterday's Sydney Morning Herald, Miranda Divine writes that Roads are for cars, not Lycra louts. She claims that as a result of last Friday's road rage attack by a cyclist on a bus driver, it is clear that the road is not there to share, but is there exclusively for motorists. She claims that the roads were built for motorists, forgetting that many of Sydney's roads were built for horses and carts. Perhaps we should ban all the cars as well as cyclists from using those roads to ensure that the horses and carts don't have to share them! And if one road rage attack by a cyclist means Miranda claims there is no room for cyclists on the roads, does that mean next time we see a road rage attack by a motorist Miranda will call for all motorists to be banned? Of course not. Why can't we recognise that there are bad road users in all groups, pedestrians, cyclists, motorists.

Having spent a number of years commuting by bike in Sydney I think I'm in a fair position to comment on cycling on Sydney's roads. My experience includes commuting in and around Sydney's inner west and North shore, as well as training on roads in Sydney's North and South. I think that cyclists in Sydney have a particularly bad name, a situation created by a number of factors including:
  1. Sydney's cycling couriers give cyclists in Sydney a bad name. I'm sure other cities see similar cycling behaviour, however Melbourne is not one of them. Generally speaking, Sydney's cycling couriers flaunt road rules, riding through red lights, going the wrong way down one way streets, hopping kerbs as they see fit, just to mention a handful of indiscretions I've observed time and time again. Unfortunately this leads to many motorists thinking that all cyclists ride like that, and should be treated with a corresponding level of respect.
  2. Critical mass is not a productive activity. It is often justified as a protest, but in reality the actions carried out by it give more weight to the arguments of the anti-cycling lobby. Whilst my knowledge of Sydney's critical mass activities dates back several years, I'm sure I'm not alone when suggesting that riding across Sydney harbour bridge, and in doing so causing massive delays to thousands of motorists, does nothing but antagonise the very group of people that cyclists need to work to get along with.
In the particular road rage incident referred to, there are a few points to consider:
  • The cyclist is clearly riding on a road where they are not allowed to. Had he been following the road rules, he would not have been in the dangerous position he found himself in. I liken this to a cyclist riding the wrong way down a one-way street, and complaining that cars were coming at him (or her) on both sides of the road.
  • Was the bus too close to the cyclist? I don't believe so, I think the issue was how quickly the bus moved over as passing. At the 33 second mark in the video, its clear that there is a 1m gap between the bus and the cyclist. However as the bus passes, it moves closer to the cyclist, by the time the bus has passed the cyclist, the gap appears to have halved. There is a genuine question of whether this is an intentional act of aggression by the driver, or similar an error in judgement, possibly caused by mis-judging the speed the cyclist was going.
  • In no way can anyone condone the cyclists actions in escalating the issue to a physical altercation.
Should cyclists be banned? No way. Should idiots of all persuasions be banned? Absolutely. Its a shame the human race includes all sorts.

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