Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sharing the Road

There's been alot said lately on the Cycling v Motorist debate lately so I am hesitant to write this, but I think anything positive is helpful, and I have a good story to tell, so here goes.

I ride on the road ALOT, and the huge majority of motorists pass me safely and politely without incident.  I actually believe Sydney drivers are getting better and are getting the message that cyclists have a right to ride on the road and they have a right not to be threatened, abused or bullied despite the recent spate of tragic accidents involving the mutilation of cyclists.  I am blessed with a level of fitness that means I can usually pedal along at a respectable pace and before merging I consider motorists behind me to ensure those in a hurry can get by me.  In fact I find it a great motivator for training, when I find I am using a lane and potentially holding up drivers, to ride as hard as I can to the next bit of cycle lane to let motorists pass.  I use hand signals and employ a friendly little wave when another road user respects my space.  Of course none of that means anything if a driver unexpectantly hits me from behind but that's the risk I take riding on the road at this point in time.  So far (after a number of years) all I have had to deal with is the odd side mirror clipping my elbow, not too bad but still too close for comfort.  When the traffic is light, like early Sunday morning, I will use the left hand lane (in areas up to 80kph speed limit) and not ride on the shoulder to avoid all the crap and glass that lies on that part of the road.

The other day I was returning from a commute to the city and heading up through Lindfield when a tradesman and his buddy in a truck starting to honk his horn at me and hurl abuse.  Both the driver and passenger engaged in this behaviour.  At the time we were stopped at lights and I was a few cars in front of them.  The abuse continued as they passed me.  Interestingly the traffic was light to medium and I was not slowing them down at all.  All this behaviour was in front of numerous other motorists and of course their truck was plastered with ample signage advertising the business they worked for.  I wont continue here with all the details of the life threatening behaviour that followed, but suffice to say I was angry, upset and visibly shaken.  I was also confused because I had ridden within the rules and had actually not been holding anyone up.  What's more I hadn't done anything to provoke this attack and I had such a good ride up to that point I wasn't going to let them ruin it.  I politely advised them that I had recorded the business name and rego number and that perhaps they should learn the road rules.

I wrote a letter to the Manager of the business explaining what exactly had happened.
I asked them if this was the way they wanted their business portrayed in public and I asked them to consider if when they were summoned to court after my unfortunate death, how they would feel having lost their business and then facing my widow and 3 fatherless children?

This morning I got a call from the proprietor of the business apologising for the behaviour of their employees and explaining it was completely unacceptable for them to behave this way and they were on their first official warning.  What a great outcome.  That's two more drivers who now realise that cyclists are human beings and need to be given just a little bit of respect on the road.

Just one more thing I want to say about this.  Cyclists arent perfect either (obviously!).  The other day, whilst driving home, I saw a cyclist riding on the road in a dangerous and aggressive manner.  A car pulled out in front of him, but he had put himself in a position so as not to be seen by the driver.  The cyclist them screamed blue murder and abused the driver on a busy village street in full view of many passers-by.  I was so embarrassed.  As cyclists we need to take responsibility for our own safety.  When I got my motorcycle license (many years ago), I went through the Stay Upright training which was awesome and was absolutely the reason I rode a motorcycle everyday for 3 years without incident.  Two words: Defensive Riding.  Ride like you are invisible and expect drivers to pull out in front of you and not only will your riding behaviour change but you will live longer.  Something the instructor said to me I will never forget: 'There is no point when you are lying on the ground with 20 broken bones saying "but it was their fault".  Much better to ride defensively and not have to be scraped up off the road'

Keep Riding

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