bikes:vs:car

Yes, this is going to be about bikes and cars.

I’m writing this after reading the following article from news.com.au – Truck driver throws firecracker at Sydney cyclists.   This in itself isn’t the fullest new story, but what is more interesting are the comments attached.   At time of writing there are 336 comments to this article.  It’s quite amazing the hatred from both cyclists and motorist and also the hatred they have for one another.  There are also the classic quotes about what cyclists are allowed to do and that they should pay road tax etc and they all run red lights and hop pavements.  There are also the same generalizations from the cyclists about the motorists and their speed, lack of knowledge or road rules, and that they all run red lights.  Funny how both parties run red lights all the time…

The first comment, which a lot of people don’t agree with, I partially do agree.  It is about time the government did something about cyclists and cyclists need to start obeying the laws.  There is nothing that annoys me more as a cyclist, is seeing another cyclist hopping onto the pavement or running a red light.  I stop at red lights, every one of them.  The simple reason is that it’s the law to do so.  The second it’s far safer to do so; in a vehicle vs. bike situation, the bike is never going to win.   So why even bother jumping the light just so there is an off chance that you could get hit.  As for going up onto the pavement to cross the lights on your bike with the pedestrians…just don’t.  If you’ve chosen to ride on the road, then ride on the road, or the cycle path and obey those rules.  You don’t see cars doing it and for the exact same reason, you shouldn’t do it on a bike.

As for cyclists not paying for the road; well, like many others, I have a car and pay Rego, CTP and Insurance.  My bike weighs less than 10KG and does far less damage than the car anyway.   But, I would be happy to have the bike registered etc if it would make a difference.  The truth is that it won’t make a difference.  The attitude from both cyclists and motorists need to change.  It doesn’t matter if it’s rush hour traffic or not, both the car and the bike need to respect each other.  I hold my hand up, I’ve yelled at car drivers more than once while on my bike.  The main thing is what is a registration of a cyclist going to do?  What I would like to see is a crack down on cyclists by the police in the exact same way that a car driver would if they ran a red light or hopped a curb just to cross the road.  Saying this, I have only once seen the police stop a cyclist – it was dark and wet, and the guy had no lights or a helmet.

Riding two abreast seems to be a big contention to most people as well.  The following page from the RTA clears this up:

Laws and Penalties

Cyclists also have some special rights, which include:

  • Riding two abreast, no more than 1.5 m apart
  • Travelling to the front of a line of traffic on the left hand side of the stopped vehicles
  • Travelling in Bus Lanes and Transit Lanes. However, cyclists cannot travel in Bus Only Lanes
  • Travelling on the footpath where indicated by signage
  • Cycling on the footpath if the cyclist is less than 12 years old. An adult, who is riding in a supervisory capacity of a cyclist less than 12 years old, may also ride with the young cyclist on the footpath
  • Turning right from the left hand lane of a multi-lane roundabout with the proviso the cyclists must give way to exiting traffic

To be a legal road vehicle during the day, a bicycle must have:

  • At least one working brake
  • Either a bell or horn fitted to the bike, within easy reach and in working order

To be a legal road vehicle at night, a bicycle must also have :

  • Lights fitted and in use when riding at night – a steady or flashing white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres and a flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the rear of the bike
  • red rear reflector that is clearly visible for 50 metres when light is projected onto it by a vehicle’s headlight on low beam

It is compulsory to wear an approved helmet correctly when riding a bike. This applies to all cyclists, regardless of age, including children on bicycles with training wheels and any child being carried as a passenger on a bike or in a trailer.

Failing to obey road or bicycle rules may result in a fine.

(The above makes no mentions of hook turns, you should see the looks and confusion when you pull one of these off in front of a car)

hook turn example

hook turn example

The first thing we see is that Riding two abreast is legal, and in fact a lot safer than not.   Riding three, four that’s not.  The other one that annoys people is the  “Travelling to the front of a line of traffic on the left hand side of the stopped vehicles” of filtering as it’s known.  This causes the most upset to drivers stopped in traffic and they really don’t like it when you come the end of the line and stop in front of them at the lights (yes, we’ve stopped at the lights).  This is here for two reasons, the first is that bike is a lot smaller than a car and can pass through the gaps without issue.  As for plonking yourself in from of the car at the lights; well it’s so they can see you.  If I’m in front of you, you can’t miss me no?

Well, yes you can.   Take a look behind you when your on a bike stopped at lights.  The motorist is often looking about, talking on their phone, talking to the passenger, do they see you in front signaling that you are going right when the lights change?  No.  How many times when you have been in a car and the car in front doesn’t move when the lights change…it’s the same thing, people don’t notice what is happening around them.  Car drivers freak out when a cyclist appears from no where, even thought they have been there for a quite a while.  The response from the driver is “bloody cyclists, not obeying the laws etc”, the cyclist “bloody drivers, not giving me space or obeying the laws etc”.  Sound familiar?

I’d like Sydney to implement the “bike box” like the city of Portland have done.  It’s a really simply thing but it makes sure that the cyclist is seen by the driver.  It also gives a little bit of safety to the cyclist.  We had these back in the UK and they work.  Then again, Portland has kinda come to realise that bikes are here to stay and if you make it easier for them and safer people will use them.   Just checkout Bikeportland.org and Portland Online for the differences in thinking when it comes to a bicycle.  If Sydney did the same thing, maybe some of these criticisms might be leveled?  Or at least there might be a better understanding between the motorist and the cyclist.

Another complaint the comments made is that cyclists don’t stick to bike lanes.  I can understand this.  My commute to work takes me via a long stretch of cycle lane.  The problem with these lanes are they are shared parking lanes; an example here.  So rather than having a clear lane to myself, out-of-the-way of the cars I have share it with parked cars and vans.  Some of which take up the whole lane.  As it’s valid for parking I have to watch for cars overtaking me and then stopping and pulling in to park, parked cars pulling away and those that have just parked opening their doors.  Is it any wonder I stay more to the left of the actual road and on the line of the bike path.  These bike lanes are a joke.  They don’t help the cyclist and they don’t help the motorist.  All that they do is allow for parking and allow for the government to say we have X many KM of cycle path.

My favourite bike lane craziness is this one here.  This looks down Miller street in North Sydney.  Looking at the photo, to the right there is a bus lane, then a bike lane then two car lanes.  Now the buses often pick up there then go straight on.  Here is the view that you have across the intersection as cyclist.  Buses go straight on here from the bus lane, so you need to be aware of them undertaking you on the right hand side, cars (the two lanes to the right of you) also go straight on and round the corner, so you have to be aware of a car turning right and going straight on.  So worse case, if you are going straight on there could be two cars and a bus that will squeeze down on you trying to get into the two lanes.  Actually it’s more like one, because there is parking on the other side… This area is a sore point with me as it’s where I was hit by a bus undertaking me.

Saying this, it’s not like Sydney isn’t aware of its issue.  They have promised more bike lanes for added safety.  How many we actually see, are another thing.  Their design is great though, and I’d love to see that separation of each user.   Artistimpression_separated_cycle_lane Certainly the artist impression of how it would work makes sense.  If this was everywhere, would more people cycle to work?  Maybe.  The downside is that it does take up at least four lanes.  This in itself may not go down too well with motorists.  It also could compromise on existing parking spaces.  It does mean that the cyclist is off the road and the cars aren’t bothered by them.   But then again, Portland has bright green bike lanes on regular traffic lanes that everyone can see which are for cyclists.  Even the colouring of these roads green in Sydney would be better than what there is in places.

Other things that drive me insane as another cyclist and that aren’t mentioned in the comments for the news.com.au article are the carrying of helmets.  If you ride a bike, wear your helmet.  Don’t just ride with it hanging off your handle bars.  It’s there to protect your head, and even at low speeds the results of not wearing a helmet can be horrific.   I can’t talk for others, but I don’t feel any discomfort while wearing a helmet.  Even if some may say that the statistics are flawed and that it doesn’t prove anything, why not just wear it.  On the odd chance something does happen, then great it may save my head.   To be fair, accidents can be avoided by being careful and not breaking the laws, but yes they happen.  Luckily I’ve never hit my head when riding, and any damage has been skin rash.  But still, wear your helmet please.  The site, helmets.org, does have list of stats.  Make of them what you will.

My other gripe comes down to riding at night.  Too many cyclists don’t have lights, or only have one light and think they can be seen.  The truth is that you can’t.   Even as another cyclist, I look at the cyclists in the dark thinking, really you think anyone else can see you cause I hardly can and you’re only 100m in front of me.  I have a 3 white LED light on the front of my bike and two small lights on my helmet.  So that’s three lights going forward.  I have a 5 LED rear red light and 2 smaller red lights hanging off my back pack.  The final thing on my back is the Exelite Lumipac.   It’s a two EL lamps embedded into a pack cover that attaches to my backpack and can be seen for 800m.  I do notice that when I’m wearing it at night, people notice me and move over.  There is something obvious about the backpack that says I’m not what you think I might be and you need to take note.  It does mean I look like I’m lite up like a Christmas tree, but I’d rather that, than not been seen at all.

But it all comes down to both the cyclist and the motorist.  The cyclist needs to obey the rules of the road for starters.  There also needs to be some peer pressure from the other cyclists out there when they see cyclists breaking the law.  The same time there needs to be an understanding from other road users that the cyclist is still there and needs some respect and just that extra bit of room.  In the end, we are all trying to get somewhere safely as fast as possible…aren’t we?

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~ by monkeypushovertree on September 14, 2009.

One Response to “bikes:vs:car”

  1. […] Following from the some of the items I mentioned in the bike:vs:car post, here is an example video of what happens when you include the parking area within the bike […]

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