I had a really freaky experience on Saturday working as a Route Marshall at the “Gear Up Girl” women’s cycling event. The event was the first all women’s bike ride to celebrate International Women’s Day. I spent a good part of the morning directing women cyclists along he shared cyclepath/ pedestrian walkway at Brighton Le Sands. As they passed, I asked them slow down and watch for pedestrians as they negotiated the shared part of the course. During the day a man with a pram walked up to me in a screaming rage and threatened to hit me. The altercation went something like this:
Crazy man: “Why aren’t these cyclists keeping to the left!”
Me: “Sir, I’m asking them to slow down and watch out for pedestrians as they pass”.
Crazy man: “This is dangerous, we have children walking along here… who is responsible for this?”
Me: “Sir, this is an event run by Bicycle NSW, we have a traffic management plan that is approved by the RTA and the police, we're trying to make this safe for everybody.”
[the crazy man then walks away then turns back towards me clenching his fists threatening to hit me]
Crazy man: “You f**king smart arse, I outta punch you in the head”.
[I stepped back away from him]
Crazy man; [Screaming] “You f**king cyclists, I’ve seen you in the city, you run the red lights, you break all the road rules, you’re fucking hypocrites... hypocrites."
[Crazy man finally walks away].

This altercation scared the hell out of me. I’ve had bad run-ins with motorists trying to run me off the road, but I’d never had a pedestrian abuse me in this way (and I wasn’t even on my bike). Now I know that the man had a pram and probably had some hard-wired nurturing instinct to protect his young from any real or perceived danger, but his reaction was completely over the top. There were signs everywhere saying there was a cycling event on, and the women were not racing. I was astounded by the way the man quickly turned his line of reasoning from some moral indignation about safety to broad speaking hatred of all cyclists as “f**king hypocrites”. I wonder, does this man own a bike or have ever or have ridden one? Does anybody in his family own a bike? Do any of his work colleagues or friends consider themselves “cyclists”? If I was a real smart arse, I would have told him:
"Sir, do you think it is interesting that bicycles have outsold cars for the last 7 years in a row?"
To witness such pathological behaviour is understandable and I’ve felt similar outrage when I’ve felt like I was going to be killed by a motorist. I’ve wanted to blow my top, but I usually control my anger and not blow up. I do feel sorry for pedestrians who used shared cycleway/footpaths. They can be dangerous and not all cyclists are sensible they way they ride around on them. However there are risks everywhere in our society. It seems that cyclists find themselves to be “betwixt and between”. Somehow “we” find ourselves as illegitimate users of both spaces. Within some quasi-democratic-spatial imaginary, going for a walk and driving a car holds resonance as legitimate social activities, but supposedly cyclists go about their ways as vile law-breaking monsters.

Views: 46

Comment by Simon Sharwood on March 10, 2008 at 11:31am
Just a random crazy, I reckon. His arguments aren't worth a puff of dust.
Comment by Jonathon Troy on March 11, 2008 at 10:34am
I was wondering how you were on Saturday when I saw you. I have to say that the us vrs them mentality is alive and well in Sydney when it comes to pedestrian cyclist conflict.
I would like to see shared paths built along the lines of a path I saw in Adelaide outside one of the universitys. It was divided into a pedestrian and cycling zones with signs telling pedestrians not to walk in the cycling zone.
Another idea has been the Copenhagen lanes now used in Melbourne.
As regards the gentleman's issues - there was enough signage on that route over the past few weeks to let everyone who uses it regulary know that something was happening that day. There was even signage on the hole in the wall section at Canturbury that is being done up! There have been running events does he have any issues with runners running very fast?
In relation to his view of us as "hypocrits" pedestrians also jay walk (partially because of the shoddy facilities such as traffic lights that keep them at intersections longer than it takes to walk to the next intersection) but it annoys motorists and cyclists and in certain cases it is against the law.
I have read letters in papers and columns usually in News Ltd papers claiming cyclists are self righteous (because of our simple request to be treated as equal road users) but given the writers demands that we pay rego and insurance/display a registration on either the jersey or the bike. I am wondering if they are casting a psychological shadow on to us eg who is being more self righteous us or them?With a bit of luck the kids in his pram will grow and want bikes. Dangerous dad with "hard-wired nurturing instinct to protect his young from any real or perceived danger," will have to ride with them on the footpath as he is allowed by law and will experiance the other side of his arguement
Comment by Richard on March 13, 2008 at 8:19am
As I saw you just after the incident I reckon you handled it really well Adrian. Kept your cool and rational.

He's in ranting outrage mode and is just looking for an excuse to take a swing at someone.

Shakes you up though when confronted with such naked agression. Just what you need when supporting a community event.
Comment by Andrew on March 13, 2008 at 9:13pm
thats what beer is for
Comment by Chris on March 17, 2008 at 12:58pm
Pedestrian Cyclepath ahead?

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