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Byron Shire
June 1, 2023

The naked bicycle

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Since the annual phenomenon of the naked cycle ride was inflicted on Byron Bay, I have wondered what its purpose was, other than as an opportunity for exhibitionism and as a diversion for bemused onlookers or passersby on a Byron Sunday.

I would ask this question of others; but nobody seemed able to give me a convincing answer. However, The Echo this week supplied me with one: that the ostensible purpose of this display is to focus concern on cyclists; that they be given appropriate consideration by drivers and be noticed.

I have always felt sympathetic to cyclists. My grandfather, suffering from PTSD (it was not called that then, of course) after WWI, was introduced to the Speedwell cycling club, as a way of coping, I suppose. He then took his two sons into the sport. My father had cycled his first one hundred miles through the English countryside by the age of eight. I too rode a bike; though not ambitiously.

But I will say that it is not just the cyclists who need to be noticed. I have found that the bicycle is increasingly a hazard when ridden, as it seems to be so often here, with careless abandon and lack of concern for pedestrians. They are often ridden as though in some circus act. No hands on the handlebars, or they are multi-tasking, for example, using some device as they go. Then they often use no indication that they are approaching a pedestrian from behind, often narrowly missing them. They speed along insouciantly on the pavement. Then there is the relatively new hazard of the electric bike, which can reach totally inappropriate speeds, and I believe should be regulated and have to use the roads. And wear safety helmets, when most seem not to do so.

Another problem I have found is that when crossing the road, one cannot rely on the old children’s kerb drill. This is because so often some cyclists are bowling along on the wrong side of the road and one is lucky indeed not to be skittled, as they say.

Having grizzled the foregoing, of course, I do believe drivers should take notice of and show appropriate care with cyclists. Just as that consideration should be shown to the drivers. For example, not taking up inappropriate amounts of space, falling into a single file when it is necessary. 

I rather admire those who still do cycle in today’s conditions. When my grandfather lay dying in 1969, he told my father, ‘We’ve seen the best of it’. This being a reference to the countryside and road conditions of the 1920s and ’30s. I’m sure he was right.

David Morris, Byron Bay

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