This is a guest post by Lara McPherson. To find out what’s happening in your city subscribe to The Fetch weekly email digests now!
Last year I sold my car and became a full-time bike commuter. Pretty quickly, I wished I’d done it years earlier. I got thinking about what took me so long. Why do we only hear about the negative elements of two-wheeled travel? Rarely do the many positives rate a mention. I think it’s time to set the record straight.
The helmet issue seems to be a pretty popular one in Melbourne, as Australia is one of very few countries to mandate helmets for bike riders – and evidently folks in Melbourne are extremely vain. Many women cite helmets and the resulting hairstyle challenges as a particular detractor for jumping in the saddle. Personally, this doesn’t faze me – the simple low pony has become my go-to bike-ride-‘do. And in the unlikely event that the mandatory helmet laws be repealed I would still never get on a bike without a helmet. I like my brains inside my skull, thank you very much.
Outfit selection is another popular excuse for the ladies and I must admit, bike appropriate attire took a bit of getting used to. I’m self-employed and hence quite flexible when it comes to work wear. But even in my corporate past-life when I was required to suit up daily, the only extra planning required was to leave extra deodorant and a couple of pencil skirts at work to make the daily transition achievable. These days, if I think there is a slight chance of a wardrobe malfunction I make doubly sure I’m wearing respectable knickers.
Other Road Users
Despite the well publicised issues between riders and cars (ahem, Shane Warne), I find most drivers are happy to avoid any potential injuries to bike riders by being sensible and keeping a safe distance. More challenging to navigate are their upright cousins, the pedestrians. In both cases though, any unpleasant encounters can largely be avoided by awareness of the traffic/people around you and a ring of the bike bell or a polite “excuse me”.
Once upon a time, I tended to lug the contents of my office home with me almost every night. With limitations in on-bike storage space I am now pleased to say I leave my work at work. On the rare occasion that I need to cart something that won’t fit on the bike, I use a courier service and save myself a trip.
As a Melbourne local, I understand that the unpredictable weather can be a detractor for some. In my past life as a pedestrian, I was often caught without an umbrella in the case of a sudden downpour, so I consider a slight soaking while riding an even trade – though my bike raincoat is much easier to store than an umbrella. For me, it is not so much the rain as the wild winds that prove challenging, but now I prefer to think of them as an extra opportunity to shape my derriere. As an upside to the city’s sometimes volatile weather patterns, we are spoiled with spectacular sunny mornings and stunning sunsets most days, and it is truly wonderful to be able to savour these on my daily ride. I’ll take a the odd soggy t-shirt any day!
As I alluded to above, enjoying the sights and sounds of Melbourne on my commute has become one of my daily pleasures. Even the occasional smell of a garbage truck, an over-active exhaust or a mouthful of pedestrian’s cigarette smoke aren’t enough to cancel out how great it is to actually breathe in the city every day.
I’m sure many expect that my life in high heels came to a grinding halt the same day my bike commuter life began. I assure you though, the opposite is actually true! One of my favourite things about riding a bike is that it takes you straight from A to B, with bike parking always metres from my destination so I rarely need to walk far at all! This makes it even easier to wear impossibly high heels without looking too ridiculous! Hooray!
Just how great it is to live a life without sitting in a traffic jam cannot be under-estimated. Traffic was (and still is) the absolute bane of my existence. Not only does avoiding it save me huge amounts of time every day, it has also saved my sanity and restored my faith in humanity.
Patience is not one of my virtues. Hence, waiting for trams always seemed a ridiculous waste of time to me. As a bike rider you can go exactly where you want, when you want. No need to worry about when the roads are busy, what time your train leaves, how to plan your route across the city on public transport. Just go. After all, what has patience ever done for me anyway?
While this may be no big surprise to some, getting an average of an extra hour exercise each day with my bike commute has had a huge impact on my health, both physically and mentally. Not only did I lose 10kgs within 6 months, my daily rides provide me with a much needed daily hit of Vitamin D and serves as a great way to plan my day and relax with my own thoughts (while keeping an eye on what’s happening around me). Though don’t get me wrong – no matter how many kilos I lose, I’m still not tempted to deck myself out in lycra. It does no one any favours.
Extra Cash in Your Pocket
Apart from the initial investment in my bike and the rare maintenance cost, bike riding costs nothing. No fuel, no tickets, no fees. Saving approximately $50 a week just in fuel, parking and traffic fines or the same in public transport tickets pretty much means an extra holiday a year. Don’t mind if I do.
The most pleasantly unexpected element of becoming a full time bike commuter is the amazing people I’ve met. Not only the odd person I get chatting to on my rides each day, but those I’ve met through my involvement in Melbourne’s social bike events, which are mostly community driven. Events like Melbourne Bike Fest (a celebration of bike culture), the Melbourne Tweed Ride, and the many relaxed rides by the guys at BikeFun.org serve as a great reminder of just how strong the Melbourne bike community has become.
So, what do you think? For me the balance is very firmly in favour of riding. Granted, there are some small challenges to overcome, but they’re mostly inconsequential. It also tells me that riding my bike has become about much more than just getting too and from work. And that I need to buy some nicer knickers.
Bio: Lara McPherson is a writer, community manager and sustainability advocate. She runs Sustainable Fashion Australia, The Clothing Exchange Melbourne, Melbourne Tweed Ride and Wardrobe Wonderland. She also works on Melbourne Bike Fest, The AceFantastic Adventure Quest and The Spirit of the Black Dress. She and her partner Marcus have recently acquired Curracloe, and plan to turn it into a self sustaining organic produce farm.
Con (at least in Adelaide):
Rural drivers hate you because hundreds of cyclists frequently take over roads that are not made to share between cars and bikes, thereby increasing risk of accidents, and causing massive delays that can increase the duration of a trip by a multiplier of three or four. All of these cyclists are city-dwellers, and therefore do not understand the trouble that they cause throughout communities. In addition, these same roads are utilised for training and by followers of the Tour Down Under; the communities that are forced to divert their driving routes, and plan for days about how to navigate through this enormous obstacle receive NO SHARE OF THE PROFITS that are taken by the State Govt. The city organises this event, and the rural areas that are forced to bend over backwards to accomodate them receive nothing in return.
Don’t you just love those wacky country folk. This one hates cyclists because they inconvenience him for a week a year during the biggest cycling event in Aus that brings millions of dollars and thousands of tourists to the SA economy, but hey, Callum isn’t getting paid; I mean, where’s his money? He deserves it; he lives there. He just expects payment. But he’s not greedy. While us ‘city-dwellers’, we just provide the bulk of the taxation revue that keeps the country afloat while we live in cramped and crowded streets and suburbs. LOL. If I use your reasoning , why don’t I get a share of the profits of every single event that comes to good old Sydney town. I mean, I live here. WHERE’S MY MONEY? Get a grip, share the road and relax a bit – I thought that’s why people liked ‘rural areas’ in the first place?
It’s people like “Callum” that will mow down a cyclist and then get away scott free as the defence “sorry mate I didn’t see you” seems to be perfectly acceptable when it comes to killing a human.
How many cyclists kill people, Callum? Can you put a figure on it. Just this weekend gone by, DOZENS of people were killed by or in cars.
I can’t believe the TDU was a surprise to you, Callum. If it was that painful, why didn’t you get away for the few days it was on? Are you *that* disorganised? Sheesh…
No, the inconvenience is at a peak for that one week. I see near-miss accidents involving cyclists at least once a week EVERY WEEK. And, no, it’s not me wanting the money; it’s the whole damn community. Most of the roads up in the Hills are atrocious. There’s only one arterial road that goes through that’s accessible from my town, at that arterial road is at a standstill most weekends between 10am and 5pm, because cyclists are clogging the road? What’s to stop cyclists cycling around suburban areas, which are far less congested, not set to a speed limit of 80kph, and provide adequate visibility in all directions?
And how the hell do city-dwellers provide the bulk of taxation revenue? Do you pay a premium for living in the city?
The issue is, that cyclists ARE part of vehicular transport. While while holding up motorised traffic may not be polite, it’s certainly not illegal. I do agree that some roads could be made more suitable for cycle traffic, however, that does not preclude them being used for cycling on. The speed limit of 80km/h is exactly that, a maximum limit, not a recommendation, and a vehicle can not be unreasonably holding up traffic if it’s going as fast as it possibly can under the circumstances. If it’s unsafe to pass, then don’t, relax, and factor in potential delays due to cyclists, and in the meantime, lobby your local council to fix the roads so it’s safer for the both of you. Cyclists should do likewise. But til then, the fact is a cyclist has as much right on the road as you do, and getting impatient is only going to (1) get you upset, (2) potentially cause someone to do something rash/illegal, and (3) possibly end up with someone hurt/killed.
@Primal Tuna; That’s great. I find cyclists to be totally disruptive and inappropriate for the roads they ride on, so I’m going to kill them. I think there’s a logical fallacy in there somewhere, just maybe.
Be realistic. A cyclist isn’t going to kill someone by doing 30kph in what is likely a <100kg piece of metal. What they are doing, however, is potentially causing harm to themselves and other cyclists by cycling on roads which are not fit for cycling on; it's pretty damn obvious that these roads aren't appropriate for cyclists, too. They're narrow, they wind around incredibly tightly, visibility is almost non-existant, and the speed limit is 80kph (not that you can do that on that road)
@billdsd No, the roads I am speaking of are in NO WAY fit for cyclists. Do me a favour; go to Google Maps and look up "Gorge Road, SA, 5232". Look at that. Narrow, far too tight, and all the stuff I've mentioned above. It is physically impossible to get around cyclists on that road, as a double-white line is present for the entire 5km stretch that I drive on every day. So, I have to sit on 5-10kph, tripling my journey time, and aggravating drivers, and even the cyclists, who insist that I pass them anyway on a stretch where there is barely any visibility. I was under the impression that I was doing the right thing by not attempting to pass them, but apparently sticking to my side of the road in a double-white area means that I "should not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle on a public right of way." Cyclists drastically increase the risk of accidents. I see a near-miss at least once a week from people who aren't as patient as I am, and choose to floor it across the double-white.
The TDU might be for only one week a year, but that's only when the problem peaks. The rest of the year, the issue is still very present, and very much a problem. I'd have no problem if there was some way to widen the road, but there isn't. One side is a rock face, and the other drops straight down to a river. And no, you might see the tourism dollars, but nobody in my community does. The roads that are used by the city-organised event are not maintained at all pre- or post-TDU, so we just have to put up with the awful infrastructure. The most that's done is a crappy pothole-fill that lasts two weeks at maximum.
@Callum: The roads are for bicyclists as well as motorists; your ignorant delusions notwithstanding.
Bicyclists do not increase the risk of accidents. If you can’t get around a bicyclist safely then you should not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle on a public right of way.
Bicyclists do not cause massive delays. That is pure delusion or dishonesty on your part. If you can’t get around a bicyclist safely then you should not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle on a public right of way.
The Tour Down Under is one week a year and it bring a lot of tourist dollars to the local economy.
So I went to Google maps and plugged in “Gorge Road, SA, 5232” and what did I see? I saw speeds signs of 60 and 45. When I finally got to an 80 it was in a straight section with lots of visibility. I also saw a dashed line for passing in that straight section. Hmmm….
Anybody who would even try to go 80km/h in those narrow winding blind sections should be arrested. I only ride at about 32km/h so it takes me about 9 minutes to 5km. Even if you could legally go 80km/h for the entire 5km, which you can’t, and you couldn’t find a safe place to pass, which you can, you would only be slowed by a factor of 2.5. 32km/h is not even fast. The younger faster cyclists are doing 40km/h or more. The elite riders are cruising at nearly 50km/h.
What would you do if there was a disabled car on the other side of one of those blind curves? Would you just crash into it? I was taught to drive as if I expected to find a disabled vehicle around every blind curve. It was good advice and twice I have actually had it happen in 32 years of driving. Both times, I was going slow enough that I didn’t even have to brake all that hard. A bicyclist moving at 30-40 is a lot easier to avoid than a parked car blocking the whole lane. If you’re paying attention on a winding road like that, you usually see the bikes a few turns before you reach them anyway.
Punch this in: -34.842479,138.811862
That entire stretch is all signed at 80km/h. People frequently get up to 80, and it’s all perfectly legal. Not only that, but the entire winding stretch is double-white. The lack of clarity is my fault; I didn’t quite guide you very well 😛
Also, you haven’t taken into account the fact that the road is covered and shielded by trees, rocks, and all sorts. If you’re paying attention, you’re only likely to occasionally see approaching vehicles sporadically at best.
I went just little west and north of that spot and lo and behold there’s a wide spot with two lanes so that you can easily pass. Every time I get to one of those tight turns I’m seeing 35 signs. I went east and soon ran into a 60 limit sign and another wide spot for passing.
The picture you keep trying to paint is not holding together. Passing points are showing up. Speed limits are not staying at 80. You might have to slow down for a few minutes at most.
Could you be a bit more specific as to that location? Lat-long, etc.? I drive Gorge Rd. every day, and believe me, there are no 35 zones. In fact, the road doesn’t even go down below 80 until you get to the suburbs, and I don’t go down that far. There is nowhere along Gorge Rd that is safe to pass, and I don’t know if Google Maps is out of date, but there are no passing zones on that road anymore. They’ve all been double-whited.
“Cyclists drastically increase the risk of accidents. I see a near-miss at least once a week from people who aren’t as patient as I am, and choose to floor it across the double-white.”
Fairly sure that makes it impatient motorists who are causing accidents, not cyclists.
OK – this is probably going to get me shot down in flames, but it’s my birthday so nya nya nya….
Sydney is fast becoming unbearable as far as transport goes as, I assume is Melbourne. Crap Public Transport, gridlocked roads in the CBD, weather, etc.. So I really do understand the move to two wheeled human-powered transport – unfortunately I live well outside the city so it’s just not practical for me and, although my bike does have a petrol-powered noisemaker (i.e. engine), the lack of cheap parking (even in my building where they have 50 unused spaces they wil not allow anyone to use) makes riding the Goldwing to work impractical too.
Honest time: What really pisses me off about bike riders (and not all of them, just the ignorant minority which seem to be destroying the public perception of cycling) are those inconsiderate cretins (yes, mostly couriers, but not all of them) that;
* Ignore the road rules – lane splitting, ignoring traffic lights, etc.
* Ride on the footpath and expect all pedestrians to get out of their way
* Ride the wrong way down 1 way streets
You get the idea I think. It’s a damn good week where I’m not almost run over by one of these unregistered and unidentifiable morons, or abused by one of them because I *dare* walk on a green pedestrian light and expect them to stop – hence the call for mandatory registration and licencing of bike riders so they may be held to account.
Not unworkable, but will require some serious thought to implement it correctly.
As an aside, we (the pedestrians) won one a few months ago – a friend was walking up Martin Place in Sydney with his wife and a bicycle courier came screaming down towards them, showing no intention of going around them and expecting them to move. My friend, who used to play Rugby for NSW, kept walking until the last possible minute and then jumped aside, extending his not insubstantial arm and “coat-hangering” the rider off the bike and into the ground.
I’m not condoning this sort of thing of course, but these are the sort of cretins that are ruining it for everyone.
Personally, I use the “umbrella in the front spokes” method of avoidance..:-)
If you tried an ‘umbrella in the front spokes’ on me you, I will make sure you spend the night in the watch house… and then after that, my lawyers will take your house away…
I agree with you.on a lot of those points. City cyclists are irresponsible and act like idiots. You can’t just transfer from the road to the footpath because you’ve come up against a traffic light. The other day, I was talking to an ex-silver medallist paralympian cyclist on the bus (of all places) who agreed with me totally about the behaviour, and estimated that 90% of city cyclists acted like fools on the road.
Yeah, I hate it when ‘unregistered and unidentifiable’ pedestrians jaywalk in front of me against red lights… they should all be registered… perhaps with a tattoo on their forehead… oh, and lights… they should all have lights… and fluoro jackets… yeah, yeah… that’s a great idea.
Honestly, some of these cyclist-hating comments are unbelievable!
As Primal Tuna said, if you’re actually serious about that last sentence, I hope you end up paying for the injured cyclist’s resulting medical bills. Violence is NEVER an answer, no matter how badly behaved the cyclist is. I can’t believe you’re actually advocating that people use force just to ‘teach a lesson’. No. That is wrong and I’m pretty disgusted by your attitude. By sharing this kind of story, even as a joke, you’re only normalising the idea that cyclists should be treated in such a manner. Yes, there are plenty of terrible cyclists out there who do the wrong thing, but there are just as many, actually probably more, terrible drivers, and yet you don’t go around running drivers off the road just because they did the wrong thing! Instead of advocating violence against cyclists, how about we advocate respect for the people we’re sharing the road with?
Amen to that (and I’m an atheist agnostic)!!
A recent count of cyclists ‘breaking the rules’ showed that in fact they are *less* likely to break road rules than motorists.
What is lacking is a respect for others – that results in trucks running through intersections and hitting cyclists and cyclists running into pedestrians. Everyone is too wrapped up in their little world’s and our nice ‘me, me, me’ society is doing its best to make it worse… Cars these days are like little extensions of people’s homes – sound proofed, comfy seats, stereo & DVD players… it’s a joke.
Still, if they’re enjoying all that crap while sitting in stationary traffic, then they deserve the big loan attached to it (and the extra hours they have to work to pay it off…)
You lost me on the first point (and the rest aren’t much better). Is your skull really softer than a polystyrene hat? Mine certainly isn’t. I think you need to do some anatomy & physiology reading… or perhaps ride a bicycle in every other country in the world where you’re not forced to wear one and open your eyes.
Wear a helmet if you like, just don’t proselytise about it. It’s a stupid law, happily maintained by the ignorant and narrow-minded (mostly non-cyclists) and those that ‘would wear one anyway’…
– get a proper city bike with a rack so you can carry everything you need in panniers (ie. 99% of bikes in Australia are crap)
– said bike will also have mud & chain guards so you can wear whatever you like
– I’ll give you points for realising that cycling in heels is better than walking in them. The dutch know a thing or two about this.
Have to disagree with you there on the helmet law Primal Tuna! I used to think it was “a stupid law” as well until a garbage truck failed to stop at an intersection and t-boned me. If I hadn’t been wearing a helmet I would have sustained much more serious injuries. Besides there are so many cool and funky helmets these days it’s ‘almost’ fun to wear one! 😉
I would have noticed the fact that the truck was not slowing down prior to the intersection and avoided the collision in the first place – particularly, as you say, they t-boned _you_ – but hey, that’s just me…
If you need a law to make you wear a helmet when you think you ought to then that’s a worry. I know when to and when not to wear a helmet on my bicycle. Riding to the shops on the bike path… no thanks. WTF is that riding subjected to the same daft law as if I were training on Saturday?
I think all this helmet law kool aid has turned some Australian cyclists into a bunch of blind clowns that seem to be constantly falling over and bumping into things… sheesh…
I think given you weren’t at the scene of my accident and know nothing about it other than what I mentioned above, gives you NO RIGHT to imply you know better and that I was at fault. I would love to see how you would have avoided it! Your attitude stinks! Get on your bike and get out of here! Boo hoo, you might even have to wear a helmet!
Actually, I don’t own a car. I ride a bike everywhere and 90% of the time that’s without a helmet. I’ve not hit anything, I’ve not been hit and I think I know what I’m doing after 50 years cycling…
Clearly, you’re an expert on EVERYTHING!
So Tuna, how do you know that Sculley wasn’t hit at a blind intersection? I also find it funny that you say “I’ve not been hit and I think I know what I’m doing after 50 years cycling…” But then you respond to Jon’s comment in which he’s referring to idiots that ride down footpaths and think they have the right of way over pedestrians, which says you’re one of these idiots and thus have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.
Re the helmet debate, the polystyrene ‘hat’ is designed to absorb the energy from an impact and lessen the force on your skull. Myself, I happily wear mine commuting to work, but then again, I commute through the forest and have to dodge trees and wildlife to get to work. So I’ll take my ‘ignorant and narrow minded’ view of rules which were created to cover situations other than those I’m exposed to and I’ll wander off. After all, I’m just a country boy who lives in the bush, what would I know?
To the author, it’s good to see people trying to get a balanced argument on commuting out there.
I don’t. But it if were a blind corner, my approach is to assume there is *always* something coming the other way… that approach has ‘saved my life’ twice. I’d rather not have to test my helmet if I can avoid the situation.
As for the footpath riding…
– it is legal in Queensland (I lived there for years) & The NT
– it is currently legal in NSW & Victoria if you’re accompanying a child, which I do
On shared paths (ie. footpaths) I give way to pedestrians. It’s not that difficult. I don’t want some crazy nutter ‘assuming’ that I’m going to mow them down attacking me with an umbrella to cause me deliberate harm. That’s called assault.
I have no interest in taking your right to wear a bicycle helmet away… nobody is calling for them to be banned but you’d think that was the case by the reactions! Hilarious.
There was no proselytising except for yours. So the author expressed a preference for wearing a helmet regardless of whether the law is repealed – what exactly is your problem with that?
You don’t read much do you? She wrote: “I like my brains inside my skull, thank you very much.”
The implication is that people who would prefer to not wear a helmet (ie. most of the world’s adults on bicycles) prefer their brains on the outside… stupid comment. It was probably and attempt at humour but it’s not very funny.
How about you stop whinging about it? You don’t pay anything near the fees that car drivers do; you don’t pay registration, and therefore aren’t paying for the upkeep of the roads that you’re riding on. Because this is the case, I suggest that you just live with the laws that have been imposed on you, or start contributing.
REALLY interesting comment there as you have just reinforced conclusions of recent studies which show that the people that support helmet laws for cyclists the most are… people who don’t cycle, particularly motorists!
For your information I’m in the top 5% of earners in the country and I own a lot of property… yes, hard to believe because I choose to not own a car (shock!) – but that’s the truth. I have no debts and I’m insured to the eyeballs…
As we all know that roads are funded by general revenue (taxes) and local roads by rates (property) and not at all from car registration, that would mean that YOU should get off MY roads. I hereby decree that cyclists & pedestrians have priority over bigoted drivers such as yourself.
Registration doesn’t cover the cost of road maintenance… never has, never will. Also, that ‘registration bill’ you receive every year is mostly CTP insurance, not ‘registration’ either. Registration is a charge (at tax if you will) on the DAMAGE you do to the roads (which I have to cycle on). Heavier vehicles pay more.
I’d be more than happy to pay for the damage my bicycle causes. Say, what? $1.50 per year your reckon? Sure, I’ll pay that. Then I can ride in the middle of every goddamn lane in the country and park my bike in car spaces. Yeah! Great idea, Callum. I’m writing to the politicians now (some of which are quite close friends of mine).
Maybe you should ‘start contributing’ more, Callum… or even get out of your car and *contribute* to the health of the nation?
Again someone pulls out the rego counter, and again that someone makes the same error that shoots his argument to pieces. Rego fees do NOT go towards maintaining roads, that’s the tax dollar at work, which even cyclists pay. And since we do, your argument just supports us being on the road, thank you very much.
I can see pros and cons of bike registration (ore cons than pros atm, mainly to do with untenable rego fees and policing), but “road upkeep” is certainly not one of them.
Oh, I’m sorry. You’re right. In that case, take your helmet off, and crack your goddamn head open. What do you want? If I told you to leave your helmet off, you’d whinge about me saying you should die in a horrible head-street collision that could’ve been avoided by wearing a helmet. Now that I’ve told you to leave it on, then “motorists say you should wear a helmet, so it’s wrong.” I can’t even argue with you, because you’re just impossible. I could say the sky was blue, and you’d disagree just to have an asinine discussion. Again, I apologise for asking you to be safe; motorists have to wear seatbelts, and cars have all manner of safety devices, but you guys should just go helmet-free. In fact, ride naked, so if you fall off, you can shred your ass on the bitumen. I’m a motorist, and I’m supporting that you take no safety precautions at all. Is that better?
Thank you for informing about your wealth. I am not one of the top 5% of earners in the country, and I don’t own a lot of property. That’s probably not hard to believe because I’m 17 (shock!) – but that’s the truth. Incidentally, I have no debts, and I’m insured to the eyeballs, too (thanks, Mum and Dad).
Yes, but the general idea of motor registration was for that money to be directed towards transport and road upkeep. While that idea may not play out literally, it’s essentially there. And, what was that point about LOCAL roads by rates? The council seat that I live in barely sees any extra money from the government, despite hosting a large number of events (Bay to Birdwood, TDU, etc.). So, the roads in my area are taken up by events that degrade them, yet the council responsible for their upkeep can’t afford to keep the maintained, because they don’t see any extra funding from anybody, despite having to bend over backwards to accomodate everyone.
Why don’t you pay for the inconvenience that you cause the community? The wages lost from sick days that have to be taken because there is literally no way to access the arterial road my town is connected to because of community events organised by city-dwellers? How about you pay for the damages caused by cars having accidents because cyclists travelling along this arterial road (Gorge Rd, SA, 5232, as I should probably let you know so you can Google it) insist on forcing us to pass them on a double-white line, by stopping in the middle of the road, and waving at us like morons? How about you pay for the fines that should’ve been levied for cyclists riding three- and four-abreast, or riding on the wrong side of the road? While you’re at it, why don’t you pay for the implementation some kind of cycling licence (similar to a car licence) that should involve theory and practical tests, the same as drivers? Everything you say makes it sound like cyclists are so hard done by, when you don’t pay anywhere near the amount that drivers do, you aren’t required to take any tests or have anything knowledge of ANYTHING transport-law-releated, and you can essentially flout the law at every possible opportunity and have no repercussions. I accidentally ran a red light yesterday; I wasn’t speeding to get through it, it was just a poor judgement call. I’m expecting to get a fine. If a cyclist did, there would be no fine, because you have no registration, and there’s nothing to pin it to; not only that, but drivers would likely hang back and wait for you to get across the road, albeit while sounding their horns loudly. Still, you’d get across the road, and apart from a bit of ridicule and possibly embarrassment, there’d be no harm done. Hell, you could just cross to the footpath like 95% of other cyclists do; why not? I mean, you’re one of the top 5% earners, so you’re clearly much more entitled than the rest of us to break the law. Sorry for thinking otherwise.
As Primal Tuna, maybe you contribute more tax-wise, due to your all-singing, all-dancing, top-5% income level, but at least I contribute positively to a debate, without feeling the need to insult, belittle, and patronise everyone, regardless of their stance on the issue. Maybe you should get off your bike, or even your high horse, and contribute to the health of intelligence and rationality, which is something that I can see you’re seriously struggling with behind all that ad hominem. And just what the hell are you contributing to the health of the nation? Saying that riding a bike makes all the difference is like saying “I’ve put my wrapper in the bin; I’m saving the world!” You’re a fair-weather contributer; you’ll do something as simple as ride a bike, and tell all your friends and family (and random internet strangers) that you’re making a big difference, but when it comes down to it, you won’t take a risk by funding ecological studies or research; you won’t contribute to a think-tank or an environmental fund, and you won’t do anything that makes a difference. Riding a bike is not improving anything; it’s keeping it at the status quo. I might drive, but I’m putting in a conscious effort to keep abreast of innovative technological advances that are driving (ha) us towards a more sustainble-resource-reliant world.
Hi Primal Tuna, I just love this people getting upset about rules attitude, even when the ‘rules’ are there to save your life. Shortsighted? I was too until a car overtook me and turned left right in front of me, and I ended up in hospital with stitches in my head amongst lots of other things. I can loose limbs and still live a reasonably normal life but not my head. But maybe you are right. Maybe we should stop it being mandatory to wear a helmet, then you and your like thinking idiots can join the Darwin awards and remove yourselves from the gene pool. It might be better for humanity.
You mean the rule that says the the car broke the law when it hit you? Yes, I like those rules. Pity they’re not enforced and instead we are expected to ‘armour-up’ with rules…
Oh, and I’ve spread my genes far & wide already. Sorry to disappoint.
The evidence that helmets save lives is largely anecdotal. If you get hit by a car your chances aren’t great with or without a helmet. It’s a lot better to not get hit. Bicycle helmets aren’t all that strong. They’re designed for low speed falls. They are not designed for high speed impacts from multi-ton vehicles. It’s just a bit of styrofoam.
There is also evidence that helmets discourage people from riding. That’s a big downside of the law. If someone wants to wear one then by all means, they should. If they don’t, then the law should not be requiring it.
I wear a helmet while riding but I don’t think that it has magic super powers. It might help but my safety training does a thousand times better job of keeping me safe than the helmet does. When I drive my car, I don’t think that my seat belt will do as good a job of protecting me as maintaining safe distance, appropriate speed and paying attention to the road does.
Like Tuna said, the biggest proponents of mandatory helmet laws aren’t even bicyclists. They are people who hate bicyclists and just want to make their life more difficult.
Also, yes, billdsd. Drivers wanting cyclists to wear helmets is a big conspiracy to inconvenience cyclists. Drivers have to put on a seatbelt, use lights and signals, and pay sometimes-obscene amounts to ensure that their cars are correctly set-up and calibrated, but you whinge and complain when you have to put a freakin’ helmet on. Like I said above, I’m sorry that I support helmet laws to keep you a bit safer, even if only marginally; I should clearly hold the opinion that you should leave your helmet off, so that you have a higher chance of dying. But, then again, you’d get angry at me for that, too. Anything to act like an elitist who’s clearly better than a driver just because you ride a freakin’ bike.
Just changed the default to approve all comments now sorry! Things should be much more instant. 🙂
Great article. Its amazing how people want comment just to pick on parts of it or use it for personal rants.
Commuted in Melbourne for years with no issues. Just moved to Brisbane and its still the way to go.
What I would like is more direct bike paths. Not just these wandering ones. Build a road – build a bike path along beside it. Perth has some great ones (Kwinana freeway). Eastlink in Melbourne tried but its still too wandering in places.
Good stuff keep it up.
Personal rants, huh? Like demanding more bike paths… ;-P
I agree… more bike paths that actually go somewhere, rather than zigzagging through flooded parks. I’m not into ‘sharing’ the road when I’m going to end up dead because of the 1% of drivers that think it’s funny to threaten me with their car… and get rid of door zone bike lanes at the same time… and parked cars in the city. That sort of urban planning was thrown into the bin by civilised countries years ago. “Australia: We Know Better (since 1950)™”
Great positive article about biking
It’s a shame the car trolls still prattle on.. and on.. and on… above criticism and perfct drivers they must be. Why bother reading the article when you can use it to rant hey?
Gutsy move to sell your car.
You don’t need a car in the city. In fact, I’d support any move (congestion tax) to get as many of them out of the city as possible. That might help Callum (above) appreciate his rural roads with more cars on them… 🙂
A congestion tax? Why should drivers be forced to pay for the roads that THEY pay upkeep fees for? Car registration exists as a way to keep roads maintained; cyclists don’t pay registration for their bikes, so why should they receive any extra benefits on the road? You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Please read my reply to you above.
Love & Kisses,
“Someone who pays more tax than you”
PS: The correct form of the phrase is “You can’t eat your cake and have it too”.
Dear Primal Tuna,
You couldn’t hold a cohesive argument if it was made of super glue and velcro. Your persistent use of the logical fallacy known as “ad hominem” (that’s Latin, but I suspect your elite form and mind would already know that) permeates your points at every turn; while it doesn’t necessarily invalidate your arguments, it does much to hurt them, as you’ve become far more focused on blindly attacking drivers than discussing the facts of an issue. It may be true that you earn more money, but if earning more money ruins your arguing skills, and turns you into an elitist, arrogant ass, then perhaps I should reconsider my law degree.
Love & kisses,
“Someone who wouldn’t hold it above everyone if he earned more money than them, because he’s not an arrogant twat with delusions of grandeur.”
P.S. The correct form of the phrase is, “He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.”
As far as helmets go, I’m not fussed either way, though I’d have to agree that it should be optional, as it is unlikely that you would ever require it, IF you know how to ride sensibly. And if you don’t, well, that should be on your own head (pun intended). HOWEVER, in the event of an accident, so far the evidence suggests they DO reduce the impact on the skull, which does have effect in preventing more serious injury. Until proven otherwise, I’ll wear a helmet.
It’s a bit of a catch-22 for the rulemakers, really. With the current helmet laws, they get lambasted for people being unhealthy and put off riding. Without them, someone gets a head injury from cycling and they get lambasted cos helmets may have helped. Damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
Oh, and Kate? The word you want is “faze”, not “phase”, thanks.
Perhaps, but there are cyclists getting killed & injured WITH helmets and nobody seems to bat an eyelid, but if they’re injured or killed without one you can bet they’ll blame the injury or death on that fact… it’s truly awful.
In fact, if you look at the spread of head injuries & deaths among helmeted & unhelmeted cyclists in Australia you’ll see that it is about the same proportion as the helmeted & unhelmeted cyclists… in other words, it makes no damn difference overall.
Sure, if you going to bump your head you’re better off with one than not (but that doesn’t mean it is offering ‘life saving’ protection at all). What is clear is that ANY cycling is good for the health of the individual and society. Anything that discourages cycling… anything… should be removed.
Editor’s note: should have picked that up in Lara’s piece thanks.
Great article, as a long term cycle commuter I believe you’re covered the points well, even though I’ve never been fond of heels.
I hope you ‘touched wood’ when you wrote that about not having an accident …
I have always assumed cars wont see me and wont stop – even well before I was hit. I covered myself and my bike in lights, hi-vis and reflective clothing everywhere.
Explain to me how then I was hit by a 4wd that failed to stop at a give way sign. How could this be my fault? I actually don’t remember the impact – subsequent counseling for PTSD has revealed that the amnesia precedes the impact, which means that my brain has blocked the memory. I now (4 years post incident) still have PTSD which will guarantee I will never trust left entering traffic ever again. In fact my fear response (instinct) to swerve away is probably more dangerous than running the risk that they will stop. I also have hyper vigilance which is very taxing and draining after a couple of hours.
Oh and I wore a helmet – it was cracked through – it likely saved my life or at least saved me from getting a more severe brain injury than I did sustain – and other less obvious chronic pain that serves as a constant reminder to the danger.
Truth is you are lucky that you haven’t had any serious accidents. Its a little patronizing don’t you think to credit yourself with having avoided accidents because your always on the look out. I was – it happened to me. To think you are able to avoid all hazards is quite frankly foolish. In your 50 years of cycling have you never come across a driver who slowed under brakes, gave the impression they were stopping, only to hit the accelerator and continue through, either not seeing you or disregarding you?
I have to question the extent to of your experience if you claim to never have been in a situation such as this! If as you say, you haven’t – as Callum said – you have NO RIGHT to judge those who have been there – done all they can and still had a lump of steel smack into them at no fault of their own. Surely if you’ve been riding for 50 years you ought to be wise enough at your age to know that you just cant foresee everything.
I hope your luck continues, or you start listening to those who have been there.
Well said Michelle! 🙂
Excellent post. Primal Tuna is acting like a child throwing a tantrum, for reasons that nobody here can really fathom. I just don’t understand how he can possibly justify not wearing a helmet.
I just want to be able to ride my bicycle sensibly without fear if bicycle lanes disappearing on me into angry traffic. I’m a driver too and am frustrated by cyclists who text while cycling or are super aggressive. Whats wrong with the our infrastructure that we cant get around on a simple bike? My ass and health would love it. Great post, Larsie. X
I’m a little surprised that the debate has again centred on the helmet issue. Like Cheryl, I long for the day when infrastructure has developed to the point that riders’ safety is ensured and we are no longer obliged to wear a helmet, except by choice. My feeling is though, that we need to first counter the false assumptions about safety, inconvenience, etc. and encourage more people to ride more often, necessitating improved bicycle path networks. Hence this article.
As has been illustrated by some of the comments, the real challenge is overcoming the “us” vs “them” attitude. I am sometimes a pedestrian, and infrequently a driver of my partner’s car and in each of my different guises I always feel that safety and convenience of every mode of transport (not to mention the experience of each of them) would be vastly improved by a little more empathy, awareness and care for the other. In my mind, this extends far beyond what form of transport you’re using to most areas of civic life!
We forget too, that we ALL pay a fair amount of money for what are (let’s face it) pretty decent roads. Yes – there is room for some improvements, but even as they are there is plenty of room for everyone and we should all be able to use them safety and comfortably, with a little bit of cooperation.
Forgive me for my Pollyanna perspective on this, but really it isn’t all that bad. The whole point is to get outside, enjoy our amazing cities (and rural areas) and make the most of it.
I’m honestly not confident enough to ride my bike to work. Until they construct purpose-built bike lanes that go all the way from my house to work I’ll probably stick to public transport.
The various bike cultures around Melbourne are also interesting. I once worked at a place where all the cycling enthusiasts lived in Brighton, wore full lycra (with the sponsorship logos – the Cadel Evans look) and rode super expensive racing bikes. As a northsider with a rusty old bike this was kind of intimidating 🙂
Great article Lara. Agree with all the pros and the cons as a regular bike commuter. Amazing debate that you have generated also! I agree with Cheryl – in that I am also a car driver and get frustrated by the cyclists that run red lights, act like they own the roads and give the rest of us a bad name.Having ridden bikes & driven cars in many other countries I wish we could find the balance and respect to share the roads and get where we want to go sans rage which ever way we choose!
PS. I also love to the low pony tail and constant rock star parking 🙂
I’ve no doubt this comment will get loss in the morass but here goes anyway:
* Benefits of cycling outweigh the risk by 77:1 (British Medical Journal)
* Mandatory Helmet Laws discourage cycling by 20% (Bicycle Queensland)
* Cycling reduces risk of obesity and heart diseas by 40% (British Medical Journal)
* Every cyclist who doesn’t ride because of helmet laws is losing the benefits of cycling
* Add those costs up and it far exceeds any benefit that mandatory helmet laws may confer
* Benefits have been judged to be negiiible at best
* It takes 12 times the amount of force to crack a skull than it does the average bike helmet. Cracked helmet does not mean your skull would have cracked.
Final point. When it comes to cycling as a lifestyle way of life distinct from a sport I ask myself one question. What do the Dutch and Danes do? Those are the safest cycling nations ini the world. They don’t wear helmets and they don’t wear fluoro.
On the adherence to rules thing, well that’s a double standard isn’t it? Everyone’s yelling at the cyclists to pefecctly obey the rules yet last time I looked it’s not the cyclists killing and maiming Austrlaian residents with regularity.
It’s motorised traffic that bring the death and destruction to our roads. Why are they not held to a much higher standard? Why is it the cyclists who are expected to be pefrect?
Recent research by Victoria Police has shown that cyclists are more law abiding than drivers. Research carried out by MUARC through a trial of cyclists fitted with cameras has shown that cyclists are much more aware of their road position and condtions than motorists are and the overwhelming “incidents” are caused by driver inattention, not by cyclists breaking the rules.
Facts people, not opinions.
The reason why bicyclists must be perfect is that the haters are trying desperately to rationalize their irrational hatred of bicyclists and grasping at any straw that their tiny ignorant minds can think of to justify that hatred.
Also, the best lies are partially true. Yes, a lot of bicyclists break the law. However, the way that the whinging haters present it, it’s as if bicyclists are the only ones breaking the law and they are the cause of all of the problems on the road, which is the opposite of reality.
Final thought of the day, unless anyone responds to my posts, I’ve just come back from 5 weeks in the Greater Mekong area: Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. I did a fair bit of cycling while I was there too.
What is notable about the road culture over there is that there is no agression. There’s no anger. Everyone gives way to everyone and it is a much nicer envirionment despite it being insanely busy most of the time.
All road users in Australila could do with losing a huge amount of self entitlement, chilling out and realizing that if they help each other instead of compete with each other then the roads will be a much nicer place.
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