Cycling in Sydney Australia
I just read this rather stupid piece. Let's see what they cook up for the next segment.
I ride every day around the inner city of Sydney. If I have one bad interaction with a motorist in a week, it means that I have had literally thousands of positive or neutral interactions in that time too. In reality it is definitely less than one a week. I'm trying to think of when the last one was and struggling to remember it.
For me, that is nearly universal. it is a very small fraction of a percent of motorists that have an issue. For 99.whatever% of the rest we have been able to get along just fine.
You are probably right that their attitude has nothing to do with you. There are people out there that are just angry or upset for whatever reason and sometimes they will take it out on other people for no real reason. That's not to excuse them, but it just means it isn't a cycling issue per se and in my experience it really isn't particularly common.
OK, then it's a definition thing and a bit of a difference in outlook as well I suppose. It appears you are a more positively minded person than I am. I expect to have to take evasive action every now and then and to have situations in which drivers make mistakes (heck, I may even make a mistake myself from time to time), but even one deliberate assault which appears to be based on this "conflict" in our community is one too many for me to remain happy. I have had several of those. I'd say there's been maybe five this year. That's in northern Sydney. A couple of these have been verbal only and some have involved deliberate intimating driving, such as punishment passes and going out in the oncoming lane and then pushing in sideways towards me attempting to force me to either stop or hit parked cars. The latter has taken place at around the speed limit of 50 km/h and with cars in front of me doing the same speed. So no doubt about the intent to at least intimidate, possibly to cause physical harm. I usually try to make eye contact with a friendly expression, followed by a bewildered one which then progresses to something more aggressive (defensive).
It is definitely alarming, upsetting and frightening to be assaulted for no reason. I'm not trying to minimise the seriousness of the incidents that do occur.
I just think that these are really incredibly isolated incidents that don't reflect the way that almost everyone you have even the smallest amount of contact with in public space handles the need to share public space. Those five incidents this year are all really serious, but they shouldn't lead us to forget the thousands upon thousands of others that were handled with no need for any concern. This isn't a motorists vs cyclists problem - overwhelmingly motorists and cyclists are successfully sharing public space with each other. The problem is that there are a small number of people out there that are prepared to threaten or endanger others with no justification. Making it into a motorists vs cyclists problem serves no one's interests.
I fully agree that it is, or rather was, not good to create a conflict between cyclists and motorists. Unfortunately it has already been done. I ask whether it is conducive to healthy progress to ignore this conflict which is there whether we want it to be or not. You're right though in that not every motorist is an active combatant nor is every cyclist. There are a lot of loud contributors engaged in the media war. Yes, I am writing somewhat metaphorically, maybe :).
I feel like I am very active in seeking to make Sydney a better place for cyclists, dealing with the issues we do have in practical ways, without perpetuating a narrative of conflict or war, which I believe does not reflect the reality of the situation.
It isn't just the media or motorists who encourage the perception of a war on the roads, just take a look around this site. The description of the Commuting group is "Commuting in Sydney. War stories, routes and tips". Some cyclists get off on the association. I'm sure many offices in Sydney have an "office cyclist" who with great enthusiasm about their near misses, their fights with motorists... all the while putting everyone they speak to off the very idea of joining them on a bike. I mean, who in their right mind would want to sign up to go fight in a war just to get down to the shops or to work?
With all that you say about how unhealthy it is to exacerbate conflict, I agree. When you write that there isn't a conflict here in reality, I disagree. I suppose I am looking at it from a different perspective, one where cycling as transport was normal and something grandmothers, children as well as competitive cyclists used to do for transport around town to get to school, to the library, etc. Just look at the article we discussed earlier in this forum where a Danish rider thought Sydney was the worst place in the world to cycle in because he had three motorists yell at him. Where I come from cycling is a positive thing, not in any way something that is controversial or in any way disliked. That's how it should be. The fact that there is a large contingent of people that dislike, even hate us for what we do is alarming. I do admire you for your positive attitude and for your work to make Sydney a better place. Please continue. When it comes to war, I have no desire what so ever to be in it during my daily commute or otherwise.
Concerning the article that I started this thread about: I actually think it has crossed the line of what is legal. It does in my view incite and encourage violence on the roads. Regardless of what I think about that, it teaches dangerous and illegal driving.
I don't have too many troubles in traffic either Rob. I too 'take control of the situation' and communicate clearly with my fellow road users what it is I expect/require them to do. Position on the road, hand signals, body language signals, eye contact, smiles and snarls all contribute.
You must concede, though, that not every cyclist has an assertive nature, nor necessarily the skills to ride forwards in a straight line whilst looking backwards. Speed also helps, of course. You and I might ride faster than some other cyclists, who would, thereby, more often have to yield. Less fit, more timid cyclists have also every right to expect to be able to ride safely on our roads.
Not having go at you personally by any means. Just making a point I thought should be made.
Less fit, more timid cyclists have also every right to expect to be able to ride safely on our roads.
Exactly ; that is the normalisation of cycling we should be aiming for instead of blaming a victim because a operator of vehicle can't control themselves on shared public infrastructure.
Agree. Although assertiveness (not aggression) is generally a thing to be encouraged in traffic, I'd like cyclists of all levels to be able to use the bicycle for transport in Sydney. When it comes to the cyclist/motorist relationship, I believe also, that there is a bit of a contradiction in that assertive cycling can be more visible and can be more irritating than timid cycling to those who don't want to see cyclists on the roads.
If you can't ride forwards in a straight line while looking backwards then you shouldn't be riding on the road. I am quite serious about that. If you are unable to make eye contact with motorists or to see what is happening on the road behind you then you are not able to be a safe or effective cyclist. Yes, every cyclist has the right to be safe on the roads, but you need to have a minimum level of competency to properly control of your vehicle. As an on-road cycling instructor I will never take a person out on to the streets with me until they have demonstrated off-road that they are able to look over their shoulder while riding a straight line, amongst other fundamental skills. If they can't do it I encourage them to continue to practice those skills off-road before venturing on-road.
It does help being a fit guy in my 20s, I agree. I can push the speed when I have to. For the most part I don't need to, though, because I chose not to put myself in too many situations where it is necessary. While I am cruising along the deserted back lanes of Redfern and Newtown I know there are people that are going to and from the same places as I am, but are instead creeping along Cleveland St or King St at 10km/h and having a much different experience. There are almost always lower pressure routes available.
I'm not saying any of this to blame people for their bad experiences. They aren't to blame. I just know that there are so many things that I can do for myself while riding that will make my experience more enjoyable and less stressful, things that I can do to mitigate for the mistakes that other people will make (be it motorists or pedestrians or other cyclists). These things do require some skill and knowledge. You can't expect to be able to successfully function in a shared space with thousands of other people if you aren't able to communicate with them.
None of this is to say that we should not expect courtesy and respect from others out there on the road. I'm just more interested in what I can do for myself rather than relying on other people. My job is to help empower Sydney's cyclists, to make them aware of what they can do for themselves.
Agreed. Though I know a couple of long time cyclists who can't take a drink whilst cycling! And you or I would have a lot of difficulty telling them that they need to practice skills before going out on the roads again.
And I praise you for striving to empower Sydney's cyclists. Still I have niggling doubts about the various levels of assertiveness amongst the general populous, and hope we don't send those less assertive into exile.
It was a concern I had many years ago when given a provisional diagnosis of ankylosing spondylititis, which among other things, could have led to a loss of neck flexibility, and one of the first thoughts was that I wouldn't be able to drive any more if I couldn't check over my shoulder.
AS is not that uncommon (probably affects 1-2% of the general population, although to varying degrees) but I wonder if it's concentrated in drivers who don't feel the need move their head other than to check their mirrors - if I can't see it in my mirrors it doesn't exist, and even if it does, if I put my indicator on it'll make it go away.