Miranda Devine had a rant this week about cyclists:
But hostilities were fed by the lies told by the Government and the RTA, which gave cyclists unreasonable expectations and ideas above their station. The former roads minister Carl Scully, a vegetarian cyclist, threw $250 million at the lobby, further fuelling expectations which were dashed by subsequent roads ministers.
Most bike paths turned out to be little more than white paint on a road, with no room for a bike between parked cars and traffic. But they sent a signal to cyclists that motorists were somehow in the wrong.
In Devine’s view, it seems the fact that cycle paths were promised and then built so badly that they are dangerous and force cyclists on to the roads is proof that the cycle paths should never have been built at all (she has a slightly more balanced view today, calling for courtesy from everyone).
I was pondering this as I went on my first bike ride of the summer today. I am normally an overly conscientious rule follower. If there is a rule, I know about it, and follow it. Daggy, I know. But put me on a bike, and I become the person who convinces themselves that the rules are stupid, and I am trustworthy enough to break them. For example, today I rode my bike for 10 metres on the footpath to avoid about 200m of busy traffic filled road that was a bit too scary for my current inexperienced biking state. I rode at a maximum of 10km an hour, and easily avoided the two people walking towards me.
But I broke the law.
Many cyclists go much further, and do quite dangerous things (to pedestrians – I still find it pretty hard to understand the motorist who is scared of cyclists). I know, I’ve been knocked down by a cyclist while I was a pedestrian. But the problem is that nearly anywhere you go in Sydney, while you are safe for most of your journey, there are spots where your choice is to do something illegal (but safe) or something legal, and much less safe. Cyclists get into the habit of breaking the law because the infrastructure makes it so hard for them to obey it. And then they get to the sense of entitlement that sees them knocking pedestrians over on the footpath. The local mayor says that gaps in cycleways are what caused the incident that got Devine so hot under the collar.
I’m never quite sure how far cycling can go in becoming a serious form of transport in Sydney – it’s very hilly, and hot and humid in summer. But it’s a bit silly blaming only the cyclists for their bad behaviour when the road system almost forces them to break the law.