As spring arrives in Sydney, it’s a great time to ride a bike. Conditions are improving for cycling in this city but there’s still a lot that could be done to make it much safer. Proper driver education would be a great place to start…
– A blog and video by Rob Arnold
This #RideDiary largely serves to introduce a video about riding through the last days of winter in Sydney. Early on Tuesday morning I talked through my intentions for a “ceremonious” removal of my legwarmers while out on the bike. And then I clipped into the pedals and set off with an open mind and a few hours of riding time.
At this time of the year, the days are getting warmer and longer. When you are on the bike in Sydney, it’s clear that there are bold intentions to make conditions for cycling in my city a lot safer. There is a proliferation of new bike paths, and the government seems intent on improving the network in a city that’s currently suffering because of industrial action by the Transport Workers’ Union.
The roads are clogged as people look for alternative ways to get around town while train and bus drivers are on strike. And although Sydney has endured one of the wettest years ever, spring is in the air, the scent of jasmine permeates the place, and the sun has been shining a bit of late. Alas, that doesn’t mean it’s always easy to ride a bike in a city that continues to have an obsession with driving.
I’d like to think that the #StoryOfMyRide series of videos highlight how much you can see and do while riding a bike in a city like Sydney. It is possible to go places and get exercise – and even clear your mind while doing something good for yourself… but it doesn’t take much to make a good mood turn bad.
One stupid motorist can spoil it all and there are constant reminders on our road network of the need for diligence at all times.
In one of my first interactions with other road users early on my Tuesday ride, I found myself wrestling to maintain position on a patch of road that I was perfectly entitled to ride on. Approaching the city from Redfern, the driver of a linen truck saw nothing wrong with how he was behaving in traffic.
On a downhill stretch, while I was travelling at the legal speed limit, the driver accelerated until he was only centimetres from my rear wheel. After taking evasive action to avoid what I believed was a dangerous situation, I confronted the driver at the next set of traffic lights. He seemed bamboozled by how upset I was about him driving so close to me at 50km/h.
“I was braking,” he told me, firmly believing he’d done nothing wrong.
Tailgating is all too common on our roads, but it’s rank behaviour that is threatening and dangerous. It’s rotten when you’re in a car and someone is driving too close, and when you’re on a bike it’s even worse.
In 2022, when there are loads of new riders on our roads and the government is making a considerable – and worthwhile – investment to improve the cycling network, there is still a distinct lack of education about how road users should interact.
There are public awareness campaigns for a wide range of topics – from promoting COVID-safe practices, to encouraging people to be more tolerant of others, and all else in between… and yet there’s little done to explain that cyclists have rights on the roads.
If there was a little more emphasis put on promoting safe driving and riding practices, everyone would benefit. Riders would feel less paranoid in traffic and it could even be that some who are currently using their car to get around would get out on their bikes a little more often.
Instead, spending continues on a disjointed cycling network – with various councils bickering with each other about where bike paths can or cannot go – and, although things are improving, there’s still a long way to go before it’s safe for everyone.
With better education on the rules of the road, the flow of traffic could easily be improved. Motorists might look to the bike as a transport alternative. Bike paths would be more utilised, and we could all move around much more easily, and without the constant fear of what might go wrong because of the ignorance of a handful of drivers.
One nasty incident shouldn’t spoil your whole day. You shouldn’t feel vulnerable on the road. You should be able to ride your bike around a lovely city and feel safe.
That time may come and if it does, then Sydney will be a better place to live.
In the meanwhile, we make of it what we can even if that means having to jump up on a footpath to get out of the way of a motorist who quite simply doesn’t realise how threatening their actions can be.
Cycling isn’t all it can be in Sydney, not yet. But the mood can improve, and we can all get to where we want to go – in the car, on the bike, or on public transport – without a fuss and with a smile upon arrival.
I’m an optimist. I see the good that can come from riding a bike. I have always encouraged others to go for a ride and discover the pleasure of pedalling. And one day soon, I hope that it will be possible for everyone to do so without fear of an incident – or an accident – that could be avoided with just a little bit of courtesy.
– By Rob Arnold
#StoryOfMyRide #Cycling #TouristInMyTown #Sydney
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