Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What Really Boils Drivers Blood

I have been cycling the short trip to work for the last year or so using both bicycle paths and now more recently the roads. I have to commend most drivers who give plenty of room and pass when it is sensible, there are however some people who clearly should not be on the roads. These people exhibit signs of road rage and down right stupidity, being held up for at worst a few minutes behind me on my bike vs being jailed for murder or man slaughter due to negligent or dangerous driving. For most people this is a no brainer, but seriously what is it about cyclists that gets these people so upset?

On one occasion I had the opportunity to speak to one such individual who amongst issuing death threats and revving his ute at me made a coherent but ill informed argument that I should ride my bike on the footpath. It is a breach of the law for a person over the age of 12 to ride a bike on the footpath unless they are accompanying a person 12 or under. Outside of the legality issue just like on the road each person is responsible for there vehicle and any damage or injury it may cause, on the footpath I would be responsible for any injury to pedestrians in an area where there are no expected behaviours or regulations on what a pet or child may do. I have found that even shared paths are dangerous at relatively low speeds (15 - 20 km/h) as there is no telling what small children, pet or persons using headphones may do.

After I explained this to him he went on to also say that I had no right to the road because I don't pay for rego which I explained to him was not the case I infact own a registered vehicle. On that note I also pay my taxes which are what pay for the roads and every citizen in Australia has the right to use the roads in or on a valid vehicle. Plenty of people have talked about licensing or registering bikes but I'm unsure this is likely to deal with many of the issues. There are still poor drivers on the roads even though we are now extensively tested, licensed and registered. I don't have a problem if the government decided to do it but I wonder if it is really going to achieve their own policy to get more cyclists on the roads to reduce congestion.

At this point the driver in question told me that I still had no right and that he therefore did not need to take care when passing, he could just run me down! Having just skimmed me I took this to mean that he didn't care that he'd just almost knocked me off my bike by overtaking me and then promptly slowing to a crawl where I had no shoulder to enter (prior to this I had entered the left of the lane after checking for traffic and indicating). I think this meant "I don't like having to slow down for you when there isn't enough road for me to pass you". Well fair enough I guess, but what about all the other traffic though, is it a crash derby all the way to work? No one would blunder their way hulkishly through the traffic and think that it was OK behaviour would they?

Is it that some cyclists break the rules, like running red lights or riding up the shoulder? Research suggests that for some cyclists this is further risk taking for the purposes of getting a rush, other research suggests that it is simply a way of saving energy as stopping and starting is like adding 200m to the journey, yet more research suggests that it is a form of protest for being marginalised on the roads. None of these reasons is good enough to not obey road markings or signals, if you're on the roads you must obey the road rules otherwise it may as well be anarchy! As for riding up the shoulder or for that matter in the shoulder or even in turning lanes, I'm guilty of the latter two to let cars pass, if there's traffic though I'm in the lane as a vehicle. I think riding up the inside of cars even if there is a bike lane is simply dangerous. I refuse to ride in a bike lane when there is traffic as other vehicles can't see you in their blind spots and it angers some motorists causing issues later in the commute.

I think when we are on the roads we need to appreciate that there are bad road users on or in all types of vehicles, be they motorbikes, cars or bicycles, which means we have to give people plenty of room and leave reasonable gaps so when a mistake is made we can avoid an incident. It isn't reasonable to prejudice one road user with the actions of other road users, just because a few cyclists don't do the right thing doesn't mean we are all guilty. We all have to share the roads amicably so that no one gets hurt or killed.

Nathanael Shergold Software Engineer

Nathanael has worked delivering software to the Waste Management industry for various purposes for the last decade. He loves both running and cycling and spends many hours training every week.

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