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How lucky we are?

by Carl Brewer last modified 2008-05-08 04:11

After a stunning piece of driving in Sydney, it's time to reflect on riding in Melbourne, human nature and why bikes are good for everyone

I'm sure many of you will have heard about the crazy in Sydney who harrassed and then caused a multi-bike pileup in Sydney this morning.  If not, you can read about it here.

There's an old argument that pops up every now and then concerning cyclists and the use of the roads, and where it's appropriate, where it isn't, and how dangerous it is.  The above incident needs to be taken in perspective.  Immediate knee-jerk reactions abound, from the car-obsessed 'all cyclists off the road, get outta my way!', with the borderline psychotics writing things like 'I am sorry, but i HATE CYCLISTS ON THE ROAD. pain in the butt. i totally see where that guy was coming from, i just dont have the guts to run them down. good on him.' (sic) courtesy of a certain individual who hides behind the pseudonym 'Laurabot'.  There's some classy people out there, that's for sure.  These reactions, and the lighting up of the responses in various newspapers, from the bogan-news to more considered papers, show that to many, cyclists and road use is a hot topic.

Why is this? And why does it seem to be happening more often?

An obvious answer is that traffic density is higher and our road system can't cope.  There's an element of truth to that, for sure.   The irony being that those that complain about cyclists on 'their' roads are missing the point that they (the car users) are the problem.  There's too many people driving.  Take a look at the Eastern Freeway or the South Eastern, both roads are off-limits to cyclists, but they're clogged all the way.  More freeways just means more people encouraged to drive, and that just makes the problem worse.  The funny thing is that bikes and bikes used as transport are part of the solution to this.  Bikes used as recreation and sport are also part of the solution.  Bikes take less space on the roads, in urban environments bikes are often faster than cars to get from one place to another (so who is holding up who here?).  Bikes are greener (not perfect, but orders of magnitude less environmentally destructive than car use), bikes keep people healthier, and if 20% of the people who drove cars rode bikes to where they're going, the rest of the car-behooven would have an easier time of it, even if the bikes swamped the road system.  Bikes take up way less room on the roads.  The space used by one car is a whole lane, in that space two or three bikes can safely ride side by side, flowing along.  The car has, usually, one person in it.  It's nuts. Where the drivers get 'ragey' is in high density areas where they're not going anywhere fast, and cyclists, who are doing the drivers a favour, sometimes receive abuse for their troubles.

Funny animals, people.

Oil today, $123/barrel.  How much longer will these people be driving their cars anyway?

More fun, if the 50 bikes that were knocked over were ridden by mostly elite level riders, they'll probably be averaging around $5,000 per bike.  If 50% of them are badly damaged, that's going to cost our hero something in the vicinity of $125,000.  I doubt that'll be covered by insurance.  Maybe he'll have to sell his house to pay for the damage?

I'm going to write an article on bike paths and their merits, or rather, why I think they're bad in many cases and can make things more risky for those of us that ride for transport - watch this space.  In the mean time, remember we have a right to use our roads, take the lane and be assertive.



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