Ride on: a cyclist's opinion

I am a cyclist. I am 61 years young and I guess I represent the age demographic of most readers of Starts at Sixty.

I am one of the youngest cyclists in my circle of friends and I am a qualified bicycle instructor and a retired Police Officer. I was astounded by the vitriol towards cyclists in comments on this story by people of my age who possibly grew up riding a bicycle for transport in their younger years.

I ride about 6,000 km per year across much of Australia, having ridden from the Queensland border to the Victorian border in two rides this year alone. I regularly ride in Sydney and I use a mixture of on road riding, shared paths and footpaths. I am aware as a person of more than 12 years of age I am not allowed to ride on a footpath, but with cycling infrastructure in its present state, it is often the only option. I choose my options based on my perception of my own safety and I ride to the conditions of the area I am sharing, whether it be with cars, pedestrians or other cyclists.

I sympathise with Emily Greenwood and her plight after being struck by a cyclist, having been hit by a car myself while riding, but I can see some areas in her incident which may not have been reported.
24-year-old Emily had just finished a ‘celebratory lunch’ with friends. No mention is made of the place Emily dined or time spent there, but she had, according to the report, just set foot on the road.

I can draw a long bow and make an assumption she may have partaken of liquid refreshment at lunch. I can continue to surmise she may have also been distracted by a mobile phone, as many of her generation of pedestrians often are. I can also safely assume she did not make a cursory glance in the direction of approaching traffic to ensure they had stopped before she stepped on to the roadway.

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None of this excuses the cyclist for running the red light, as without his action this wouldn’t have happened, but there is a basic need for people to take some steps to ensure their safety whether walking, cycling or driving.
The areas of land between fence lines or building alignments are public space, open to use by cars, pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders, mobility scooters and wheelchairs. In short, they are not the sole domain of any one class of person or means of mobility. We have laws to govern how we move around these areas, but unfortunately many people have very little knowledge of these laws, a fact ably demonstrated by the comments section of the story of Emily’s plight.

Bicycles are classed as a vehicle and as such, are allowed to be ridden on public roads in Australia. They are bound by the same laws as drivers of motor vehicles in most cases but have some exceptions.
Some of the misconceptions revolve around bicycle lanes. The simple addition of a bicycle logo to the road does not constitute a bicycle lane. A bicycle lane is designated by a sign on a pole and it must be used by cyclists ‘unless it is impractical to do so’. It is also illegal for the driver of a motor vehicle to travel in or park on a bicycle lane in most instances. I know of only one such lane in the Parramatta area, and the same applies for most other parts of suburban Sydney.

The regular argument is cyclists don’t pay for the roads through registration or licences. The sad fact is, neither of these sources of funds go anywhere near paying for our roads. Local Government rates also make a huge contribution and I think you will find most cyclists will own at least one car and in many cases pay rates to a Council.

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Most of my trips around the city are by myself, so by cycling I actually reduce congestion on the roads by avoiding single person car journeys. I don’t take up a car parking space when I reach my destination and I also maintain a higher level of fitness than many people much younger than me.

I choose lycra jerseys to ride in as they are mostly brightly coloured, they have pockets in the back and they are light and easily dried. They are less offensive to me than the overweight person in their football club’s colours when there isn’t a snowflakes chance in hell of them picking up a sporting ball and taking to the field. But having said that, I won’t wear a Tour de France jersey either for the same reason, but the choice of clothing is personal.

I am a member of three cycling associations, Bicycle NSW, Bike SA and Aust Cycle and each membership provides me with a Third Party Insurance cover as well as a personal accident policy. There are over 10,000 members of Bicycle NSW alone who are covered by like insurances. Unfortunately the Motor Accidents Compensation Act which provides for the right to make a claim against the Nominal Defendant only refers to Motor Vehicles. The removal of the word ‘motor’ from the act would have provided Emily with an area to seek compensation.

A further question that arises is, had Emily Greenwood been at fault and caused the cyclist to be injured, would people be baying at the door to have pedestrians registered or licensed?


Thank you to John for sending this in.

What do you think of John’s comments? Do you agree with him? What is your opinion on cyclists? Tell us below.