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We need to be nice to cyclists...and play nicely

The Sydney Morning Herald: We need to be nice to cyclists...and play nicely

TIM DICK
December 1, 2009 Comments 45

As cyclists, we hate drivers, pedestrians and all other cyclists. As pedestrians, we hate cyclists, drivers and all other pedestrians. As drivers, we hate cyclists, pedestrians and all other drivers – and taxis, trams, buses and trucks; and stopping for roadworks, traffic lights and give way signs; and dogs, old people and cars brandishing Jesus fish stickers.

We just hate generally, seemingly enraged by the mere presence of other people on public roads, although given the intensity of reaction any time cycling makes the news, it’s clear those on bikes occupy a special place in the long, long list of things drivers love to loathe. They’re fit, they look happy, they wear lycra. What’s there to like?

When stuck behind a bike, you could blame the state government for blowing a decade’s stamp duty and GST revenue on anything but a decent congestion-busting public transport system, except it’s far more gratifying to honk at a cyclist. See how they jump!

Now, the NSW Government has bowed to public condemnation of those on two wheels by releasing a brochure on how to ride more safely in groups, including some revolutionary tips: Be aware of the road ahead! Don’t listen to your iPod while cycling! Stay clear of moving motor vehicles!

So the fun old days of playing blindfold chicken with the 380 bus to Bondi while listening to AC/DC are over. Now cyclists have to keep an appropriate distance and ride within their limits and clearly signal their intentions.

Oh, dear. Has it really come to this? The State Government is now in the business of repeating sharing lessons we should have picked up in kindy. Surely the brochure could have just told cyclists to be considerate, and play nice.

But while most humans tend towards selfish and impatient, Sydneysiders excel at it. We’re self-important hypocrites who want to blame any other road user for making us five minutes late to yoga, to which we rush to relax.

If our mummy state was being fair to all her children, she would remind those with driver’s licences of oft-flouted rules, like the obligations to: give way to buses, indicate left when leaving roundabouts, give way to merging traffic if any part of the other car is ahead of yours, and not block footpaths. And not to honk your horn unless it’s necessary to warn others you’re about to collide (and not just because they took two seconds to notice the green light, or heaven forbid, some tourist is trying to change lanes after seeing a sign a little too late).

That is: drivers should be considerate, and play nice.

It should prescribe a code of conduct for pedestrians, too. Number one: walk on the left. Number two: walk on the left. Number three: walk on the goddamn left. Numbers four-to-99 would be variations on the same thing: look before you walk out of a shop door, don’t text and walk, and that you should wait for the little green man, but hurry across pedestrian crossings while a car is waiting. While we’re at it, yelling into your mobile is annoying for others around you, as is the explosion in the use of small wheeled cases on city streets by those too lazy to carry a bag.

That is: pedestrians should be considerate, and play nice.

The real scandal is not that the government released such an obvious code of conduct for cyclists, but that so many of us – drivers, cyclists and pedestrians – have so little respect for one another, and are so collectively stupid, that it feels compelled to do so.

We’re getting a behaviour lesson from government – from this government – because we need it.