And again….

July 23, 2018 at 21:57 | Posted in bicycles | 10 Comments
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Yes, it happened again. Again, when I was stationary. Festooned in hi-viz and flashing lights. A car drove into me – a sort of low-speed crunching as my bicycle was devoured by the front of his gas-guzzling SUV. Thankfully the driver stopped before he got to me, leaving my bike jammed under his car, my saddle (where I was sitting) hard up against his bonnet. (video here)

It is getting worse out there. Drivers are increasingly distracted. Mobile phone use is endemic, and rarely properly policed. Most modern cars now feature touch-screens that take drivers attention away from the road for ten or twenty seconds at a time as they prod at it to change the radio or operate the sat nav.

Against this near-universal back drop, in Sydney it is further stoked by the increasing aggression shown by drivers towards cyclists. This is rooted in the aggressively anti-cycling stance of the state government, coupled with heavy handed anti-cycling policing, all capped with a broadly anti-cycling safety ‘industry’ that seeks to blame cyclists for the increasing road toll and a populist media near universally playing the ‘law-breaking cyclist’ and ‘war on the roads’ angles constantly.

I am now at a point, sad to say, where I would not recommend to anyone they cycle in Sydney. I used to encourage my colleagues to cycle to work. I no longer do that. The environment is so hostile that I can’t recommend it. This, of course, makes me very sad, and also very angry. The sheer stupidity and short-sightedness of our policy makers and media is breathtaking. In the latest NSW budget, there are zero dollars for cycling, and all mentions of cycling targets or programs have been expunged from the Transport for NSW website. Pretty much all that remains are pages telling cyclists to wear helmets and ‘share the road’.

Well, I was sharing the road the other day. It just seems others don’t want to share it with me.

 

PS The police, predictably, refused to take a statement or follow up the incident, even when given the video footage. Too busy policing deserted stop signs, perhaps.

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Ouch.

December 31, 2015 at 13:04 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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drainsI like riding in wet weather. It’s fun, like being a kid again. Of course, you do have to take a bit more care. Wet roads can be slippery. Especially when cornering. Especially when cornering over a whole load of white paint and metal manhole covers. Wet metal is very very slippery.

Yes, you guessed it folks. I was bowling along in a world of my own, cornered over the metal drain, and down I went. I got a bruise to my hip, a graze to my elbow, and a large dent to my pride. The irony is that normally I’m cautious at that corner to avoid the drain covers, as they can be slippery even when dry. I suppose I could rant on about their poor placement, the hazard they create and the generally un-cycle friendly state of most of Australia’s roads. But then again, I did bowl over them in the wet when not paying attention.

It’s been over five years since I last fell off my bike*, so I’m a bit annoyed with myself. But I did get to test the ‘crash mode’ of my Fly6 camera, which auto-shuts off after a stack. So at least I know that works!

Happy New Year, everyone. May your 2016 be full of effortless and safe cycling, interesting books and delicious biscuits.

 

ouchvid

 

*excepting careless motorists driving into me…

It happened.

July 16, 2014 at 06:31 | Posted in bicycles | 4 Comments
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headlightsLife flashes before your eyes? Everything goes in slow motion? Those are the clichés, but in reality it all happened horribly quickly, with no time to think. The sudden realisation that the car was heading straight towards me. That it was not going to stop. The mad scramble to get out of the way. The crunch as it hit me. Feeling the bike momentarily pinning me to the ground. Desperately pulling me legs away from the rear wheels as they passed. Me getting to my feet and realising I was OK. All over in less then three seconds.

I was waiting to turn right from a side turning; the last turn into my street just a short distance from my house, positioned as you would expect towards the centre of the road. I was waiting for the ute coming up from the left to go past, then the road was clear for me to get home. He indicated right just before the junction, and as he started to turn in I thought his line looked loose. Surely he’s going to go a bit wider around me? Then the headlights were pointing straight at me, and the horrible realisation dawned. Fortunately, I was able to get out of the direct line, so it was the side of his vehicle that impacted me, pushing me away and outside the track of the rear wheels.

The driver stopped, and rushed out, clearly shocked. SMIDSY, of course. He kept repeating it. ‘I just didn’t see you, I just didn’t see you; just heard the bang.’

It’s strange; the recent spate of incidents involving cyclists being hit by cars has spooked us all a bit, and coupled with my new commute on much busier roads the thought that it could happen to me has been on my mind sometimes. I didn’t think it would be on a quiet residential street, metres from my house, though. Short of cycleways on every street those kind of local roads are always going to be shared by all kinds of vehicles.

I also, of course, in my over-analytical way, wonder what I could have done differently. I had the handlebars pointed to the right, ready to turn, so  my light would have been pointed away from the driver as he turned (although not so much it was not visible, I’m sure). And whilst I had reflectors on my ankles and bag, I wasn’t wearing my reflective sash; it went awol in the recent house move move I haven’t replaced it. Would it have made a difference? Possibly, although as he turned I was directly in front of him, fully illuminated by his headlights, yet by his own admission he still didn’t see me. That said, I will get a new sash, and perhaps even consider my headlight positioning in similar situations in the future. Not, you understand, that I believe that these things should be necessary, nor absolve the driver of any responsibility. Looking where you are going is after all probably the prime responsibility when operating a motor vehicle.

kneeAs for me, well, I have a bruised, swollen knee that is stiffening up; I’m sure it’s just a bruise to the muscle as the joint is fine, but I’ll get it checked out just in case.  Funny how you don’t notice these things until afterwards; the effect of the adrenaline I guess. Not sure how I’m going to ride to work in the morning; could be interesting.

I have no idea how the bike is. I wheeled it home, so I know the wheels go round, but I’ll have a proper look in the morning. Ironically its not actually my bike, but a loaner bike from the bike shop whilst mine is in for repair.

And I guess finally I have to decide if I go to the police. I know I’ve always urged others to do exactly that in these situations. When it actually happens, and you are OK, it’s less straightforward. The driver seemed like a nice guy, and was clearly shocked; I daresay he learned a lesson tonight. I doubt that a call from the cops will make any difference to how he feels or behaves in the future, and I also doubt the cops will be very interested in following it up anyway, from past form. But then again, it was blind luck that I wasn’t seriously injured or worse, and the driver was clearly negligent. And in any case, reporting it means it will be recorded in the stats, if nothing else.

For now, I’ve poured myself a glass of shiraz, talked it through with Mrs Dan and got a bit teary. Two little girls nearly lost their daddy tonight. But then I feel melodramatic and self-indulgent; I’m absolutely fine, all is well, and compared to others it was really a minor incident. Such is how these things affect you.

Tomorrow is a new day. If you need me, I’ll be riding my bike.

The Whisperers

April 20, 2010 at 15:47 | Posted in bicycles | 8 Comments
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There is something very wrong in the world of bicycling. A significant and well-funded force is afoot, and is actively discouraging cycling. They are everywhere; their influence extends widely and their message is insidious and relentless.

There are many great efforts undertaken to encourage cycling. The benefits of doing so are well known; environmental, health, congestion, road safety, public expenditure savings. And there are some great initiatives; encouraging people to ride to work or school, large social rides, programmes to encourage women onto bikes, skills training, commuter tips, bike buses and the like. However, all of these activities are having to work harder than necessary, and are less effective than they should be, because they are having to overcome those that would discourage cycling.

It’s like trying to tell people something, whilst all the time someone else is whispering in their ear with the opposite message. These Whisperers are always there, constantly undermining the positive messages about cycling. Often the Whisperers manage to get their message incorporated into positive advocacy messages, undermining the effect and sabotaging efforts to get more people riding.

So who are these Whisperers? And what is their message?

The message is very simple, and could have been carefully calculated to discourage everyday participation in cycling. It is this: ‘Riding a bike is very dangerous’. This is what is being whispered into the ears of your audience as you try to tell them of the pleasures and benefits of cycling. You talk about the convenience, how fit you have become, of the fun you have – but all the time the voice is there in the ear of your listener ‘… but it’s so dangerous. You’d be killed if you got on a bike…‘.

To overcome the Whisperers, you have to speak louder. And longer. Often to no avail; your audience can appreciate what you are saying, but think the risks you are taking simply don’t warrant the benefits. ‘It’s so risky! You take your life in your hands cycling on those streets‘, say the Whisperers, and their message is so insidious, so subliminal, so constant, and so often reinforced that no amount of positive advocacy or promotion can overcome it. ‘People get killed on bikes all the time‘ remind the Whisperers. ‘It’s not safe‘.

All cyclists know of this effect. Of riding to work day in day out for years on end – and as you prepare to ride home yet again people who have watched you for years say, ‘oooh, it must be dangerous – take care!’, or ‘You are so brave riding to work!’. Surveys show it rates as one of the major reasons why people don’t ride. People don’t ride bikes because they are scared of being killed.

So where are the Whisperers? How do they get their message out there so successfully – more successfully, it seems, than any positive messages about the benefit of cycling?

The Whisperers can be found in government. ‘Cyclists get killed all the time!’ whispers the Victorian government. ‘Cyclists have lots of crashes and get head injuries! whispers the NSW government. ‘Ride a bike and you’ll be hit by a car!’ whispers the UK government.

The Whisperers can be found in the media. “Cyclists are getting killed all the time!’ whispers the SMH, as does Channel 9. “Look how many deaths there are!‘ whispers the ABC.

The Whisperers are there in charity and not-for-profit organisations; ‘Bicycles are dangerous!’ whisper Kidsafe.

The Whisperers even get into cycling advocacy materials. ‘Lots of cyclists get hit by cars at night!’ whispers Bicycle Victoria.

Then, of course, there is the sheer volume of helmet promotion. It’s hard to find anything about cycling that doesn’t, as pretty much the first thing, insist on the wearing of helmets. ‘Cycling is so dangerous you need special protective equipment‘ murmur the Whisperers. ‘Look how much more dangerous it must be than other activities!

Maybe you don’t see the Whisperers in all of these. Or in any of these. Maybe you see well meaning advice. Well meaning it may be, but just pause and think for a moment – why does almost every promotion or communication about bicycles contain lurid descriptions of bicycle crashes, and references to cyclists being killed? This is the truly insidious nature of the Whisperers – to a non cyclist, the message is constant and reinforced. “Staying safe on a bike is hard – unless you are very careful, you’ll be killed‘. This is the message that most people hear when looking at these materials. Whisper, whisper. Other messages come and go, but this one just stays constant and unchanging. If it’s about bicycles, the Whisperers will be there, making sure their message is the one that will be remembered.

You might read the above, and dismiss it as poppycock. That I am over-sensitive; seeing things that aren’t there. Perhaps. However, next time you read or watch anything referring to cyclists, look out for the Whisperers. They might be hard to spot; if you are a cyclist you will be relatively immune to their voices. But put yourself in the shoes of a non-cyclist; one who already thinks cycling is dangerous (which most do), and look again. You might find they are whispering louder than you think.

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