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I was forced to drive into the city for work yesterday and the traffic was absolute chaos. Was I the only motorist that realized that the cause of all the dramas on the roads were the number of cars? Not the cyclists. The bikes were the ones who freely rode past as I was caught in the gridlock. Even though it was pouring rain out I was jealous of them. I often wonder how much worse it would be if the 5000 commuters who come into Melbourne’s CBD per day were driving cars instead of bikes. A Drive to Work Day would certainly prove a good point.
I had a post all written up today about the new Beach Road clearway but I just saw Matt Keenan’s blog at Cycling Central who basically talks about the same thing as well as the ‘Drive To Work Day”. The main difference is that Matt has a much better way with words than I do:
In the days leading up to the start of last year’s Vuelta a Espana I had the pleasure of spending some time in Holland and enjoying a road culture that supports bikes.
Watching mothers pick their kids up from school with one on the back and one on the front, men riding home from work in their suits stopping for chat with an old friend in the town square and women, who appeared to be in their 70s, with panniers loaded up with groceries making the gentle trip home all got me feeling a little dreamy.
In the bubble of cycling friends I associate with, having all this in Australia somehow seemed possible. Cycling utopia.
Although that bubble begun deflating as soon as I returned home and ventured out onto our roads.
But it was only yesterday that it truly burst when the realisation of just how far we still have to go, sunk in.
The Kingston City Council announced that it had approved a 12-month trial that will see parking banned between 6am – 10am on Saturdays and Sundays, and on Monday nights. Effectively creating a clearway for peak cycling times.
Normally such a forward thinking announcement from a council would be cause for celebration. Then I took my reality pills and read the comments on the Herald Sun website.
Some of my favourites include:
“car drivers pay road tax therefore should be allowed to park anywhere, anytime. cyclists cut you off and think they rule the road, they have no rights as they don’t pay for a licence or tax”
“That is just giving licence for these cycle gangs to kill more innocent pedestrians along Beach Road! What next, honestly these idiots are out of control!!!!”
You and I all know that more cyclists are killed by motorists than cyclists killing pedestrians – and every such loss of life is tragic.
And that most cyclists have a car we pay registration on and that it’s actually the taxes taken from our income that really maintain the roads, whereas registration fees fund accident compensation schemes.
So what are the key areas we need to address to improve things on the roads for all road users?
One of the key themes coming through is the breaking of the road rules by cyclists. It only takes a few for all of us to be tainted with the same brush so in addition to doing the right thing, have a word to those who don’t.
And to win a few brownie points, acknowledging the motorists who do the right thing by you on the road with a simple wave or nod of the head and a smile will go a long way to improving the relationship.
The other recurring theme is that cyclists slow traffic down.
When I’m in Australia I ride my bike to the office most days for a few simple reasons – a) I love riding my bike b) I get my exercise fix and transport all for the price of one and c) it’s quicker.
The argument from motorists that cyclists slow the traffic down always staggers me. How could I slow the traffic down if riding to work is quicker for me than driving to work?
Now normally I’m pretty placid and don’t rise to the bait. So taking on board the Gandhian quote of “an eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind” – I have a passive idea to test the theory of whether or not cyclists really do slow the traffic down.
How about the day after “Ride to Work Day” every cyclist puts their bike on the roof rack and drives to work and maybe throw in a little sign that says, “I pay tax, registration and normally ride to work”.
My bet is that taking all cyclists off the road and back into their cars will cause a serious slowing down of the traffic.
Will that ever happen? Probably not, so as we commend the Kingston City Council for their forward thinking and hope that their actions have a positive outcome for all road users, what else can we do as cyclists to improve our relationship with motorists?
Have a great weekend, ride hard and ride safe!