Aggressive drivers? Here’s my Hunch

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Two weeks ago a story entitled “War on our roads” ran on Channel 7’s Sunday Night current affairs show. At the time I thought it was a pretty balanced piece of journalism, if anything more in the favour of cyclists. Watching it again, I still do.

But thanks to several mind-bendingly ignorant and archaic comments from that media imbecile, Derryn Hinch – “cockroaches on wheels” springs instantly to mind – it’s also seen the roads in and around my home town of Sydney become total war zones in the past fortnight, maybe yours too? Ask any regular rider. There’s been a noticable and disturbing increase in driver agression towards bikes since Derryn opened his bearded cakehole. It’s as if his comments have somehow empowered a fleet of lunatic drivers to get out there and teach all us cyclists a lesson. It’s scary. It’s insane. And it has to stop.

“The last couple of weeks have been really bad – almost every time I have been out there has been a couple of deliberate close passes. Its always the same after they have a TV show or something, it seems to justify bad behaviour.” Posted online yesterday by a Sydney father of two.

Regardless of what you may personally think of cyclists, the law quite clearly states we have every legal right to use the roads, two-abreast, even in peak hour. It never ceases to amaze me how many motorists scream at me to get on the footpath. Sorry, but it’s actually illegal for us to use the footpath (unless we’re riding with young children).

Like most groups of people on the planet, the vast majority of cyclists do the right thing every day – all we want to do is keep fit and get wherever it is we’re going, be it work, home or a cafe with our mates. Remember, we’re taxpayers just like you. We’re mums and dads and daughters and sons, just like you. Most of us also drive and pay rego and rates just like you. In fact, perhaps the only way we really differ when we’re on our bikes is that we’re a whole lot more vulnerable to acts of on-road stupidity and violence than you are sitting there snugly in your metal cocoon listening to Triple M as you crawl through peak-hour at 5km/h. If it really drives you that crazy to see us moving faster than you, perhaps it’s time you joined us?

Enough is enough, Sydney. Someone you know and love might be next to get hit/hurt/killed. Far too many have been already, especially lately. Let’s be nice to each other. A little patience, and road space, on both sides will go a very long way.

Peace.

http://au.news.yahoo.com/sunday-night/video/watch/18552758/war-on-our-roads/

UPDATE:
Seems whilst Derryn has made a career out of criticising others, he can’t take criticism himself. A concerned reader decided to post a link to this story on Mr Hinch’s Facebook page this morning, together with a summary of the specific events which led to me writing it yesterday. The post (see below) disappeared without a trace in minutes. Sad, but not at all surprising. Don’t open your mouth in the first place if you can’t take criticism for what comes out of it.

Derryn Comments

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9 thoughts on “Aggressive drivers? Here’s my Hunch

  1. The interesting thing about Hinch’s comment is that is adds absolutely nothing to the debate and it fails to list his concerns or solutions. To simply refer to cyclists as “cockroaches on wheels” is symptomatic of someone who has nothing to contribute (positive or negative) as it smacks of simplistic “name calling” similar to what ill-informed school children do. The big issue here is the arguments trotted out in criticism of cyclists and the proposed solutions do nothing to resolve the issue. To refer to the fact that some cyclists “run red lights” or “fail to stop at stop signs” as some reason to take them off the road, register them, make them use the footpath (illegal I might add), hold no water when compared to the exact same behaviours by car users all the time. Do we really apply the same standards and seek to remove cars off the roads due to the number of drivers who break the law day in day out? We certainly do not, and the reason being is to allow the majority of law abiding road users to continue to enjoy the infrastructure we all paid for via our taxes, and not be penalised because of the wrong doing of a minority.
    All cyclists are asking for is the same treatment, and that is to use the roads lawfully and not be subject to harassment, aggression, and the “nutters”. If we break the law then penalise us (this already happens), if we go a bit slower than cars then be patient as it will only take a few seconds to get past us, and please respect that we want to get home to our families and we are vulnerable out there so look out for us.

  2. G’day mate, I agree that a few high profile, thoughtless individuals who put out a throwaway line in order to garner headlines and get themselves in the spotlight dont realise that they empower aggressive drivers to step a little closer to going over the edge. However my theory is that often those who “Hate” cyclists are often not the problem, most will abuse or scare you (which I will admit is still not great) but at least they see you, in fact they are hyper aware of cyclists becuuse of their hatred of them. The bigger problem is those that dont see us at all, or those that dont take piloting a potentially lethal weapon seriously, and text, phone drive tired and do all manner of things except concentrate and drive a straight line.
    I dont believe many drivers except the odd sociopath (who would have a problem with anyone) leaves home intending to hurt or kill a cyclist. Those I know who have been hurt or killed riding have almost universaly been the victim of “accidents” albeit mostly unavoidable ones. I often think a horn no matter how aggresively tooted is a good sign, it means a driver sees me and knows Im there.

    1. Good points Peter, I find the safest way to ride (both my push and motorbikes) is to assume every motorist is trying to kill me – even though obviously they aren’t.

      1. Pete, it is also worth noting that there is some scientific studies done into the fact that some drivers dont see cyclist because they are looking for cars and therefore their brain isnt looking for the signs of cyclists, this also goes for motorbikes. The “dancing bear” ad

        shows this.
        Unfortunately till we reach a bit of a critical mass whereby cyclists are commonplace on the road, this “habit” may be somethng that cannot be changed. It would be interesting to see an experiment similar to the bear ad done on duth folk, to see if they “see cyclists” or not.
        Anyway, stay safe.

  3. I am of the opinion that any negative publicity has brought the sport into disrepute and changed the public perception of cyclists
    Certainly the highs of the post Cadel TDF era have been overshadowed by Lance Armstrong drugs scandal. I think that the negative publicity from shock jocks,Politicians or news shows empowers people to behave like idiots towards cyclists.
    Governments and various news agencies and clubs should positively spin cycling coupled with law modifications to afford more protection to cyclists (a driver is always at fault in France if an accident occurs regardless) the 1 m rule, I know police who think it is illegal for cyclists to ride two abreast.
    Education breeds patience and it must apply to drivers and cyclists alike.

    1. 100% Richard. It’s all about education. Just doesn’t seem to be a high enough priority for Govts as yet for them to do it, though. Sadly it will probably take a high profile tragedy for this to change.

  4. In my mind driver aggression ebbs and flows according to time of year (work, school, holidays), and certain local events (road works, traffic incidents, bogan festivals etc). And there are certain areas that are culturally poor and have little respect for cyclists any time of the year.

    I don’t think the recent incidents are directly related to the media. People run stop signs all the time, cut through roundabouts without looking, and try to run cyclists off the road pretty often. Even more alarming is that I have had the serious incidents I have experienced were caused by professional drivers working for the government, and they were deliberate. Often the average joe commuter is just absent minded and forgets to look.

    Regarding the media article mentioned, the most alarming thing I found was the use of Mark Skaife as the poster boy for “making cyclists pay” – he’s a role model to many young and old, and being a professional driver gives him some sort of credit. We had no equivalent person represented in the interview – was there even anyone to put forward?

    I don’t think targeting the media is the way to go, it’s a bit like looking for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it sounds like a noble cause but will blow out into a whole messy war where no one wins. The best thing would be to hit this issue at the systems level – policy, government, infrastructure etc.

    I’m very happy that the authorities have approached our club and related organisations regarding suggested changes to the area where the incident happened. I remember when I was growing up our school was on the main road and it was very dangerous. However it was not until someone at the school was killed trying to cross that road that they decided to build a manned crosswalk. Sometimes, unfortunately, tragedy is the only way to make change happen.

    I’m just glad no one was killed.

    1. I’m with you on pretty much everything you say Joel. Hopefully by the time our kids are our age things will be different. But having worked in the media space – either directly or indirectly – most of my career, I think EPs, producers and journos need to be prodded sometimes and reminded that what they say and do have consequences. The attitudes of their audiences are often heavily influenced by the things they say/include in their stories and also what they leave out. So they need to be careful. It’s not targetting the media. I actually thought 95% of the story was excellent. It’s just giving them a reality check. Cliche journalism is easy journalism, but rarely constructive…

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