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:
- Everyone on all sides would just calm down a bit, no actually, a lot
- 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
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- 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?
- ‘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.
- 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
- 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
- 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.