Dear Australia

Dear Australia,

Okay cobbers. This isn’t funny any more. Stabbings? Riders being intentionally rammed by cars? Full bottles being pelted from car windows? Supposedly mature adults publicly making light of life-threatening behaviour against cyclists as if we somehow deserve it simply for being there? I wanted to say a few things before any more innocent people get hurt or killed, because you don’t need to be Einstein to know it’s coming if current trends continue.

Look, I know there’s a lot of pent-up emotion towards bike riders in driver land, we all know that. We also get it’s very tempting and easy to blindly follow the trash media’s clickbait and be outraged as they expediently lump all cyclists into one homogenous group of self-entitled, renegade, law breaking, freeloading, lycra wearing, road toads. But seriously? That’s about as sensible as saying all motorists are lead-footed drink driving meth head bogans. It’s pure fiction. It is not ‘all’ cyclists, in fact it’s nothing like it.

Just because yesterday you saw some uni students riding without a helmet, or a Cadel wannabe run a stop sign (conveniently failing to notice any of the motorists who did precisely the same thing), or an overweight commuter in too-tight lycra do some other thing you didn’t particularly like, this does not mean we all do.

Despite the rampant influence of confirmation bias in this country, it’s never been more critical to fight the media-driven ‘outrage inertia’ and remember the vast majority of Aussie bike riders – tens and thousands of us – actually leave home and do the right thing every single day, just as most motorists do. Trouble is, watching cyclists do the right thing is boring. It’s not very sexy for the media. It doesn’t rate nearly as well. So let’s pump up the hatred, let’s focus on the minority and pass it off as the majority. It’s bullshit. It’s dangerous. It needs to stop.

Sure people make mistakes and poor choices, including cyclists, and when we do we deserve to face the wrath of the law. But I can assure you, beneath our lycra and helmets we’re just normal Aussies and all we want to do is stay fit and/or get where we’re going without being abused, threatened, rammed, maimed, stabbed or killed – either through simple carelessness or intentionally reckless acts.

Believe it or not we really don’t want to piss you off (we are acutely aware we’ll always come off second best in any incident), nor do we want ‘special treatment’ as we are so often accused of doing. What we absolutely do want is to be respected as fellow human beings, and to be safe as provided under the laws of the land so, frankly, our kids don’t end up as orphans.

If the thought of this overly upsets you, makes you wake up at 3am in a cold sweat screaming “pay rego!”, want to stab us with a box cutter, throw full beer bottles at us, punch our lights out or run us off the road and into a ditch, well, I’d suggest you have far greater issues in life than cyclists.

Come to think of it, you’d probably feel a whole lot better if you actually became one yourself – and you’re very welcome to join us.

Your sincerely,
Aussie cyclists

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7 thoughts on “Dear Australia

  1. You aren’t understanding what is happening if you think the media does clickbait. Various motoring interests are running a propaganda campaign against cycling that is designed to foster violence and other spiteful behaviour as part of a strategy to oppress cycling via legal changes. Companies like General Motors, Exxon Mobil and most notoriously (Henry) Ford have done this before.

    All publishers are fundamentally news hauliers whose HGVs loaded with paper have been given an impunity to drive where, how and largely over who they like. Car adverts also filll their publications, so for these and other reasons news hauliers have an internal economic incentive to attack cycling. However, many large operators like Fairfax, 7 West or News Corp have direct links with the motor-oil industry and in many cases have sister mining companies.

    2018 is seeing these companies control a roll out of so called autonomous vehicles and one of their requirements is to legalise the killing of those cycling if they can’t ban that competition entirely. This is because so called “autonomous” vehicles have flawed vision systems and the companies are not confident in their technology. They are trying to force silly clothing onto people of any transport mode and the end goal is radio tagging technology

    Another concern is their desired move away from personal car ownership to “mobility as a service”. Companies like Shell, GM, and Ford are looking to take monopoly control of city transport. However, they can’t compete with cycling so they use plausibly deniably tactics like lobbying for helmet laws. This inevitably ruins bicycle hire schemes and police oppression sees people dissuaded from cycling. In the UK they are even moving for a general pedestrian license scheme, cycle taxes, helmets, registration fees, and cycle bans.

    It feels too late for cycling because British news hauliers have this month started a subliminal campaign raising a mock hysteria about dangerous drivers after ignoring the subject for a 100 years or so.

    For more details read the following:

    View story at Medium.com

    A class action lawsuit for inciting violence is the correct response although these people don’t play by “the rules”.

  2. Mostly good except I’d change the 3rd paragraph as it sounds too aplogetic and confirming their ignorant bias of “cyclists break road rules”. I suggest changing it to voice the fact that all road users break road rules regardless of their mode of transport and in fact motorists break more road rules more often than cyclists can even break. Why else would there be so many red light cameras, speed cameras etc.? Many of the rules are specifically written for cars and don’t even make any sense for bicycles with very different operating characteristics and awareness. As for when they see a “rule breaking cyclist”, instead of get upset they should – 1/ think about why the cyclist did it and try to see if there was a good reason for it. e.g. not ride “as far left as practical” because of broken glass potholes etc. 2/ check the road rules to see if it’s actually a road rule or not. eg There is NO rule for “cyclists” to keep far left. There is a general rule for all vehicles to keep as far left as practical” unless it’s a multilane lane road in which case cyclists can take the whole lane – even the right lane if the speed limit is 80 or less. 3/ After checking 1/ & 2/ and if it really was something very stupid then the drivers should just be glad that the idiot was ridign a bike and not driving a car like that because on a bike idiots are likely to kill themselves but idiots driving cars kill 1,300 Aussies per year and injure 40,000 with many of those kids and people who end up disabled for live. When I’m driving I’d much rather be hit by a cyclist than a 4WD!
    Overall though, well done and thanks for trying for all of us.

  3. The big problem with bikes is nobody “normal” does it anymore. let me explain where all this hate comes from….

    A few years ago, ( the 80’s) cycling was becoming increasingly popular and people started to notice that most cities are terrible places to ride a bicycle, no bike lanes, no shoulders on most roads, aggressive drivers etc. So they petitioned the government to “do something” and they did. They made helmets mandatory, but considered it so important they forgot to legislate any penalties. The police complained loudly that they couldn’t enforce the law without fines. Fines were introduced, immediately removing 36% of cyclists. The drop among young women was even higher. Hey presto, no need for any planning changes, no money required for cycleways. Perfect! Problem solved.

    The only ones left were the hard core and those who were willing to wear a silly hat or already had a clown suit. The odds of a non cyclist participating on a part time basis ( nipping to the shops on the weekend for example) dropped to zero. The odds of the haters knowing anyone who rides a bike also dropped to almost nothing. So since they need to hate “the other” and Jews and black people are no longer permitted, they are left with fat people and cyclists.

    The hard core cyclists, have become more strident as they are marginalised. Riding in the middle of the lane instead of the shoulder – because legally they are allowed to, never mind that they are pointlessly inconveniencing others and endangering themselves. And heaven help you if you suggest that cycling isn’t an activity that requires anything other than a bicycle.

    Trying to have a conversation about cycling is like trying to enjoy a beer while being screamed at by temperance advocates on one hand and drunks on the other.

    You want to stop the hate? You need to return cycling to everybody, not just those who insist it’s a “sport”. There is a non-negotiable key to this. You to kill the helmet law.

    You can’t “encourage cycling” while demanding everyone wear a silly hat.
    It’s been 20 years and cycling is taking off everywhere but here, because people still don’t want to look like spastics.

    We can have cycling for everybody, or we can leave cycling to hippies and angry men in Lycra. Who the rest of us hate. There is no “middle ground” it is a choice, have people on bikes or helmet laws. Cycling will never be “mainstream” while it’s only advocates wear clown suits and silly hats, and bleat on about how we all need to obey the rules.

    Australia has had a 20 year experiment and it’s an abject failure. It has taken a great deal of pleasure away from thousands of people, and in exchange we have got less, than, nothing.

    1. Cycling had a good start in Australia with the wealthy governor in Melbourne taking to cycling when it first became popular with penny farthings and only the rich could afford the new cutting edge technology. As the price came down, average Australians took to the bicycle. Shearers, Kalgoorlie miners and cross country adventurers rode everywhere because bicycles were faster through the Australian landscape and didn’t need feed or water. But from the start there was an anti-cycling feeling. At first cycling was for the rich and many of them had no consideration for other road users. They were called “scorchers” because of how fast they rode past pedestrians and scared the horses. Horse lovers didn’t like bicycles. There were races between horses & bikes. Bikes won and the cavalry didn’t like it. I don’t know why horse riders hated bicycles so much. Maybe it was because bicycles didn’t have big brown eyes that people think love them back. Australia’s only famous cycling poem Mulga Bill’s bicycle is an anti-cycling poem written by a calvary man who glorified horses to the Australian public. https://www.poetrylibrary.edu.au/poets/paterson-a-b-banjo/mulga-bill-s-bicycle-0004005 If Banjo Patterson was alive today I’m sure he’d be one of the people clamouring for cyclists to pay rego and get out of his way or be run over.
      Cycling races became big business – for gambling. But it was mostly track racing on velodromes so the gamblers could watch just like horse racing today.
      As cars came in from the 1900s the rich changed from bicycles to cars and drove like they were above the law. Often they were because they were or knew the judges and lawyers. The upper class of the time often had little or no regard for the poor people who also used the roads and they had the power to change laws to suit themselves in their new murder machines. https://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/murder-machines/ Poorer pedestrians and cyclists were pushed to the edges to make way for the rich and fast in their stinking & noisy but fascinating cars. The American car industry promoted the term “jaywalking” using the derogatory term “Jay” which meant an unsophisticated country bumpkin. The car industry worked with the US Federal government to write road rules that forced pedestrians & cyclists out of the way of cars. Car safety campaigns didn’t teach drivers to be careful, they taught kids that roads were for cars and people had to keep out of their way. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26073797
      Before and after WW2 the bicycle was still a popular form of transport for middle class Australia. But from the 1950s the post war boom and increasing wealth needed more growth. The white American & Anglo-Saxon world adopted Hitlers idea that cars proved a nation was superior to others. Holden was promoted as a car made to suit Australian conditions (Although dirt roads in Australia were not really much different to dirt roads in much of America really.) but it’s also very similar to Hitler’s ideas about VW. In American General Motors came up with the marketing strategy of the Motorama dream to sell more cars and driving long distances from the clean suburbs to avoid living with the smelly poor scum & pollution in the cities. Industry loved it and subservient government controlled by the share holding wealthy gave tax payer money to build more roads and subsidise manufacturing and oil production so that even more people would buy cars. Entertainment and the news media were on the bandwagon and made movies and wrote articles glorifying cars to sell more advertising space to car dealers.
      Kids were still riding and walking everywhere into the 70s but many were being killed by careless car drivers as the road toll skyrocketed to over 4,000 deaths per year. More people were being killed by cars than in the wars. So the industry and government stepped up the “Road safety” campaigns to shift the blame, get people out of the way of cars and avoid calls for tougher controls on car usage. “Stop. Look 3 times and ALWAYS give way to cars.” became the mantra even though pedestrians did still have some rights under the rules, kids are not as good at recognising hazardous situations as “trained” drivers and pedestrians and cyclists were not the people causing the hazard. (Contrast that to Holland. In the 1970s the Dutch had the “Child murder” protests and with the oil crisis and lack of car industry were successful in restricting car access and speed. Look at them & their better health now!) Kids on bicycles were taught to keep to the far left and stay out of the way of cars. Those Australian kids then grew up and became drivers who firmly believed that cars own the road and have a God given right to travel unimpeded by kids or “poor people” and “drink drivers who had lost their licence” and had to ride bicycles. Much of the complaints from motorists about cyclists not keeping left and slowing cars down could stem from those ideas taught to them as kids to keep to the far left by those so-called “Safety” campaigns. Now that those kids are adults in cars, they haven’t adjusted their thinking to what the rules really are but still firmly believe cyclists are rule breakers because they don’t stay out of their way. They firmly believe cars own the roads and it’s their turn to live the Motorama dream and saviour the power of the car depicted in movies and media.
      http://www.roadswerenotbuiltforcars.com
      https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/05/amsterdam-bicycle-capital-world-transport-cycling-kindermoord

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