Shame on Herald Sun – Cyclist with Baby. It’s normal!

The most popular article on the HS today is a photo of a female cyclist transporting her child around in a manner she sees fit.  A normal and natural way to get around.  An acceptable, non-event pretty much anywhere else.

But, unfortunately, the HS has written a vile article calling this person the most irresponsible woman in Victoria and stating some irrelevant and generalised stats that don’t even back up this claim.  A bit rich…….  The disgustingly overly dramatic “child’s life at risk”, “life threatening situation” makes it seem like this perfectly normal activity of transporting yourself and your child to your destination is certain death for even thinking about such a thing.

Cycling is safer than walking and much safer than driving.  This person’s actions wouldn’t have even been cause for a second glance internationally.  Why have we allowed car culture to permeate every pore of our being so that the only perceived “safe” way to transport children is inside a tonne of metal?

I would also like to make a special mention of the person who took the photo “Melanie, 39”.  It seems to me that they have taken this photo whilst operating a motor vehicle, from my understanding of the road rules, an illegal act that has the potential to kill someone!  Don’t see a huge write up about that one!

What is up this week, Major Newspapers?  Your coverage of cycling has been reprehensible this week with several terrible anti-cycling articles.


Cycling and the Qld State Election – My letter to candidates.

*Rant Warning*

I’ve written a letter to each of the candidates standing for my local electorate.  It’s below if you are interested.  I’ve e-mailed / sent it to as many candidates as I could find online contact for.  The e-mail address for the Family First candidate did not work and I couldn’t find an address for one of the independents.  I’ll post their responses for those interested.

If you want to send one of your own, there are some suggestions here.

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I was riding home today, and I actually came to a realisation that is kind of scary.  Riding in traffic actually scares me.

Now I wouldn’t call myself a novice rider, but sometimes riding in Sydney can sometimes feel like an extreme sport.  Between watching right for drivers trying to squeeze up the right side, watching left for cars pulling out, doors opening, pedestrians running out in front of you and monster pot holes, is there any wonder that a short ride through traffic can sometimes leave you strung out and feeling as if you’ve just been in battle?

Some days, every car you pass seems like a win, and every intersection you successfully get past seems like a battle won. Oh, and any roundabout, where a car on your left actually gives way to you – wow – that’s like winning the lottery.

I mean, really, are drivers really trying to kill us?

New Year’s Cycling Resolutions

I’m not one for ever doing any New Year’s Resolutions.  So these are both belated and aspirational rather than resolutional.

Ride when ever I am able.

This is deliberately open ended.  Riding is already my primary means of getting to and from work but I could probably move more journeys to the bike for social events, to and from sport, the shops, etc.  Some of these, I currently bum a lift or catch the bus/taxi.

Buy Australian made cycling products.

If possible, I hope to buy Australian made cycling products.  I bit of a long shot for many things but plenty of the things that make cycling fun and add novelty are made in Oz.

If not Oz made, then from the Local Bike Shop.  If not from the LBS, then from an Oz retailer.

It’s unfortunately all too easy to get that thing you want online from overseas much cheaper than here.

Try to normalise cycling.

Both to myself and others.  Even though I ride every day as my primary means of transportation, it still doesn’t feel normal.  This is a terrible admission on my behalf and probably a bit of a reflection on the poor state of cycling in Australia.  Cycling doesn’t feel like something normal people do.  I’m going to try to wear normal clothes, cycle to normal everyday activities, talk down cycling short comings and encourage others to give it a go.

More advocacy.

Write more, tweet more, contact members of government more.  Join the local BUG.  Complain when important public facilities have no/inadequate bike infrastructure.  Take down number plates and report to police poor behaviour.

Don’t forget to ride for recreation.

I do a lot of commuting.  It’s easy to forget that riding for the sake of it is fun.

Cycle to the beach

Something I’ve wanted to do but haven’t gotten around to.  It isn’t even that far!

Near Miss *Rant Warning*

I had the horror of a very close near miss this morning.  I was travelling in the left hand lane approaching a set of lights.  There were three cars queued in the right hand lane.  The first turning right,  the second and third going straight ahead.  The left hand lane was clear.  I’ve had trouble at these lights before, so about 50m before the intersection, I moved in to the centre of the left hand lane to take the whole lane and remain obvious.  The lights turned green before I needed to slow down, so, I continued on at normal speed. I’m very cautious in these situations so am on the look out for any indicators or signs that driver will make an unexpected manoeuvre.

The second car in the queue decided they did not want to wait for the first car to turn right and made a sudden swerve into the left hand lane with out indicating or even creeping forward first.  I had to brace my forearm on the passenger side door in order to not get pushed over.  The driver did not stop.

This was incredibly frightening and has made the top 3 of bad things that happened on the bike.

But the worst part was I told this story at my work safety meeting and was met with a person stating that they don’t look for cyclist because they don’t expect them.  How in your right mind can you state in a safety meeting that you blatantly don’t follow the road rules.  And therefore don’t really care if one of you injure or kill one of your colleagues as a result.

I Share the Road

James from the Toronto bike blog – The Urban Country has started a campaign for road safety called I share the road.

For as little as the postage cost ($1.50 CAD), you can get 10 x I Share the Road stickers in two sizes – large and small.  Small is a great size for chucking on the bike – on the fender, mud guard, seat post, racks.  Postage time to regional Qld was about 2 weeks.

I think I’ll be adding these stickers to our X-mas cards for our friends and family.

Below the cut is some photos of my stickers in action.  There has been one particular instance in the last two weeks where I wish I had the sticker to refer some drivers to. Continue reading

How do we improve driver/cyclist cyclist/driver relationships?

Driver/cyclist, cyclist/driver relationships where I live are pretty bad.  We have comedians encouraging motorists to go and run over riders, we have people deliberately trying to run cyclists over and we have a legal system that seems to think that killing a cyclist is a lesser offense than killing a motorist.

But, we all have to live together.  Yep, even on bad roads, with heavy traffic and poor infrastructure, and a government that doesn’t have enough money to fix it.  So, in this post, I’ve tried to take out a lot of the angst, the blame and the finger pointing, and put down a couple of ideas that I think might help.  These are only looking at our behaviour.  I have lots of ideas on systems, legislation and infrastructure, but that’ll come later.

  1. Mutual respect.  Cars, acknowledge that bikes have a right to be there.    A cyclist is exercising their right to engage in a legal, valid form of transport.   If the roads aren’t built for cyclists?  That’s not the cyclist’s fault.  Lobby the government for better bike infrastructure and everyone wins.  Bikes, acknowledge that you do generally hold up traffic  .  Choose your route to minimise this.  For example, I know it’s a cyclist ‘s right to be on the road, but choosing to ride up a 1 lane steep, 5 km hill which is also a main road, in peak hour traffic?  Probably not a good idea.  Sometimes it’s unavoidable, but if you can, choose a different route.  Yes, I understand that you don’t HAVE to, but this is about us all trying to make the best out of a bad situation.  Let’s work together.
  2. Obey the road rules.  Cars, indicate and check your blind spot before pulling out, or changing lanes.  Don’t drive in the bike lane – no, not even 2 wheels.  Bikes? Stop at red lights.  You are legally allowed to go to the head of the queue of cars, but stop.  Yes, I know it’s a pain to get your foot out of the cleats, and I know that it’s a pain to have to accelerate off the lights.  And yes, I even know that sometimes it’s safer to go through the light then stop.  However, everytime a motorist sees a bike go through a red light, it makes their blood boil, and we end up creating anti-cyclist motorists.
  3. Acknowledge good behaviour as well as bad.  We’ve probably all gotten angry at a bike or car, maybe even made a few angry gestures.  I also try and make happy ones too.  If I’m stopped at lights (either in my car or on my bike), I try and give the driver/rider a smile and wave.  If a car lets me in, I pop up my hand to give them a thanks.  If I cyclist looks around a bend and waves me through to overtake, I wave on the way through.    Saying thanks, or acknowledging good behaviour makes people feel good about doing it, and helps to reinforce that it’s the right thing to do.   I watched a really interesting documentary once about the differences in the way people act when they walk or when they drive (cycling wasn’t mentioned).  Have you noticed that if you bump into someone walking across an intersection, you don’t immediately feel angry, swear or give them a finger? Why is it, when we drive, that if someone cuts us off at an intersection, our first indication is to get angry?  What they said was that we need eye contact and body language to read people’s intent.  When you are walking, you can see the other person’s whole body, so you can judge intent which means that you know that the person didn’t mean it.  The person says sorry, we move on as friends.  In cars, you are distanced from the person.  They become depersonified, and it is hard to read their intent.  Therefore it makes it easy to get angry with them.  So, by giving them a smile and a wave, it helps connect cyclists and drivers as two people battling against bad traffic, as opposed to two people battling against each other for one place in the traffic.

Anyhow, this probably sounds pretty fairytale-ish and probably even preachy, but they are my ideas for the day.  I know that the next time a driver yells at me out the window, I’ll still get angry, but if we can improve cyclist/driver driver/cyclist relationships, everyone wins.

An Awkward Situation – Straight ahead bike vs LH turn car

This is something I see quite frequently.  Coming up to an intersection where you must stop (stop sign occasionally, traffic light mostly), you are as far left as is it safe to be (as per the law) and are continuing straight ahead on your journey.  A car pulls up on your right hand side and they are turning left.  Who goes first?  Did the driver see you?  Will they just run you over?  Will they hoon in front of you to get around first?  Not a great situation to be in.

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Dealing with Harassment on the bike

I am so saddened to write this post.  I wish it never happened to anyone.  I’m sorry that anyone will have to go through it.  Intimidation and harassment on the bike is not acceptable but often a reality of many journeys.

I have been the victim of some severe sexual harassment whilst on the bike.  A man in his late 30s / early 40s, driving a large black 4WD, felt the need to stalk me, drive along side me for a decent distance and talk/yell/coerce the most disgusting things out the window continuously that made me feel incredibly vulnerable, degraded, violated and scared.  I was riding to work and once I got there, I broke down crying with relief that nothing worse had happened, that it was over.  It took me a day to bring myself to tell anyone at work about it but I was glad I did.  Work was very supportive and offered counselling as well as other practical help including taxi vouchers, car pooling.  At work’s suggestion, I also went to the police who took the matter seriously, taking down all the details and put on extra patrols on my regular route during my commute time.

I offer no advice on what you should do during the altercation because I know none of the advice any one gave me (mostly male, non-cyclists) was helpful.  You do what you need to do to get through it.  Adages of “You should just stop”, “You should go in to a shop”, “You should call for help”, “You should make a scene / draw attention to yourself” aren’t helpful when you are shocked / fear someone with their giant metal monster is going to run you over or worse.

I offer no preventative advice on how to avoid it happening to you because there isn’t any. Nothing you do, wear, act, change is going to stop it.  The only person who can prevent it happening is the perpetrator.

What I can offer is what I did afterwards that helped me get over it and made me feel safe on the bike again.

  • It isn’t your fault.  You did nothing wrong.  You couldn’t have done anything differently for a different outcome.  You did what you had to do.
  • You aren’t alone and there are plenty of people out there to help and support you.
  • Try to remember as many details as you can.  This is hard.  I told myself at the time to remember specific details but after it was over, I couldn’t remember them.  Details about the make/model of the car, general description of the perpetrator, logos, identifying features.
  • Tell someone as soon as you complete your journey or as much of the journey as you can complete.  If it is to work, tell your supervisor.  In Australia, your employer is responsible for any incidents that occur on your way to and from work.  WorkCover also covers these journeys.  If it is a journey to the shops, tell the centre management.  If it is to a class, tell your teacher.  If it is to the gym, tell the staff.  I felt better just telling some one about it.  It shared the burden and prompted other people to act and help.
  • Tell the police.  I was pleasantly surprised with how the police handled the matter.  The extra patrols, the phone number of the officer in case it happened again.  They took the matter very seriously and handled it and me professionally.  They took me to a private room when they saw I was upset and took down all the details I could remember.  They were going to run cross checks and see if anyone else had made complaints.  Their visible actions made me feel safer.
  • Cheap video cameras.  There is a variety of cheap and small helmet or handlebar mounted video cameras available.  These won’t prevent an incident but one made me feel like if it happened again, I would be ready to record everything.  Also good for general bad driver behaviour if you want to report people driving dangerously.  Some places even have these available for rent.
  • Changing your route / time of trip.  I varied it up a bit to make me feel better.  I know this has no impact on safety but it removed me from the bad memories for a while and allowed me to enjoy my rides immediately after the event.