By Chris Brunner
With the Tour Down Under about to get under way in Adelaide, inspired cyclists are taking to the roads in their hundreds, but the increased presence of cyclists on our roads is no cause for concern if you all just settle down and look at it this way...
To a motorist, cyclists are pests, and every January in Adelaide there’s a plague. The biggest cycling event in the southern hemisphere comes to town and everyone wants to be like Lance.
Motorists, beginning a new year of work or study, find themselves sharing the road with swarms of cyclists.
And they don’t like it.
Well just chill out.
From my perspective there are a few things we all can do to make sure the stress levels remain low, and no one gets killed.
I’m able to make unbiased comment because I’m a bikist.
By this I mean I’m not a cyclist, but I ride a bike.
Bikists are bicycle riding persons in no way connected to the cycling world.
A sure way to spot a bikist is by his clothes.
Unlike a cyclist, lycra-clad and ridiculous looking, the bikist rides his two-wheeled trekking machine with dignity, or at least normal looking clothes.
His general attire is completely unsuitable for the act of riding a bike.
His thongs betray a freshly lacerated big toe, and his pant leg is torn from constantly getting caught in the chain.
Bikists are the middle ground, the neutral territory between the two extreme worlds of cycling and motoring.
Bikists are the key to bridging the chasm of misunderstanding on our roads.
To begin with bikists are, for the most part, solitary creatures.
You will not find them on the road blocking an entire lane or more with their incessant inter-bike chatter.
This is a major point of contention between cyclists and motorists.
Cyclists feel well within their rights to bunch, or ride two-abreast (which is legal); especially in the early morning and even more so on Sundays.
Bikists side with motorists on this one, the road is for travelling on, not for social networking.
Can you picture two motorists in their Honda’s, windows rolled down, having a casual chat at 40km’s per hour?
It’s illegal to even hang your arm out the window let alone discuss which days of the week you can’t use your garden hose.
If you want to ride together get a tandem bike, or better still, an octobike.
I’ve seen these contraptions in Europe.
|I MUST find one of these and ride it w/ 7 of my closest friends! ~C.G.|
Most of the cyclists can’t even see where they are going.
With these wonderful inventions you can all cycle and chat facing each other, while only taking up the space of less than two bicycles riding side by side. Seven of you can even sip Lattés while the eighth takes care of the handle bars. First problem solved.
Motorists are especially frustrated by cyclists riding on the winding roads of the Adelaide Hills.
Bikists, by their very nature, avoid anything resembling an incline, not to mention large hills and small mountains.
As a bikist, it is beyond my imagination to fathom the motivation that tempts cyclists up these roads.
The scenery I’m sure is not quite so beautiful through sweat stung eyes. Moreover, the motorists enjoying this same scenery suddenly find themselves approaching a group of cyclists on an incline travelling no faster than the evolutionary process, and there are more dangerous encounters still on the descent.
I know in my previous experience as a motorist the smallest and most inconsequential infringements made by a cyclist have been enough to raise me to a completely unreasonable degree of anger and frustration.
Motorists’ biggest grievance with cyclists is not that they shouldn’t be on the road, but that they are able to exploit the road rules in ways which a motorist cannot. Although a cyclist is legally obliged to dismount and walk if he wishes to cross with the pedestrian traffic, we are all aware that in the vast majority of cases they do not.
This gets on the motorists’ collective nerve, like the older child who is told to be sensible while the younger one relishes in the joys of irresponsibility. It’s simply not fair.
A cyclist zipping in amongst the swarm of pedestrians crossing from Rundle Mall over Pultney Street at 30kms an hour is just plain dangerous.
Bikists have been known to be guilty in this regard too, but they tend to take it easy and cruise, even waiting for the people to completely dissipate before venturing out, very timidly, like a possum.
Cyclists are faster, much faster than their bikist counterparts, and dangerously more confident.
I have seen a gang of BMX riders fly through that very intersection scarcely avoiding a multitude of pedestrians. These BMX riders are neither cyclists nor bikists; they are hooligans, and not to be trusted.
As a bikist, I am no more threat to pedestrians than a toddler passing joyfully on his tricycle.
The cyclist who speeds past a strolling pedestrian may have judged his path correctly, but the bewildered pedestrian who perceives that he’s just been narrowly missed by a ‘cocky-lycra-boy’ is filled with fear and rage.
Motorists, this is not your battlefield. Besides how does it affect you?
Other than the cyclist has gotten away with something you could never get away with, but would love to.
When it does affect motorists is when cyclists run red lights and simply merge with the flow of traffic.
Again, a degree of calm needs to be observed.
Try to avoid savagely swerving toward, and attempting to frighten the cyclist into submission.
This is not good for anyone.
If a cyclist does pull an utterly stupid move in your path he deserves nothing less, and nothing more for that matter, than a wee word of caution.
Think of it as an excellent opportunity to test your horn.
It’s easy to divide these two groups, and to stereotype them.
But there are good cyclists who observe the rules, and there are those that don’t. There are reasonable and tolerant motorists, and there are those who are grumpy, impatient, and just plain rude.
The first step people, is not to generalise.
Don’t invent excuses to abuse a cyclist if he or she hasn’t done a thing wrong.
A cyclist in your lane trying to avoid parked cars in the cycle-lane is only doing as he needs to keep getting to where he’s going.
And cyclists, not all motorists are out to monster you.
You take a gamble every time you ride on roads with things much heavier, much faster, and infinitely more powerful than you.
There’s no need to enrage the beast by cutting him off or blocking his path.
The trick, I think, is to be respectful. Cars and bikes are legitimate forms of transport.
In this day and age too, the motorist should consider the environmental benefits of riding a bike.
Perhaps they wouldn’t be so afraid to make the switch if there were less people like themselves ready to provide the cyclists with their standard of three near-death experiences a day.
To reach an understanding, we should all take the view of the bikist.
The bikist represents everyone, and can give a reasonable, unbiased viewpoint on this issue.
So remember, when I swerve out in front of your car, or I narrowly miss you at an intersection and you scream after me, fist pumping in the air – ‘F*#king cyclist!,’ I just keep on riding, it’s like water off a ducks back, I’m a bikist.