A place for reflection and introspection, communication and thoughtful conversation.
Monday, 5 July 2010
TO BIKE OR NOT TO BIKE?
“Get a bicycle. You will not regret it if you live.” - Mark Twain
I was going to work this morning and was nearly run down by a bicycle that was careening down the footpath. As readers of this blog know, I go to work early and at 7:00 am it is still dark. This fellow on the bike not only did not have his light on, but he also did not wear a helmet, was wearing dark clothing and was using the footpath to ride on even though there was perfectly good bicycle lane on the side of the road. As if to add insult to injury he started cursing me as he rode away (still on the footpath). Well I was clearly in the wrong, wasn’t I? Here I was, a pedestrian on the footpath getting in the way of a mad cyclist with no headlight who was riding like a bat out of hell on the footpath…
I am all for encouraging bicycle use in the city and I applaud all those people who are conscientious enough to be environmentally aware and use a bike instead of a car or public transport. When I was living in Holland, I used a bicycle constantly and it was a very efficient mode of transport (it’s great for keeping fit too!). However, lately the cyclists of Melbourne are getting very aggressive and uppity. Firstly, they need to wear the latest slinky gear (not always of high visibility) and ride race cycles that cost a small fortune and are not suited to commuter use. Secondly they have this “holier-than-thou” attitude that immediately turns me off and I am tempted to tell them that I ride a V8 fuel-guzzling tank to work and down the milk bar to buy milk instead of walking (well, I don’t, but I feel like inflaming their sensibilities). Thirdly, they so often break the law: Riding in the dark without adequate head- and tail-lights or reflective clothing; without a helmet; against red lights; on footpaths; abusing pedestrians, etc, etc.
I have yet to observe a police officer stopping a cyclist and giving them a ticket, although I have witnessed cyclists doing silly things on city streets in full view of traffic police. No doubt, cyclists also get tickets and fines, but I am not aware of any cyclist who has been fined. Some of my colleagues at work and some family friends regularly ride bicycles and I am glad to say that they are safe riders. So yes, there are good, law-abiding and safe cyclists out there. However, there are also the morons that give bicycle riding a bad name.
One may ask me, why don’t you ride a bicycle in Melbourne since you rode one in Holland? Well, I would, if I thought it was safe to do so. I am extremely wary of even thinking about riding a bicycle, as the car and truck drivers on Melbourne roads are not bicycle aware. Getting on a bicycle and confronting traffic at peak hour is taking your life into your own hands. There are some bike lanes on streets, but they are frequently obstructed or not well marked, or not observed by cars. One hears so frequently of cyclists getting struck down, injured or killed. In my previous job, a colleague was injured seriously when struck down by a truck who had not “seen him”.
So where does the solution to the problem lie? The state should ensure that bike riders are safe on our streets. Having safe and highly visible bicycle lanes is the way the Dutch have solved this problem. Cycling in Holland is both safe and enjoyable. Better road rules as they relate to cycling should be legislated and their enforcement carried out strictly. Cyclists should be licensed perhaps, in a similar way that car drivers and motorcyclists are licensed. Safe riding of bicycles should be enforced by traffic police and hefty fines should be given to law breakers. These and more measures in a similar vein would not only encourage more people to use bicycles, but it would also make it safer for cyclists and other road users to ride and drive on our roads. Not to mention walking in footpaths!
My views on cycling, approximate Elizabeth West’s when she says: “When man invented the bicycle he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.”
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.