10 things I wish would happen

Despite a shameful social media maelstrom and rampant speculation in the past 24 hours, it’s still unclear what caused the shocking accident that left six road cyclists injured in Sydney yesterday am. Which is precisely why I wanted to post this right now, for the issue of cycling safety on open roads is far bigger than any one incident. You may agree with some or all of my points. You may disagree with them all. That’s fine. But surely this is a time for us all to try and be constructive, rather than simply sling mud and accusations anonymously across the ether? This is my attempt to do so.

10 things I wish would happen after yet another serious cycling incident in Sydney:

  1. Everyone on all sides would just calm down a bit, no actually, a lot
  2. Motorists would actually learn the law in relation to cyclists and accept we have just as much right to use the roads as they do – yes, we can legally ride two abreast; no, it’s illegal for us to ride on the footpath (unless we’re with our kids) – whether you like this or not is irrelevant, it’s the law, lobby your local member if you want things changed, just like any other issue, it’s called democracy
  3. Cycling’s governing bodies and, indeed, Governments would be far more active on the issues of rider safety and community education – they’ve been damningly silent in response to the incident in Sydney yesterday, yet again. This is precisely the time when we need to show the community a unified response at the highest levels of our sport/community, rather than the piece-meal social media slanging matches that have unfolded in the last 24 hours. It’s not about laying blame for any individual incident, it’s about demonstrating this is an important community issue that needs to be considered, understood and addressed by us all.
  4. Everyone would start taking far greater care and responsibility for their own actions out on the road rather than simply look to blame others when incidents occur – often it is due to motorist negligence, but sometimes it’s we riders who cock things up and crash too, we need to remember this and try not to put ourselves in dangerous situations (e.g. I was brought down last year by a guy in front of me who foolishly took his hands off the bars to clear his nose on a bumpy section of high speed road, it was pretty dumb, he should have known better)
  5. Everyone would have more empathy for other road users – for example, whilst I know me and a mate are quite within our rights to ride two abreast down the middle of a single lane road at 25km/h in peak hour, I also know that doing so is pretty inconsiderate and likely to cause aggravation, so I avoid doing this as much as I possibly can – that said, if I do choose to take the lane because I’m worried about being car doored or dangerously overtaken, it’d be great for motorists to understand this – honestly, I’m not doing it to piss you off.
  6. More cycling groups (such as clubs, even if it’s technically ‘not their responsibility’ – seriously, who cares, surely it’s everyone’s responsibility to do what they can to help?) and high profile cyclists – from all walks of life, not just pros – would publicly support safer and better relations between cyclists and motorists on an ongoing basis – I believe this is key in removing the stigma of cyclists being seen as little more than a rogue minority of self righteous shit-stirrers (which the vast majority of us are not) – how about an RMS safety campaign, like the drink driving and speeding stuff they spend millions on each year?
  7. ‘Motorists’ would stop wasting breath by saying cyclists should pay rego. It’s a complete red herring. I’d be very happy to do it mind you, but FFS, it will solve nothing.
  8. Cyclists would stop wasting breath talking about how good things are in the Netherlands – seriously, go live there then, this is Australia and idealism won’t solve the problem, we need to work pragmatically with what we have, financially, geographically and culturally
  9. Cycling Australia or State Governments or even State Police would set up a publicly available and officially monitored “cyclist road toll” including incident, injury and fatality numbers so the entire community can understand the true scale of this problem. I think most people (and the media) would be genuinely shocked at just how prevalent accidents are. It would also give everyone something to focus on in trying to reduce the number – and hold the State Governments/Transport Departments far more accountable, with publicly-stated incident reduction targets
  10. Rather than continually provoke their audiences with sensationalist posts and stories, media outlets like Triple M and the Daily Telegraph would attempt to display far more balance in their views, by expressing all sides of the story, showing some compassion for victims, deleting abusive posts etc. It’s highly inflammatory and, if anything, only makes the roads more dangerous for everyone.

I am but a humble blogger, road cyclist, car owner, motorbike owner, Cycling Australia member and father. I have zero power to change things on my own. But surely few people would argue nowhere near enough is being done to stop incidents like that which happened yesterday and the countless others that never make it into the news feeds.

We all need to speak up people – calmly and constructively. It’s not someone else’s problem. It’s our problem. Lobby your club to do more in your local community (talk to the local newspaper and have a presence at local festivals and fetes, for example). Lobby your local politicians and demand they formally state their views on safer road use. Lobby State governments and transport bodies. Lobby the media. Lobby your local State cycling body to do more – or something! We need to make noise, and force those who have the power to make a difference to do just that. Enough is enough.

Broken bike in Sydney

99 thoughts on “10 things I wish would happen

  1. Pete, I’m a cyclist and love it but should we be on roads like this? Drivers are humans and make mistakes. The problem is if they make a mistake around a cyclist, the cyclist loses… doesn’t matter if it’s the drivers fault or not the cyclist in an accident will come out of it at the bad end. There are many vehicles out there which are not allowed on our roads (capsule motor bikes etc) yet for some reason it’s acceptable for a bicycle to mix it with cars…

  2. Great balanced piece. It’s not about cyclists or motorists, who is right or wrong, but how we all work together understand other people’s needs an vulnerabilities and don’t end up regretting a decision or action.

  3. On. My sons second lesson as a learner he was abused by a cyclist for when the breakdown lane ended that the cyclist was traveling in behind my son ( at 60km and slowing down) my son stopped at the roundabout, and proceeded as instructed, was abused by a cyclist, for what I don’t know, but it un-nerved a new driver and contradicted any lessons I was giving about giving bike riders respect! Some riders need to learn, like everyone else on the road, proceed with care and respect!

    1. “like everyone else on the road” – hillarious

      Where do you live? It’s either in a fantasy world or paradise. I’d love to move to a place where ALL road users treat others with respect.

      1. To be fair I think Rachael means “like everyone else on the road should do as well” – well, I hope that’s what she means.

    2. Rachael, I ride roughly 300ks a week and have done so for the last 20 years. I am sick of cyclists doing this sort of thing. I have nearly been to blows on several occasions with other cyclists doing the same thing. Use your brains cyclists, a car doesn’t have to hit you, to kill you.

      The thing I have noticed more and more are the Egos on the bike, “Im to fit and fast to talk to that hairy leg fat bloke”. This is the guy we need to it next to and tell him about some of the rules. Lose the ego go back to the way it was, more experienced riders, instruct the new ones don’t just scream KEEP LEFT as we fly by.

    3. Rachael, I’ve been driving for nearly 25 years, and cycling for even longer, and I’ve yet to see a road with a “break down lane” leading up to a roundabout. I’m guessing that this “break down lane” was in fact a bike lane. Most bike lanes will end before a roundabout so the cyclist can take the road lane (riding primary) and enter traffic as it’s expected that the traffic will be moving slower at that point. I’m guessing that you failed to instruct your child to give that cyclist room and allow him to enter the traffic. People don’t scream and shout for no reason. When a cyclist gets angry it’s usually because his or her life was endangered by somebody’s actions. Somebody’s ignorance of the road rules and oblivious to the fact that a bicycle is legally recognised as a vehicle and has every right to use the road, and are NOT just restricted to bike lanes.

      If I’m right about you thinking that a bike lane is a “break down lane” then I’d suggest that you revise the current road rules before instructing your child any further.

      If I’m wrong then I apologise in advance but Ive seen similar situations too often and your story is difficult to read.

  4. As somebody that drives a car and also rides a bike I always give way to other road users as per Australian road rules and the people that in MY opinion that neglect to follow the road rules would be cyclist’s

    I also think that it might be time to limit the size of the group of cyclists that ride on major roads as from what I have seen in over 40 years of riding a bike that most of the road rage I have seen between cyclists and car drivers is when a LARGE group of cyclists decide to take over the road

    And before all you cyclist’s jump down my throat yes it does take 2 people to have an argument

    and yes there is a lot of motorists out there that need to be more patient

    So having had my say maybe a bit more money being spent on bikeways by government and.making cyclist’s use them might also help the cause

    1. Ha. Yeah. Because cyclists have been killing motorists for years by forcing them to overtake into oncoming traffic against their free will and better judgement. Cyclists force the poor motorists to overtake dangerously, risking their licences. Because wherever a motorist is going, it’s much more important to get there a few seconds earlier than to get there alive, or without killing a mum or dad en route.

      (I’m sure rapists and child abusers like your logic that ‘it takes 2 people to have an argument’. Because every person wielding life-or-death power over another human likes to feel the other person justified their own untimely demise or life-changing injury)

      1. Consider your words “cyclists decide to take over the road”…

        Errr? Did you mean ride in an organized bunch, legally and safely?

        Sounds a lot like, “I mean I’m not a racist but..when they start speaking in their foreign language here in our country it’s just rude…”

  5. Mate this is Australia – everybody talks and whinges but noone really stands up and does anything – no worries mate, she’ll be fine, it will be ok……. but it won’t. Intead we are trying to find compromises more compromises and more compromises – but who will win – minority – nope
    People say things are better in Netherlands but people in Netherlands stand up against all sorts of stuff and go to the streets if things are not right.

  6. I believe it is too dangerous for cyclists to use the same road as cars, and yes we need to lobby our government to make changes and give cyclists their own lanes and places where they can ride

  7. I have the greatest respect for my own life.
    I will not put my life in danger by demanding right of way on a public road.
    Always look for vehicles larger than you as they are the ones that can kill you.
    Roads with a speed limit of 70 km/h and over are suicide for bicycle riders.
    Cars and trucks cannot slow down quick enough if they can’t see you if traffic is busy. (4×4’s pantechs etc.)

    Use your intelligence and avoid dangerous situations. Find somewhere safe to ride.

    1. No riding in the country then Sammy? I ride out my front door into wonderful hills – but the speed limits are over 70. The answer is not for cyclists to stay home, it must be to effect a change in driver behaviour. Italians and the French respect cyclists’ right to the road, why not us?

      1. Yes we must respect all road users. Cannot recall seeing cyclists on motorways in Europe. It is dangerous to have vehicles including cyclists and big cranes that cannot keep within +/- 10% of the prescribed speed on Sydney’s motorways.

  8. I agree 100%

    Former cyclist and still a driver.
    I survived being hit by car at 83 kms
    In a Coma for 43 days
    Died for 3 mins
    Learned to walk again

    Had multiple surgeries including brain surgery.

    I agree 100%

  9. Quite simply, if you are in a regular lane, travel at the speed limit where possible. People are not infuriated by that fact you are a cyclist, they are annoyed because you are riding/driving slower than they are permitted to go. try doing 30km/hr down some of the busy roads in your neighborhood…maybe be a little less narcissistic and more aware of your surroundings.

  10. Well said.
    I really like the Hawaii approach to cycling on the roads – “Share the Road”. This is posted on road side signs on all the major roads and even some minor roads. Seems to work. Have been 4 times in 10 years and never experienced an issue. Much safer riding seems to flow from this type of awareness campaign.
    I also like the Rio approach to prohibiting motor vehicles on a major road or two every Sunday. Cyclists and runners and walkers can use 6-8 lane roads knowing there is no traffic to contend with. It is only one day a week.

  11. Lets pay rego – $20 per bike user (not per bike) and you are exempt if you are under 18.
    If it shuts people up about whether or not bike riders pay rego, it will be worth it.
    It won’t solve a thing ,but if those funds can be used to better the education of drivers and cyclists, I think it will be money well spent

  12. City of Sydney and thjose in charge of state roads need to get on the phone to Alpine Shire and beg them for some of their commonsense and the use of these signs:

    That are planted all over the shire, the scene of the 3 Peaks Ride and Audax challenges. They set the tone of driver expectations and awareness of cyclist use of the roads.

    But you can’t put a price on commonsense. Wait! You can! It’s called human life!

    1. That’s a great start Craig, but (for what it’s worth – first to admit I’m no data expert) not exactly what I was thinking. What if we had easy access to almost real time stats, say updated weekly at worst, not just showing fatalities, but all reported incidents to Police, geotagged. Thing is, as we all know, for every serious incident that hits the news, there are countless others that don’t. Just my view, great link to share though. I’ve had a few emails with links to request specific data sets from the different State governments. Will be looking into this.

  13. Super post, and I agree with *nearly* everything. However, as an Aussie cyclist living in France, I can’t agree with you on No.8.

    It’s only by going and seeing how things work in other places that you can fully develop and adapt new and fresh ideas to implement at home.

    Even traditionally bike-unfriendly places like the States (with similar distances and car cultures to address) are starting to adopt European-style measures to improve cycling (http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/europe/131126/europe-booming-bicycle-industry-us).

    There’s a reason these places (Holland, Denmark and just about every other developed country in the world) are far better for cyclists (and all road users) than Australia, and we’d do well to consider why that’s the case and to consider adopting some of the same measures, rather than continuing to live in a bubble that still brainwashes people into believing that wearing a piece of styrofoam on their heads will somehow stop them from being killed by a two-tonne piece of metal.

  14. Many of your comments are sensible but like much of the commentary tend towards apologizing for ignorant and discourteous behaviour. For instance, take riding two abreast. You assert that it’s legal to ride two abreast – in most circumstances that’s actually legally wrong (see rule 151 of the Road Rules). I think it’s reasonable for cyclists to ask motorists to obey the law and be very sensitive to the vulnerable position you guys are in. The quid pro quo is that you should be sensitive to the burden you place on motorists. There’s nothing more frustrating than being held up be a peloton of two or three. I’m sure cyclists would be frustrated to be held up by an extremely slow moving car on a climb where they wished to maintain momentum. Courtesy and lawfulness cut both ways.

      1. Hey PeteM. I think you’d find perhaps not unfortunately.

        I’m no lawyer either, but reading the full text of NSW Road Rule 151….

        Subrule 1 and 2 exclude riding abreast on either single or multilane road UNLESS subrule 3 applies – which effectively allows overtaking.

        Subrule 4 describes the prescribed manner that overtaking can occur, at a distance no more than 1.5m from each other.

        It would be a bit wrong to say subrule 3b (permitted under other laws) refers to subrule 4 as a standalone subrule, knowing that subrule 1 and 2 distinctly enforce the inability for motor bikes or cyclists to ride alongside one another.

        151 Riding a motor bike or bicycle alongside more than 1 other rider

        (1) The rider of a motor bike or bicycle must not ride on a road that is not a multi-lane road alongside more than 1 other rider, unless subrule (3) applies to the rider.

        Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

        Note. Bicycle, motor bike and multi-lane road are defined in the Dictionary, and rider is defined in rule 17.

        (2) The rider of a motor bike or bicycle must not ride in a marked lane alongside more than 1 other rider in the marked lane, unless subrule (3) applies to the rider.

        Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

        Note. Marked lane is defined in the Dictionary.

        (3) The rider of a motor bike or bicycle may ride alongside more than 1 other rider if the rider is:
        (a) overtaking the other riders, or

        (b) permitted to do so under another law of this jurisdiction.

        Note. Overtake is defined in the Dictionary.

        (4) If the rider of a motor bike or bicycle is riding on a road that is not a multi-lane road alongside another rider, or in a marked lane alongside another rider in the marked lane, the rider must ride not over 1.5 metres from the other rider.

        Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

        (5) In this rule:
        road does not include a road related area, but includes a bicycle path, shared path and any shoulder of the road.

        Note. Bicycle path is defined in rule 239, road related area is defined in rule 13, shared path is defined in rule 242, and shoulder is defined in rule 12.

      2. Okay, semantics and dictionary definitions aside, someone out there is a lawyer. Interpretation please? One of Sydney’s oldest and most influential cycling clubs must know the rules of the road in its own State.

      3. I think perhaps you’re reading it incorrectly. As written, that rule (whatever it is) clearly seeks to address riding *more* than two abreast (ie, riding beside *more* than 1 other rider).

        So, riding alongside 1 other rider is entirely fine (ie, two abreast).

  15. well as the story goes its the same all over when on the roads who has the rights well we all do if we all would just get of our high horse and look at what we are doing and saying but what are we saying!!!!!!!!. yes thats right its all bullshit …..wake up and look around and see what you dont see thats right your one of them do you want to enjoy your life with your loverly family yes you do well so does every one-else on the road but we all have to look out for all the other idiots out there that think they own the road unfortunetly we have to put up with them until they die
    that way they wont be on our roads anymore wont that be great

  16. I am a cyclist and love riding my bike. However, it’s hard to blame motorists for their intolerance of cyclists when you see selfish cyclists riding two abreast (or in peleton) in the transit/ bus lane in peak hour traffic. These lanes are designed to ease traffic congestion in the highest peak hour times yet morons think that legislation and not general decency should allow for them to ride along below the posted speed limits. Maybe an education program for cyclists, some basic consideration and manners would be a good start to help bridge the issues between motorists and cyclists. By all means ride your bike but stay off arterial roads and out of transit/ bus lanes in peak hour times. And maybe then we will have some respect and courtesy in return from those who drive. Also, countries like Switzerland require a bike registration fee to be paid which to me makes sense as we are using the roads and having impact on traffic congestion etc.

    1. Yeah, I don’t get the whole thing about why riding a bike on the road is even legal to be honest. If I’m in my car doing 25 in a 60 zone, I can be ticketed for impeding traffic. Why can’t a cyclist?
      The fact is, that most people are on the roads because they NEED to be. Cyclists are on the road because they WANT to be (generally). It’s just such a dangerous form of exercise. Then you get morons who ride around with their headphones in.
      As a motorist, it’s hard enough to see motorbikes who are swerving up and undertaking you on the left. It’s much harder to see a bicycle. Are bicyclists allowed to undertake a parked car on the left?
      As for the rules about riding on the footpath, I was told over 20 years ago that bicycles were allowed on footpaths now. Is that different state to state? I’ve never even heard this rule about if you are with your kids you are allowed – is there then some age limits on who can and can’t ride on the footpath?? Sounds like bunkum to me.

      1. I agree, I think cyclists could get along quite happily on footpaths, and only be on the road when there are dedicated bike lanes.

      2. Just because something is illegal, does not mean it is wrong. I’d like to see the projections of estimated deaths caused by cyclists on footpaths, compared to statistics of cyclists dying on roads.

      3. We can only ride on the footpath if it is a shared path or with children.
        Undertaking a parked car is impossible. You can’t fit between the car and the curb.
        I would love to have a 4m wide bidirectional cycle lane everywhere with a curb to prevent cars en-roaching the cycle lane or a separated cycle path.
        Pedestrians get a path without having to pay registration so why can’t bikes have their own path?? I’m sure all bikers would help pay via a rego system.
        Please remember that rego does not pay for all roads, tax does.
        Motorists, cyclists and pedestrians all want the same thing so please, everyone lobby your local member to get this occur!
        Problem solved!

      4. Again, what is illegal is not necessarily wrong. Gay marriage is illegal in many places, but we all know that laws can change. Pedestrians get a footpath because it is the lowest common denominator: if not for the footpath, you would be forced to buy some form of transport or risk dying with all the other vehicles flying around you. A bike, however, is optional (as is a car), so you get to pay for the privilege (as with everything else in life).

        The point of paying for rego is not to pay for roads, but to free up other funds that could be used on roads (or anything really). There’s no such thing as a free lunch and if you want more infrastructure that benefits you and impacts on everyone else, then you can damn well pay for it.

        The problem is that cyclists break the rules all the time (and they know they can with impunity) and they are completely inconsiderate to other road users. If you can hear cars piling up behind you, you’re riding a bike so you’re obviously not in a hurry, pull over and let them pass.

  17. What happens when a car tangles with a bdouble ??? Chaos that’s what!!! And it is normally not the bdouble driver that gets hurt and so on down the scale……. Semi trailer, body truck, suv, car, motorbike and pushy it’s always the smaller one that comes off second best

    The law of tonnage — MIGHT HAS RIGHT!!!

  18. For most of last year I did a daily cycling commute from Manly into the city. I found that if I watched out for cars and took the time to clearly indicate my intentions that the cars were courteous and careful. I stopped riding because of an accident on a bike path where the cyclist I was passing suddenly changed direction and rammed me into a mental fence busting my hand and my bike. Three other cyclists ran into me. They all jumped up, helped me to my feet and checked I was ok. The guy who caused the accident got on his bike and rode off without a word of concern or apology.

    My take. Most drivers and most cyclists are trying to do the right thing. Some people are arseholes. It’s that simple.

  19. Great post, looks like you’ve got exactly the same problems we’ve got in the UK, get the same responses too!!

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