Recent letters to the Echo re: cyclists show typical confusion and hyperbole about cyclists and their use of the road.
A chief cause of this confusion is a fundamental misunderstanding about the difference between the numerous backpackers, workers, locals and schoolkids — who are often ‘on bikes’ to my horror helmetless, on footpaths and riding in an unpredictable manner — and road cyclists. There is a big difference between people ‘on bikes’ and road cyclists.
Road cyclists are, in general (and much like motorists), law abiding people who wear helmets, are very aware of their vulnerability, and ride in a predictable, safe manner. We’re the ones who usually give hand signals indicating our intentions and give a friendly wave. We don’t ride on footpaths and careen all over the road in a haphazard fashion.
Moreover, we are usually also motorists, so are cognisant of the poor message we send when we ride poorly (unlike motorists who don’t ride, and who are frequently indifferent about the risks of speeding, turning without indicating, running red lights and indiscriminately opening doors into the paths of cyclists). We also pay taxes whether through car registration and petrol tax, income tax and GST, and therefore already adequately contribute to general revenue.
Recent suggestions in the letters section show typically poor understanding of these issues, and of issues surrounding safe driving, safe cycling and registration. Registration is an interesting one. It’s usually brought up by motorists frustrated at a lack of policing (of helmets for instance), or frustration at poor behaviour of cyclists. It’s an interesting topic and I guess I would point to an example of a truck running me off the road recently, whilst almost having a head-on collision with a car over a road crest. How does his truck registration prevent stupid road use? It doesn’t.
Additionally, recalling the rules and conditions of 55 years ago is not helpful nor reflective of the conditions today, where we have a huge increase in cyclists on the road and a need for an accommodating and pragmatic infrastructure and road-use policy that provides for motorists and non-motorists alike.
Motorists also comment about the unfairness of cycling receiving funding, but this (again, typically) ignores the huge subsidies most motorists and road projects receive from taxpayers, usually at the expense of public transport and cycling (more efficient and environmentally friendly transport).
At the end of the day, the perceived (real or otherwise) transgressions of cyclists ignore bigger issues around the mix of transport use, and how we can create a safe environment to cater for motorists, cyclists, pedestrians and everyone in between.
Having moved from Melbourne, where I commuted by bike in rain, hail and shine for 10 years (risking life and limb and taking load off the roads and public transport system), and now spending a lot of time driving in the country, and commuting by bike once a week to Byron (110km return), I can say that motorists in this area are generally much more accommodating and friendly toward cyclists.
I would say please try and avoid painting everyone with the same brush, just because of the poor behaviour of a few (just as you would like cyclists not to tar all motorists with the same brush). And remember, more cyclists and bicycles equals less cars on the road creating congestion, so it’s not all bad.
Tim Marsh, Meerschaum Vale