August 21, 2013

Sharing the road and leading the way

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There’s no doubt that the relationship between cyclists and motorists is strained. You only need look at the comments section of any cycling-related article on a mainstream media website to see what I’m talking about. Or, alternatively, you could watch this story from Channel Seven’s Sunday Night last weekend.

The story wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen on the issue of “cyclists vs motorists” — they actually interviewed a cyclist or two — but it wasn’t the most amazing piece of journalism I’ve ever seen either.

The piece ended, admirably enough, with the suggestion that we need to find a way for all road users to share the road and actually get along. But thinking about it immediately after the show aired I realised the report had done nothing to actually move things in that direction.

Rather than offering some kind of insight into how cyclists can best get along with motorists, and vice versa, Channel Seven stuck to the tried and true method of appealing to the lowest common denominator, rolling out the likes of Derryn Hinch to cause controversy, to anger cyclists, and to affirm the beliefs of cyclist-hating viewers.

But this post isn’t about Derryn Hinch’s ignorance and stupidity — it’s about looking at the bigger issue and trying to move forward.

As overblown as the whole “war on our roads” idea is, there is a culture of mistrust and anger between cyclists and motorists and little appears to be changing.

It’s a conflict that’s fuelled by a lack of  understanding, selfish behaviour on both sides and a smattering of unnecessary aggression as well. Both sides are responsible for prolonging the tension and both sides make mistakes on the road.

Drivers often get too close to us cyclists, trying to sneak past inside the left-hand lane when there probably isn’t enough room to do so. And barely a ride goes by when I don’t see drivers flinging open car doors or stepping out into bike lanes without looking.

But on the flipside, the number of cyclists I see running red lights, riding more than two abreast and generally showing a lack of respect to other road users is extremely frustrating.

But throwing blame around doesn’t help anyone. This is about something bigger — it’s about trying to change, in some small way, how road users of all types interact and how we share the road. And that’s why I’m interested in Bicycle Network’s “Lead the Way” campaign.

The campaign is only in its infancy but its purpose is to encourage us road cyclists to take a look at our own behaviour, and to encourage us to commit to behaving in a way that’s respectful to all road users.

I think it’s important to be realistic here. It’s extremely difficult to change ingrained behaviours overnight and to precipitate a complete overhaul of the way our roads are used.

There’s a lot of ill feeling out there — from both sides — and so much history that it’s almost impossible for a motorist to hit the reset button and say “you’re right, cyclists do have a right to be on the road” if they don’t already believe it. It’s also unlikely that getting up on a soapbox and telling people how to behave will do much good at all.

My boss Wade Wallace (from CyclingTips) told me of an early-morning Beach Road bunch ride some years ago when former Olympic cyclist Rob Crowe got up and gave a speech along the lines of “alright, let’s stop acting like we own the road”. Even with Crowie’s reputation as one of the most respected cyclists in Melbourne, no-one listened. In fact, the response, from what I understand, was quite hostile.

So this isn’t about me saying what I think you should do. It’s about me looking at my own behaviour and trying to act in a way that sets a good example. Things like obeying the road rules are obvious — I’m more interested in a holistic approach, asking myself “am I showing respect to other road users here?”

I’m talking about things like:

  • riding single file or even pulling off the road if a group I’m in is holding up traffic — just because you’re allowed to ride two abreast doesn’t mean you should
  • not pushing my way to the front of the queue at traffic lights if I can get through just fine from where I am — no need to get in anyone’s way just because I’m allowed to
  • ensuring I always thank patient and respectful drivers

Sure, it’s important for cyclists to feel confident exercising their rights on the road, but if you’re able to show a bit of respect to others without putting yourself at risk, why not do so?

I think it’s important to remember that cyclists are the most vulnerable of all road users and every time we go for a ride we place our lives in the hands of strangers. The greater the respect those strangers have for us cyclists the better.

Again, this isn’t about telling you what to do when you’re riding on the road. It’s about what I’m going to do to ensure that I’m sharing the road and doing what I can to show motorists (and others) that cyclists can be respectful. If you want to take what I’ve written on board and consider your own behaviour then that’s a bonus.

Featured image by Alistair Smith

66 Comments

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  1. Roger / Aug 23 2013

    Hi Matt, long time reader first time poster.

    I agree with a lot that you have said here Matt and I think as cyclists we should do all we can to keep ourselves safe. Being right by the rule book means little when you are dead. I think the key is education. Many schools run wellbeing programs that involve ‘keys please’ programs at year 10. As a group of cyclist we need to get together and offer input and ideas for this program to ensure young future drivers are educated about cyclists on roads.

  2. A Fat Fossil / Aug 22 2013

    Another thought provoking article Matt. Well done.

    Too bad that the journalist failed to source an interview with the drivers of the vehicles that had so completely destroyed the lives of the women interviewed – and their families.
    It would have been perfect to see the comments of the two heads for rent – Skaife and Hinch – played past the eyes of the motorists who so profoundly changed the lives of their victims…

    The truth is, that the views of motorists-with-an-entitlement to the whole road – such as Hinch – change quite severely when the resultant negligence leads to drugged including alcohol driving, driving fatigued, and driving when impaired by age or by the fact that your eyes have deteriorated since you were last checked out on your ability to operate this heavy machinery – all those years ago.
    A substantial percentage of drivers on our roads are unfit for the task of driving. They haven’t the ability to judge 1 – 1-5 meters from the far side of their car to you. They simply cannot do it. They shouldn’t be on the road – but no politician is brave enough to state: “To drive this machinery on our roads demands a simple eyesight test + basic medical approval every 5 years”. This would eliminate the sort of driver who clipped me the other month. Clueless.

    To counter the entrenched attitude of entitlement we need signs legitimizing the presence of bikes on our main roads. You see them in the north, big yellow signs symbolically stating bikes and cars share the road. On Beach road we need to see bike/car sharing the road signs – in white – on the left hand lanes, on the roadways themselves.

    To change the mindset of drivers we need Government to back bikes! By recognising and legitimising the right of bikes and cars to share the road.

    And we need an office at Vicpol to take our video footage and actively bust clippers for dangerous driving where the motorist fails to pass keeping a safe distance.

    Finally – wear lights! Middle of the day? Summer? Have them on. Be seen by the blinded, the frail, the Textor who looks forward only 1 meter in every 10. Be seen when they deign to look. You might never be seen by the low level operators of cars – if you don’t assist them in every way. Because, of course, so many of them ought be nowhere near a car’s driving seat.

  3. Tim Gray / Aug 22 2013

    Hi

    Great article and I think that we are seeing the beginning of a shift in attitudes that we all need to show respect on the roads for all road users, unfortunately this is predominately from cyclists.

    There are a number of organisations that are really pushing this important agenda, including Amy Gillet Foundation, Bicycle Network Victoria and BikeSafe (there are various BikeSafe groups around the state – I am on the committee for the newly formed Macedon Ranges association).

    I think there is an opportunity for partnerships to be developed between the cycling groups and motoring groups to progress this message; RACV being the obvious starting point. There are probably more motoring groups out there that would welcome the opportunity.

    Does anybody know what work is being done in this area?
    As we only have half of the choir warming their voice boxes….
    Cheers
    Tim

  4. Dave / Aug 22 2013

    Well done Matt, well written and I completely agree.
    Just because we can legally do some things doesn’t mean we should always fall back on that fact, when we can use our judgement and sometimes ride single-file or don’t ride up to the front of waiting traffic if it is safe to do so and it will not negatively impact us as cyclists and will positively impact other road users.

    I’d really like to see this kind of campaign pushed on the likes of the CyclingTips website (in particular the Bike Lane episodes) and also perhaps Cycling Central/SBS could get behind it and help to get the message out (to cyclists) to help improve our attitude out on the road which will hopefully then flow onto improving how we are perceived by drivers. As was noted earlier, we need to work on improving what we do before expecting drivers to do the same.

    IMO, both need to adjust their attitudes and habits on the road so it is safer and more enjoyable (for everyone) out on the road….but lets start with us cyclists first!

  5. Tooraj Enayati / Aug 22 2013

    Well said Matt!

    A great rule I learnt recently is the “rule of tonnage”: the biggest vehicle has the right of way. If you are on a bike, you should yield to cars. This has helped me make lots of level headed decisions.

  6. Darren / Aug 21 2013

    Excellent article Matt.
    Like you, riding a bicycle has made me a more patient and better driver, while at the same time, driving a car has made me a better and more aware cyclist.

    Only tonight on my way home form work, I was riding eastbound through a 40km/h roadworks/construction zone along Craigieburn Rd. It’s a stretch of at least a kilometer and is a single lane each way all the way from the roundabout to the Golden Arches.

    I was moving along at a steady 35km/h, sticking as far left as the concrete barriers would allow, all the while I had a car on my rear wheel and tooting their horn for the entire distance.
    Occassionally I had to move off my line to navigate potholes and gravel, but never more than 50cm or so. Still well within my rights and never really impeding trailing traffic.
    When it was safe to do so, I turned my head to make eye contact with the driver to let them know I was doing the best I could and that they wouldn’t be doing any better anyway with speed restrictions in place and police regularly monitoring the stretch of road.
    As soon as the road opened up, the driver took off with what seemed like their entire weight on the horn and their free hand out the window giving me the middle finger.

    Not wanting to show my frustration with the behaviour of the driver, I did the only thing I could that other motorists would see that I am conscious of how I was impeding traffic behind me… I gave a ‘courteous’ wave.

    As it turned out, I then got to the set of lights at the i/section of Craigieburn and Bridgewater Roads and ended up passing the motorist who was several cars deep waiting to turn into Bridgewater.

    • Tim / Aug 22 2013

      Infrastructure alone in this area is ridiculous too. I’m currently in an ongoing battle with the c0uncil over road conditions in the area. Take the other end of Craigieburn road – if you come off Mickleham Road, there’s a shoulder covered in gravel; you eventually get to a road where the bike lane starts. Until last week, which I’d measured and taken photos to go with the complaints, only the rightmots 10cm was free of gravel and mud so thick you could no longer see the bike lane paint markings, and which would get completely slick when wet.
      This was after it had supposedly been swept.

      I decided that’s “not good enough”, so rang back – so they swept it again. This time, they’ve managed to sweep 50% of the bike lane – we’ll call it a job half done.

      But it’s more ridiculous than just that – you get to the Aston estate area and the bike lane just ends. It’s basically a bike lane in the middle of nowhere that runs maybe 700 meters and then just stops.
      In the other direction it’s equally ridiculous – it starts at Waterview Boulevard, then stops abruptly less than a km later. You’re then forced on to the road shoulder, littered with potholes – and don’t get me started on Mickleham Road, which just this week they’ve removed the road shoulders in both directions to allow a few km of roadworks, which means you have no road shoulder to drive on, on a road where drivers completely ignore then 60 signs, a barrier on your left going Southbound, and grass going Northbound.

      This is a new, developing area, and we’re supposed to accept this?

  7. Ian / Aug 21 2013

    Thanks Matt – that’s a very well put together article. Unfortunately, based on living and driving in a number of European countries, I think we might be trying to push water uphill. The overall standard of driving in AU is dreadful. Most cyclists I know are also car owners. Think about how most of us would view our typical interaction with fellow motorists – the ability to read the road ahead, allow other cars to filter between lanes, to join a freeway (comically bad), to wave another car into slow moving traffic from a side road. Driving in Melbourne mostly shows car drivers treating other car drivers with contempt. That isn’t good, but the consequences of metal on metal incidents often just result in damage to the metal. That’s rarely the case when car hits bike, but car drivers carry the same poor attitude for anyone else who dares to use what they firmly believe is their space.

  8. neale / Aug 21 2013

    Yeh well written, I would add that the victorian government has done nothing to help the situation, they seem happy just to let motorists and cyclists fight it out on the roads. An advertising campaign showing what the requirements are when approaching a cyclist in varying situations would be a big help as motorists are unsure what to do when the bike lane runs out.

    • Jon Thornton / Aug 22 2013

      According to the VicRoads website, when a cyclist is riding in an on-road bike lane and a motorist wants to turn left, the motorist must wait. If there is no bike lane, the cyclist must wait and allow the car to turn.

      The rules are clear when there is a bike lane, but less so when there is no bike lane. In the case where there is no bike lane, the car driver could abruptly turn left in front of the cyclist leaving the rider with no other option than to crash into the car. The cyclist could then be fined for failing to allow the driver to turn in front of her.

      • Tooraj Enayati / Aug 22 2013

        I did not know this! This is very disconcerting!

      • Manning Thomson / Aug 22 2013

        Completely incorrect!

        Sharing lanes
        If two vehicles, for example a bicycle and a car or two motorcycles, are travelling in the same single marked lane and one vehicle diverges to the left or right within the marked lane, the diverging vehicle must give way.

        • Jon Thornton / Aug 22 2013

          Here are some direct quotes from the VicRoads website:

          As a driver, you must “give way to bike riders in bicycle lanes if you are turning across the lane”.

          “A bike rider must not ride on the left side of a vehicle that is indicating left and turning at an intersection”.

          Cycling Offence: Overtake to the left of a vehicle that is turning left and indicating. Fine: $144.

          My interpretation of all of the above is that the law protects riders where there is a bike lane and drivers where there is no bike lane. You are free to make your own interpretation.

        • Tooraj Enayati / Aug 22 2013

          It doesn’t really help when an indicating car cuts in front of you! :-(

          I can understand it when the car may be stationary or in very slow moving traffic. But in fast moving traffic, cars go faster and all they have to do is have the indicator on and we have a licence to cut off cyclists! Doesn’t make scene.

      • Manning Thomson / Aug 22 2013

        My quote was about sharing lanes is directly from the vicroad a website and refers to RR 148, it is meant to clear up the confusion in this context, I’m not making an interpretation I’m stating a fact. Also a driver is not permitted to just just get in front of you and then indicate and turn left (ie the classic left hook move) as they would be breaking RR 144 – keeping a safe distance when overtaking : (b) must not return to the marked lane or line of
        traffic where the vehicle is travelling until
        the driver is a sufficient distance past the
        vehicle to avoid a collision with the vehicle
        or obstructing the path of the vehicle.

        • Jon Thornton / Aug 22 2013

          RR144 is about overtaking. RR148 is about lane changing. Neither rule mentions turning left. Neither rule mentions bicycles.

          The law is complex. If I were involved in an accident where a car had turned left in front of me, my solicitor would probably have to refer my case to a barrister. The barrister would have to search court records for recent, similar cases in an attempt to find a precedent.

          I’m not a solicitor and I’m not a barrister. I do however, enjoy friendly discussions about issues that matter to me.

        • jules / Aug 22 2013

          this is correct. a driver is overtaking a cyclist and may not move into the (cyclists’) line of traffic (to turn left) until safe. a cyclist behind must yield to a left-turning driver. however like all road rules – they are subject to a ‘reasonableness’ test – a court would be unlikely to uphold an offence against a cyclist where a car just drove over the top of them.

  9. Manning Thomson / Aug 21 2013

    I’m very much in two minds about this post Matt.

    I agree we can all do our bit to share the road better, but do I think any of this will change motorist attitudes? Not in the slightest.
    I already do all the things you mention and consider myself a very safe and considerate road user, and yet I still cop abuse when riding. Yelled at, things thrown, been clipped with a wing mirror. What’s supposed to happen? These guys get a warm fuzzy feeling inside when they see me waiting at a red light (which I already do) and decide not to be a complete prick on the road? Gimme a break

    The psychology behind why “they” hate us has been explored before and has been alluded to above. I think what really pisses me off is the suggestion is that other people have to behave in order for me to earn respect, the hypocrisy among those in the motoring public is mind blowing!
    What’s needed is more driver education, testing and training – as well as much better cycling infrastructure.

  10. Adrian / Aug 21 2013

    Hi Matt,
    I think shock tactics, graphic ads .eg TAC
    ads with relatives who have lost family members (fathers,
    Brothers, sisters)to motorist not paying attention. I think the majority
    of motorist would not contemplate for a second that their actions as simple
    as tooting in close proximity could kill a cyclist. Interview the offenders
    that I bet are riddled with guilt every day because of their actions.
    At the end of the day cyclist v’s vehicle is a no brainer.
    I kiss my family goodbye every time I leave for a ride and honestly
    feel a sense of relief once I’ve arrived home safely.

  11. Garerh / Aug 21 2013

    Well said Matt. Brilliantly written too.

    As the theme of your article states, it’s all about us as cyclists looking at what we can do to help by doing our bit.

    Your third dot point is the easiest to do in order to remove the hostility. Simple manners doesn’t take a lot of effort.

  12. al / Aug 21 2013

    Well done Matt. I was involved in a very serious altercation almost a year ago. I’ve been fighting with words, emotions and lots of anger to try to convey my message to share the road. You’ve done that for me quite eloquently so thank you.

    my message – Enjoy the freedom of the ride, be a good example, and share the road.

  13. David Arms / Aug 21 2013

    Great article Matt. Spot on!!

  14. Skippy / Aug 21 2013

    THERE is no SIMPLE way to solve the PROBLEM of big v small !

    Drivers get in their vehicle with a variety of MOODS and thus the OTHER Road users see these results . When a motorist takes care to put their vehicle into a supermarket parking space , surely it is possible for them , to have the same level of concentration on the roads ?

    Perhaps the various Motoring Orgs ,NRMA , RACV ,etc could create a sticker that the vehicle operator sticks on their windscreen .

    ” This is not the place to have an ATTITUDE “!

    Of course it won’t work with the majority , who claim that ” Time Matters ” , so try to catch up their late departure for their next appointment/delivery ?

    Perhaps reminding ” Fleet Managers ” that their employees could WIN them a stay in Jail if they score a ” Corporate Manslaughter charge “, through the actions of a recalitant /thoughtless employee ?

    Carrying a Bike operator licence regretably will change nothing ! Many Large vehicles treat ALL other smaller vehicles as an object to intimidate . Noticed any trucks / buses blocking the other side of the road whilst trying to push their way into the flow of traffic ?

    With 20 years of living in Europe , i can safely say that the bulk of drivers have ” Forgotten ” good manners on the road . UK Police have only in the last days have been given the green light to start pulling over motorists to ” On spot Ticket ” for ” Tail gaiting , occupying the middle lane of the road, etc . Revenue collecting , although supposedly freeing up the Court System from minor matters ?

    1 1/2M safe passing is the European norm , but i would have sore hands if i put them out each time some vehicles pass . Of 100 passing vehicles , years ago , 3 or 4 would signal turning back in after passing , some will of course be making the Rh turn , another 2 or 3 will forget the passing signal for some distance , 15 to 20 will be over the middle line without visible signal ? Most of the rest will be wide in passing but the draught suck of a large truck can still be felt .

    On one of my regular runs there is a slight gradient that narrows , i can top it at 25 to 30kph and i find that trucks will ease their speed until i ” wave them through “!

    Seems there are some pro drivers out there ?

  15. Dan / Aug 21 2013

    I have to say, I agree with Jules about this. Yes, cyclists sometimes break the rules. So to motorists, so do pedestrians. I don’t think it’s reasonable for cyclists to be held to higher standards than everyone else. I want to scream every time I hear “If cyclists want respect on the roads, they should learn to obey the rules.” I don’t see motorists going through all this hand-wringing every time one of them goes through a red light. I don’t see the RACV starting up any self-flagellating campaigns to get motorists to behave responsibly, regardless of how many pedestrians and cyclists get mown down and killed. And yet cyclists, who almost never do any harm to any road user except themselves, even when they’re behaving badly, are singled out in a way which seems to me like a tacit acquiescence to the tabloid myth that cyclists are the real menace on the road. The frothing talkback caller isn’t going to say “Well, maybe I was wrong about cyclists, see, they are taking responsibility after all.” The frothing talkback caller is going to say “See, cyclists really are irresponsible louts, even Bicycle Network thinks so.”

  16. Veloaficionado / Aug 21 2013

    I mostly agree – but there’s a few points I think you’re mistaken on.

    Going to the head of a traffic queue is actually most often the safest option – drivers can see you more clearly. That’s why there’s stopping boxes on many bike lane signed roads.

    Road engineering favours motor vehicles, except in Denmark and Holland. In 1890, it was the other way around. What we are doing now is being bullied, by road design and the mass and driving habits of vehicles owners, into behaviours that, were all things equal, we wouldn’t have to adopt. The way to let bullies win is stay quiet, and cut them slack.

    A well organised and aware bunch of riders is actually a pretty safe place to be, and the most efficient way to get from place to place on two wheels. Two abreast, three abreast? Who cares, as long as its not causing undue delay to everyone except them. Traffic adapts and slows down for carnivals, parades, protests and accidents. It also copes with B-doubles and horse-drawn carriages. So it should also for bunches of cyclists. Satnav estimated times are not gospel.

    I’m all for staying alive and setting a good example. However, I also own a copy of John Forrester’s ‘Effective Cycling’, and there’s much in there that could get us closer to an equal place on the roads.

    Your last question? Just ride through it, after a good hard look in all directions. I really resent being told what to do by a machine, unless there’s a darn good reason.

    • Michael Rowe / Aug 22 2013

      > Going to the head of a traffic queue is actually most often the safest option – drivers can see you more clearly.

      This is the number one reason I tend to “push to the front” at lights too.

      Getting out in front then moving as far to the left as practicable certainly feels like the safest way, compared to sitting back in the traffic and incurring just as much driver frustration, without the advantage of visibility.

      Anyway, thanks for the great article Matt. I hope more people see it and maybe open their minds a little. For my part, I’ll certainly try to remember to wave cars through more often when riding out in the hills (I already do most of the other things you suggest).

  17. Cyril / Aug 21 2013

    Nice work and well said Matt.

  18. Matt / Aug 21 2013

    For anyone to answer, what is the correct way of going through a red light at say 5 am when no one else is around to trigger the sensor?

    • Damien P / Aug 21 2013

      If you sit right right in the middle of the sensor (you can usually see a cut in the tarmac) you will almost always trigger it. I haven’t found one in Melbourne or Newcastle (yet) that I can’t trigger.

    • Sam / Aug 21 2013

      Try riding down the line in the asphalt, in all but the most backward sensors it is possible to set off the sensors on a bike. If that doesn’t work, the obvious solution is to run the light if it is safe to do so and it inconveniences no one, while being aware that you void any protection the law can provide if something goes wrong.

      • Andy / Aug 22 2013

        Spot on Sam , I ride ‘down the line ‘ of the sensor and it works everytime :)

    • Jon Thornton / Aug 21 2013

      “Am I showing respect to other road users here?” is the perfect question to ask at a red light at 5AM when nobody else is around. The answer is obvious to me.

      When other road users ARE around, we gotta do the right thing.

    • Andy / Aug 21 2013

      Another method is the ‘carbon clip and dip’. Unclip and tilt the bike over so that the chain ring and all the other metal gets close enough to trigger the square sensor. Handy not only at 5am, but also if you are the only one waiting at the lights.

    • Tooraj Enayati / Aug 22 2013

      Another method that I have read on forums (bit not tried myself) is to glue a rare earth (Neodymium) magnet (there are heaps on eBay) to the sole of shoe, preferably with epoxy glue in the heel cavity and step on the sensor when you step at the light.

    • Tim / Aug 22 2013

      Get a neomydium magnet and tape/glue it to the bottom bracket. They weigh bugger all and once there you won’t even notice its existence. Guaranteed to set off traffic sensors… and erase any floppy disk you might ride over.

  19. Jane / Aug 21 2013

    Matt, great article. I’m not much of a cyclist, nor am I much of a driver. I like to move around the world in a daze and I find public transport combined with walking is the best mode for that way of life. But I can’t resist expressing my opinion anyway! I think some of the latter commenters have it spot on – the cyclist/driver thing is a symptom of our unwillingness to interact with others on the road as though they’re humans, and as though we’re negotiating the space. We go out there with an idea of having a ‘right’ to the road. Some transport academics reckon a way to improve this situation is to remove all the cues for road users: signs, traffic lights etc. Everyone shares the space and everyone has to constantly negotiate with everyone else over who goes where. It means we have to interact with each other as human beings. Less ambitiously, it would be nice if people (the media, politicians) could stop using ‘cars’ and ‘traffic’ interchangeably (see discussion about St Kilda Rd, for example, where it’s suggested widening the bike lane would mean removing a lane of ‘traffic’; it wouldn’t, the traffic would remain the same, but it’s make up would be altered). We need to start thinking more about maximising the number of people we can move down a road, not the number of cars.

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      Thanks Jane! Part of me really likes the idea of a free for all on the roads: it would be interesting to see how it all played out! But as a cyclist the idea also scares me!

  20. Sam / Aug 21 2013

    One thing I have noticed since moving to Melbourne a few years ago is that people are a lot less inclined to acknowledge the presence of other road users. In the country it is uncommon in the extreme to pass another car/bus/bike/pedestrian without giving and recieving a friendly wave, smile, nod or even a toot of the horn. This tends to lead to a lot less road rage incidents as it is a little bit harder to abuse or mistreat someone once you have acknowledged that they are human rather than an obstacle between you and your destination. I try to extend this principle to riding and it seems to be having a favorable effect so far. A simple nod, smile, sorry for holding you up/thanks for waiting gesture, or the good old wave through are all it takes to convince one more driver that we aren’t all rule breaking maniacs! Obviously not breaking the rules will help with that perception :)

  21. Mike / Aug 21 2013

    Ciao Matt, I do all that, a thank you wave for let me go, single lines, let the driver behind know it is ok to pass me etc…etc… but still I get abused,the other morning I went for a early morning run and I got abused, the frustrations of driving it’s NOT caused only because of cyclist,it’s caused by the congested road that we have, to get from point A to point B in a stressful short time, it’s the everyday stress life that the majority of people have and they become rude on the road. What fault a cyclist can have when a driver has to make a left turn at the moment that you are passing by and they can’t wait ten seconds????…… NOPE has to cut in front of you and getting upset and tell you to get F****d!!!! Sometimes I tell you!!!!
    Always nice to read your posts
    Ciao and thanx

  22. David / Aug 21 2013

    Excellent points made in the article, however one additional item that I think is sorely lacking from any of these discussions is one on bicycling infrastructure. Good quality paths and lanes encourage more people to cycle and keep them safe from traffic/doorings if designed well. I believe that the simplest way to improve many stretches of road would be by making use of the service lanes and providing bicycle cut-throughs such as here: http://goo.gl/maps/XjqbJ
    Then for all cyclists to make use of the infrastructure during peak traffic periods instead of taking on the traffic on the main highway.

  23. Henry / Aug 21 2013

    Love it! Get your boss (WW) to publish it as well to increase the reach! Send it to Cycling Victoria and BNV. Send it to mainstream media. Get the message out there. If Crowie gets shouted down… what hope does anyone have trying to change the action of those that continue to flout the law (NRR, Hell Ride, etc.). I won’t do those rides anymore… someone needs to change riders behaviours. Maybe cameras along Beach Rd with ‘name and shame’ broadcasting of those that run the lights/act in an unsavoury manner? Harder to change the behaviour of impatient car drivers but at least as riders we can do ourselves a favour and impress upon the drivers that we are sensible.

    • jules / Aug 21 2013

      i disagree with the notion of accepting that it is up to cyclists to prove we are legitimate road users through improving our behaviour. i’m not saying we should ride poorly – we should do the right thing, if only as it’s the right thing – but it is a trap to fall into the line of thinking that cyclists may be judged by their collective behaviour. we are individuals, as are car drivers. no one yells at random car drivers after being cut off by another car driver – people would think you were crazy. yet that’s what happens to us cyclists. the reason is simple – some motorists just look for any excuse to justify their poor attitudes towards cyclists – the rego myth is another. we shouldn’t fall into the trap of validating that illogical line of thinking.

  24. Nick O / Aug 21 2013

    Matt,

    Good post, I agree with everything you’ve written, and practice most of it too (I’m a big fan of the wave through on a winding ascent!).

    To me the problem is motorists or cyclists, it’s humans – some of us pay attention to rules, laws & implied concepts like being courteous; other’s don’t give a stuff and will do whatever they want, to suit themselves. It doesn’t matter that they’re in a car, on a bike, walking, in line skating (they’re the worst!) whatever.

    I’m lucky enough to be involved with the juniors program at the club I ride with, and every time we take the kids (13 to 16) on a road session it starts & ends with a discussion about road rules and being sensible on the road. Hopefully this is teaching the next generation of cyclists (and they’ll all be motorists too) about the right way to behave.

    But having ridden in a number of countries overseas, this seems to be an Anglo Saxon country issue – I’ve never felt more at home on the road than I have in France, Belgium, Holland & Italy, while here in Oz, and in the UK (I’ve not ridden in the USA – yet), the attitude of cars vs. bikes seems to prevail.

    It might have something to do with better infrastructure (especially in Holland), but it might have something to do with most European societies having a higher regard for interaction with other people (as in the welcoming “Bonjour Monsieur” you get in every shop in France, rather than the lack of interest you get from most shop staff here) than we do.

    I don’t have the answer, sadly none of us do, but letting Derryn Hinch make oh so funny jokes about cyclists wearing their silly shoes in cafes isn’t going to fix anything.

    • Mike / Aug 21 2013

      Yes Nick……in Italy the same….Buon giorno and a smile everywhere, lots of respect each other,I usually go for a run and I’m the only one to say good morning!!!! PEOPLE ARE NOT HAPPY HERE and of course imagine when they drive.

  25. gordo / Aug 21 2013

    Great topic Matt. My own thoughts are that we as cyclists need to berate those of us who do the wrong thing. Think of the anger you have when a driver does the wrong thing then use that same feeling to bring rogue cyclists into line. They are making things worse for all of us.

    And for Mr Hinch, when I ride and see another cyclist I thank heaven it’s one less car on the road. When I drive and see a cyclist I thank heaven one less car on the road I am using.

    Let’s just be the best road users we can be.

  26. Jon Thornton / Aug 21 2013

    This interesting article argues that evolutionary pressure pushes drivers to hate cyclists.
    http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20130212-why-you-really-hate-cyclists/all

    I’ve started queuing behind cars at lights instead of sneaking up to the head of the queue. Occasionally, I even stop to allow a left turning driver to enter the street I’m cycling on. The look of utter disbelief from the driver is worth the price of admission.

    I’m not a total suck though. At 5 in the morning when absolutely nobody is around, I still sneak through red lights.

    • Dylan / Aug 26 2013

      Personally I’d rarely queue up behind other cars unless I was absolutely certain it was safe, or there was just no safe way to get to the front of the queue. Certainly at intersections with the left-hand lane dedicated to turning traffic, being at the front when the lights go green is by far the safest option, and the only one that’s not going to hold anyone up. Further, I’m often riding at times when the ‘queue’ can be 30+ cars, and if I waited behind every build-up of cars waiting to cross lights I’d lose all the time advantage of riding over driving. Having said that, if you can see the lights are about to go green, filtering is definitely not a good idea.
      But part of it is choosing a sensible route – if you know there are intersections where you’re likely to have a major queue of cars waiting to cross, and there’s no bike lane, it might be better to find an alternative road.

    • Dylan / Aug 26 2013

      Oh and on that article, nice theory but it doesn’t explain why hostile attitude towards cyclists seems to be largely confined to English-speaking countries.

  27. Ash ray / Aug 21 2013

    Since this discussion could get more interesting, I don’t have a car license and i and a lot of riders would gain the respect and potential legal protection from having the option of a bicycle user road license.

    As a bicycle user we could gain advantages from an optional road license via 3rd party protection, state-funded TAC coverage (presently only where a motor car is involved). There are a lot of other advantages such as car drivers being forced to accept the legitimacy of bikes and follow rules about giving space.

    Obviously it could also be a nasty tax if implemented unfairly on people with 6 bikes (like me).
    But I’d love a card stating I’m responsible, allowed to be here and this is the next of kin if you flattened me…

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      A worthwhile discussion for sure, Ash. I wonder if the voluntary option is the way to go…

  28. Paul / Aug 21 2013

    I think all of the above comments are fantastic. Whenever I have been out riding I try to do whatever I can, within reason of course, to make sure I’m not holding up any cars unnecessarily, and the results speak for themselves – no abuse being hurled my way, nothing thrown at me and several waves of thanks from cars. Pulling off the road and onto the shoulder for 20 seconds to let a car go past safely isn’t going to kill me, but causing a frustrated driver to do something stupid by not getting out the way will. There will always be idiot drivers, and there will always be idiot cyclist, but I think if we are pro-active in trying to do the right thing you might find we start getting more respect from drivers. I must admit though, hearing Mr Hinch drop the old “they should pay registration like the rest of us” cliché makes my blood boil. Does he think because we ride a bike we don’t have a car?

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      Great points Paul. I too got very frustrated with Hinch’s comments, largely because they weren’t countered in the story (and could easily have been done so).

  29. chris / Aug 21 2013

    you’ve written some great pieces in the past Matt, and this is possibly your best.

    Absolutely spot on with all your points. The common sense approach is more often than not better than the “it’s legal” approach.

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      You’re too kind Chris, thanks very much. :)

  30. Pete / Aug 21 2013

    You wouldn’t think this is rocket science but too many cyclists aren’t setting a good example and are making it harder for those who are showing other road users general etiquite. Good article Matt.

    • Tim / Aug 22 2013

      The problem is the difference between ‘cyclists’ – those of us who want to do the best for the sport and not anger others – and ‘guys on bikes’, who just don’t give a toss. For the latter, any inconvenience to them is unacceptable.

  31. Deborah d'Avigdor / Aug 21 2013

    good one Matt, agree that we should clean up our own back yard first. much of cyclist bad behaviour has been generated by the car culture mentality in Australia, but reacting unreasonably will not advance the cause. taking the high moral ground may well be more effective. personally i’ve not had too many problems, increasingly i’ve been inclined to practice a combination of being extremely clear to motorists regarding my intentions; i take the lane when i feel that inviting motorists to squeeze past is not only not a considerate act but actually puts them at risk of injuring me by ignorance rather than any deliberate action on their part thus ensuring my safety and theirs. and also i try to be considerate and not unreasonable, will often pull over to let cars past and choose my moment in situations that might be considered high risk.

    most motorists are reasonable, some are just plain careless and stupid. its all a work in progress i think.

    thanks for raising the debate :)

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      Thanks Deb, some great points as always. And you’re absolutely right, most motorists are reasonable. I think it’s important to keep that in mind and not lump all motorists (and all cyclists) together. Ultimately we’re all influenced by what we see around us. If motorists see many cyclists running red lights then it’s understandable why they’d think all cyclists do so, even though it’s not true. But we have to account for that mentality anyway which is why it’s important to reduce the number of people acting in that way, for the benefit of all of us.

  32. Marc / Aug 21 2013

    Well said Matt. Patience when driving or riding is required by all road users of course. Also I think it’s important to remember that in my case as a cyclist and a driver, I must exhibit the ideal behaviour on both the bike and in the car. And I always try to remember to acknowledge the good behaviour of drivers when I’m on the bike eg. if a car slows and sits behind me when turning left instead of passing and cutting me off – a simple thankyou wave can have a positive affect. And again this is me reflecting on my own behaviour, not me preaching to others.

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      Thanks Marc. I’d like to think that simple things like a courtesy wave go a long way to fostering that respect. I reckon being a cyclist has made me a better driver and being a driver has made me a better cyclist. I’d love for someone to get Derryn Hinch out on the bike one day and try to give him a bit of perspective.

      • Marc / Aug 21 2013

        One thing I also try to practice when possible is when there is a car behind me on say a windy road (I’m thinking Kinglake ascent) and you can see the road ahead is clear to pass, give them the ‘go around’ signal. Without fail I’ve always got a thankyou wave from the driver once they’re past me. It can only help.

        • Matt / Aug 21 2013

          Yep, good call Marc. I’m a fan of the old “wavethrough” as well. And you’re right – it almost always gets a wave. It shows that you’re aware of your affect on other road users, and it shows that you’re doing your bit to help out.

  33. jules / Aug 21 2013

    couldn’t agree more Matt. i have been riding on the road for a fair length of time now and have developed my own roadcraft. touch wood, i haven’t been hit by a car for many years. in my observation, a lot of newer, less experienced cyclists have more trouble – probably the same as we all did when we started. a mate of mine started riding a few years back and has already been hit by 3 cars. i’ve ridden with him and i don’t like his attitude. a common mistake is for riders to be over-confident or ‘arrogant’ – holding a 2-abreast formation when they could easily fall into single file and let mounting traffic through, taking the lane when there is an ample shoulder, etc.

    unless traffic is congested, i also just pull up behind cars, rather than filtering to the front – when i know they will all be passing me again. few riders seem to do that. it’s easy to see how motorists would get upset.

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      Thanks Jules, some great points there.

  34. Damian / Aug 21 2013

    Spot on Matt, without showing respect to the road rules, we (cyclists) can’t expect anything more in return. I often ride in groups where we single file it to ensure we don’t hold up traffic too much, it is all about some common sense and awareness of your other users sharing the road together

    • Matt / Aug 21 2013

      Agreed Damian, thanks!

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