We need to share the roads

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - - NEWS -

les­ley.hunter­nolan@news.com.au

BI­CY­CLE Queens­land claims that 90 per cent of cy­clists re­cently re­ported feel­ing un­safe on the road due to cars un­safely or il­le­gally over­tak­ing them.

I’d love to know what per cent of cy­clists feel ab­so­lutely ter­ri­fied out of their wits – I’d wa­ger it’s up there.

Cy­cling on pub­lic roads around Bris­bane is a cold-sweat-in­duc­ing night­mare.

I’m sure plenty of ex­pe­ri­enced cy­clists take it in their stride, but for the recre­ational biker it can be har­row­ing.

In re­cent weeks I have had to con­tend with snakes (in­clud­ing a dreaded red bel­lied black), swoop­ing mag­pies and tourists on in-line skates, but noth­ing com­pares to the ter­ror that cars strike into my heart when they come too close.

The fact that only 39 mo­torists were fined for com­ing too close to cy­clists in 2017 leaves me be­wil­dered. I would have thought that num­ber of fines could be racked up in a sin­gle week­end.

Ev­ery time I have en­deav­oured to ride the pal­try 2km from my home to the safety of the lo­cal bike track, I have felt in­tim­i­dated by at least one driver.

Whether they drive too fast, too close, beep or swerve, ag­gres­sion or im­pa­tience is un­nerv­ing, and an un­nerved cy­clist is not as steady on their wheels.

Many driv­ers, of course, are cour­te­ous, but there are more than enough of the other va­ri­ety to make me dread the jour­ney, and that’s just not cricket. I’ll con­cede that there are dis­cour­te­ous cy­clists who flout the road rules, but noone can deny that big beats small when it comes to who is more at risk. Rid­ing a bike should be a win-win, tak­ing cars off the road and en­gag­ing our in­creas­ingly over­weight na­tion in much-needed phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity.

It should not be a fear­ful ex­er­cise, made even more pre­car­i­ous by the be­hav­iour of driv­ers. The 1-me­tre rule was brought in for very good rea­son, and it pro­vides a cer­tain level of breath­ing space, but prox­im­ity is only one of the things that can put a cy­clist un­der pres­sure. Our roads are dan­ger­ous for ev­ery­one. So far this year in Queens­land there have been 197 fa­tal­i­ties ( Trans­port and Main Roads as of Oc­to­ber 8).

Of those, 97 were driv­ers, 36 pas­sen­gers, 35 mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ers/pas­sen­gers, four bi­cy­cle rid­ers and 25 pas­sen­gers. These statis­tics show with glar­ing clar­ity that no-one is ex­empt from risk and that ev­ery­one has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to them­selves and those around them to be safe and re­spect­ful. As a driver as well as a rider, I know how slow­ing down for a rider or pedes­trian can irk, but a minute or two added to a jour­ney is noth­ing com­pared to the worst-case sce­nario.

As we ap­proach na­tional Ride2Work Day on Wednesday, I hope road users will stop to con­sider the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of some­one who chooses a dif­fer­ent mode of trans­port to them.

Most are not try­ing to take over the road. Most are sim­ply try­ing to get where they are go­ing, just like you.

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