Ride on: a cyclist’s opinion 31



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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.

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.

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.

Guest Contributor

  1. I have never been a cyclist. In fact the last time I rode a bike I would have been fourteen years old. I live in Tassie and for such a small place there are many many cyclists. I have never had a problem. I have driven now for forty years and not one incident. I know people who ride on designated tracks, on the road and the occasional child on a footpath. The footpath is my only small concern as the growing population of elderly and the mums with their strollers sometimes have no-where to go, but usually it is a small inexperienced child on a bike. I have more of a problem with skateboards. In Tassie and I assume everywhere else, most cyclists seem to ride together, I have not come across many not sticking to the side of the road. Patience is a virtue they say, so peeps slow down a little when you see the cyclists, give them room and stop pointing the finger. There are good and bad drivers and cyclists. Tolerance of each other goes a long way.

  2. There are a number of cycle paths near where I live and I often see them when out and about. The poor bloke looks over his shoulder and sees me behind him and goes all out trying to get to safety so I can pass him. I just slow down and wait until it’s safe for me to pass. It might cost me a few seconds but we are both travelling safely. I’m more afraid he can’t really see me and I don’t want to cause him to have an accident. Yes it’s always a him never a her.

  3. We live in Wollongong and the council have gone all out to put cyclist tracks in for them but they still ride on the road and most of the roads are only one lane each way , they just might have to get off to cross a small side road

  4. I am a keen cyclist. I am also a keen motorist. As a 61 year old cyclist I do not wear lycra. Anyone over forty should stay away from lycra. I avoid riding on roads preferring instead to enjoy the peace and quiet of bike tracks, rail trails etc. As a motorist I see cyclists endangering their lives by riding two or three abreast, running red lights and generally having the opinion that they have the same rights as a car. This may be so but anyone who thinks that a bike can argue with a car is a complete tosser. I play it safe and enjoy my cycling off the road.

    1 REPLY
    • Rod Faithfull, your comment was what I was talking about. Cyclists do have exactly the same rights on the road as motorists with a couple of additional ones, such as being allowed to ride two abreast at any time & three abreast if overtaking. The same law also applies to motor cycles. There are a few others as well. A look at the full copy of the Australian Road Rules might enlighten many people to these laws & quite a few others often broken by cyclists and drivers alike.

      1 REPLY
      • Point taken John. However, the rule book may give bikes and cars certain rights but in the case of cyclists riding two or three abreast surely this is a fool hardy thing to do on a public road shared with all manner of vehicles. Even on relatively quiet country roads I have seen cyclists defy death and or injury by riding abreast. Recently I was driving in the Victorian high country and on rounding a bend in the road I was suddenly confronted with cyclists three abreast. I was able to brake, swerve and avoid a disaster. Had a car been coming in the opposite direction it may well have been a different story.
        Road rules do not give anyone a right to think arrogantly and forget about other road users. We share the road with many forms of transport and until this changes there will be accidents and conflict as to who has rights and who or what has most rights. At the end of the day we should all use ability, common sense, anticipation and awareness of what is happening around us be the most important factors when we use our roads. Nevertheless I am sticking to bike tracks when I have my cyclist hat on and when I have my motorists hat on I am on the look out for cyclists and of course other dick heads in cars.

  5. I’m in Tasmania and, for the most part, cyclists are not a problem. I still see the odd example flouting road laws, e.g., running red lights.
    I would comment, though, on the practice of large cycling groups (e.g., 20, 30 or more) riding together on roads and highways.
    This is the equivalent of a mammoth vehicle moving at slow speed and on our roads, impossible to overtake safely. This lack of courtesy fosters the very attitude from motor vehicle drivers which cyclists (generally) complain of.
    At night, it is not unusual around here to see cyclists riding with little or no lighting. They are a danger to themselves and anyone else who doesn’t notice them. Blinking white LED’s don’t cut it when there are excellent headlights for bicycles available.
    One other thing – police here are on the alert for “power assisted bicycles” which, due to the power rating of the motor, are eligible to be classed as motor bikes.
    In the latter case, a licence, rego and MAIB insurance are required.

  6. I believe the cyclists should pay a registration fee. We in Melbourne city have given massive amounts of bike lanes, it’s nearly impossible to get around it during the week, we would see only maybe 2 bikes using the bike lanes while driving to Victoria market once a week. It’s a shamble. We are a big country not small like Europe, we need our cars. We have decided not to go into the city because of these bike lanes.

  7. Thanks for the article. I have a son who is a cyclist. Most mornings when I drive to work I pass a group of 6-10 cyclists they are all doing the right thing and riding in single file – the road only allows that there is only gravel on the side. However, motorists can pass them safely. I have witnessed a few motorist who have shouted abuse or used sign language to them for no reason at all except they are on bike, happily these folks are in the minority.

  8. For many years now there has been a ” User Pay Policy” for vehicles & people who use the roads, & I pay thousands of dollars per year to be able to legally use two cars & a caravan on the roads, & with the caravan I pay even though it is only used for only a few weeks a year. So my belief is, if people want to use the roads to train on they should pay , at the very least for third party insurance of maybe $50-$100, & obey ALL the road rules, or go & train on private track, NOT PUBLIC ROADS.

    1 REPLY
    • Michael Sheridan, you obviously missed parts of my article. I pay handsomely for the rego & TPI for my two cars and a trailer. Pay rates on two properties. I have Public Liability Insurance through three different cycling bodies & I am one of at least 10,000 others who are members of Bicycle NSW alone. A bicycle is a legitimate road user & therefor allowed on a public street, just like a car etc. If you were to ride on some of the bike paths in any part of Australia, you will find many of them are incomplete, follow nice scenic routes along rivers, but don’t actually take you where you want to go & are populated with pedestrians, joggers, dog walkers, skateboarders and so on. Try driving you car to an intersection where you are legally required to stop, get out of the car and push it across the intersection and you will get a feel for what a cyclist has toput up with.

  9. Bikes are great – BUT all one sided they have no Id, no registration, no responsibility ,no licencing and free reign on roads that they make no contribution for , all liability falls on motorists

  10. oh but a few give cyclists a bad name there is a road where i live the speed limit is 110 & you get cyclists 4 & 5 abreast so forgive me if i think you need to go & read the highway code

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