Cyclists V Motorists: AP V The Old Man

I've never really vented on this blog about the ongoing rift between cyclists and motorists. It's a a topic that seems to be close to the hearts of every road user - two wheeled or four wheeled - so perhaps it's over due.

I'll admit I've been tempted many a time after returning from rides where I needed the digits on both hands (and sometimes also feet) to count the close calls I've had. But, I try to keep Triathlete Chronicles more positive, and even refrained from commenting too much on the motorist when recounting my recent crash.

But something's changed. I've finally had enough. It's time to vent. 

So what has brought this on? 

The tipping point came when I finally plucked up the courage to tell my Dad about my crash

Despite his only daughter being one, my Old Man is a long time cyclist antagonist. (He even drives a ute.) I kind of thought, though, that my recent battle in the Cyclist V Motorist war (me as the cyclist) might soften him up a bit.

Boy, was I wrong. No sooner had I given him a reasonably short version of what had happened, how it happened, and a summary of my ongoing rib discomfort, he opened with a doozy.

"Did you hear that more than 6,000 cyclists got tickets last year? Most of them for not wearing helmets."
Thanks for nothing Courier Mail.

It didn't stop there. 

"You should see them down on the Corso, they ride all over the road and they yell at each other at the top of their voices. They should have some respect for the residents. No one asks to be woken up at 5am by people yelling out side their front window."

I tried pulled out a few of the tried and true lines, but none of them were any more convincing to The Old Man than they ever had been. 

"Cyclists have to be safe, Dad. They have to communicate about upcoming hazards on the road."
"These guys are just talking about work, the footy, all kinds of stuff."

I don't know how he knows this much detail, this story is second hand. The Old Man doesn't live on the Corso.

"Isn't that a bit like moving to the Valley and complaining about the night life?"
"Some of these people have lived on the Corso since long before bicycles were around."

What, so they've lived there since the 1890's?

When I hung up the phone, I was really disappointed. I'd just told my father that I'd been hit by a car while riding my bike.  Surely he was able to comprehend how lucky I'd been that there hadn't been any serious damage to my body, let alone any serious threat to my very existence?

If this couldn't make him stop and think about how important it is for cyclists and motorists to share the road, what can? And if this is the attitude of someone whose offspring is at risk from this ongoing conflict, what hope is there?

Over the years I've been lured into many discussions on the Cyclist V Motorist divide, not only with The Old Man, also with work colleagues, friends, random acquaintances and complete strangers. I've defended the position I hold - that, for the most part, cyclists just want to survive their next ride, and will do everything in their power to make that to happen. I would like to think that motorists, for the most part, want to share the road. I'm just not so convinced that that's true.

There are many practical ways I've tried to politely and hopefully unbiasedly point out the virtues of sharing the road.

These are some of my often-delivered arguments in favour of cyclists.

1.  Let's open with the big one. Yes, of course, people who ride bikes do the wrong thing from time to time. Motorists do the wrong thing too. I would place a healthy wager that the majority of the 6,000 non-helmet-wearing-cyclists are cyclists that aren't the lycra-clad, road-bike-riding cyclists that are usually at the end of the wrath of motorists' road rage. Motorists don't seem to understand that this group is just one subset of a very broad cycling community.

2.  This road rage often leads to the argument that cyclists should use bike paths, or even footpaths, rather than riding on the road. I'd also put money on most adult cyclists being car owners also - so because they do actually pay rego, why shouldn't they use the road? Particularly when riding on the footpath is illegal in some Australian states.

3.  So let's talk about legalities. All road users are obliged to keep as far as practical to the left. There are, however, times when it does make sense for a cyclist to occupy the lane (and, heaven forbid, hold up some motorists for a short time). They need to move over in the immediate approach to a right turn, they need to be visible when negotiating roundabouts... and sometimes there isn't a shoulder for them to ride on, or it's in such a bad state of repair that it is more dangerous for them to ride there than it is closer to the flow of traffic.

4.  So why aren't more taxpayer funds used to fix the roads? Well, the money is spent in other areas. Most would agree that the hospital system should get an even bigger slice of the pie. On this front - hooray for cyclists. In general, they are healthy living. They are therefore indirectly doing everyone a favour by reducing the burden on the long-suffering hospital system. I think of this every time there's a media story about smokers / drinkers / the morbidly obese, who very often have the finger of blame-seeking politicians pointed at them in this ongoing saga.

5.  And if we're talking about finger pointing, it IS in fact legal for cyclists to ride two abreast, though yes, of course, there are time where common sense should prevail, and they should ride single file so they don't hold up traffic unnecessarily.

The list goes on. But really, every argument I can think of is really just a variation on the same theme. When it comes down to it, the Cyclist V Motorist debate should come down to common sense; all of the arguments are really just a matter of legality and mutual respect. 

Like everything else in life, there's a legal tenet that stipulates the minimum acceptable behaviour. Our respect for one another and our inbuilt sense of what's right and wrong - let's call them morals - generally lifts our collective behaviour from the legal minimum to a higher, more civilised level.

Unfortunately, in the Cyclist V Motorist war, this doesn't happen, and if you ask me, we seem to be moving further and further from this ideal.

Perhaps it's just how society is these days. Perhaps the ongoing conflict of Cyclist V Motorist is just a prevalent symptom of the erosion of common sense and consideration towards others.

What do you think? Can we turn this around? Or has it gone too far?

....Vent over.


  1. Good for you Powerhouse,
    This issue makes my blood boil. I'm currently engaged in an online debate about this very topic. This person is insisting that without us paying rego we have no right to use the road... fact is rego pays for State Highways and a few key arteial roads, not local roads which most of us use when we cycle. These roads are paid for by council - I pay my rates, so their point is a moot one.
    I also have a father and a brother who seem to have views similar to your fathers - sadly i've also almost given up, and just remind them how bad they'd feel if they actually killed or injured me or someone that i knew - seems to shut them up pretty quick.
    The "general road raging public" need some educating about cyclist rights, the government needs to step up.
    I'm sick of being used as target practice because people are too ignorant or stupid to learn the rules. I now considering employing the use of a helmet-cam so i can make official police reports of dangerous driving.
    Stay safe!
    Sarah C

  2. Hey Sarah,
    It's pretty amazing that our families can have these views about us! I'm glad, but also sad, that I'm not alone in this!
    The government definitely needs to step up on this one. How do we get them to do that though?