Keeping us safe… (updated)

August 8, 2017 at 16:58 | Posted in bicycles | 8 Comments
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I got pulled over the cops the other day. Rather excitingly, it’s the first time I’ve ever been pulled over with lights and sirens blaring!

The reason was that I was riding like cyclists do in 98% of the world – that is to say without a polystyrene hat. In Australia, of course, this deviant behaviour is considered a criminal offence. And not a minor one – the fine is $325. That’s the same as a car driver not giving way to pedestrians on a crossing flashing amber, and drinking alcohol whilst driving.

I spoke to the officers, and explained I have an exemption, and showed it to them. It remains to see if they accept it or if I get a ticket through the post. But what a waste of everyone’s time.

Still, it seems the NSW police are keen to ensure vulnerable road users are suitably penalised for daring to use a Sydney road network that is hostile towards them. A few days later, I was in the city and witnessed no less than five motorcycle cops booking pedestrians who dared to scuttle across a pedestrian crossing when it wasn’t green. Given that this is right outside Sydney Central Station and there are a lot of pedestrians needing to cross, that there is relatively few vehicles, and that the green time for pedestrians is woeful (about five seconds every three minutes), you can hardly blame a few people for crossing on the red man.

But no, the NSW police were there, handing out tickets ($72, if you were interested). Whilst I watched, I saw two cars drive through on very amber lights ($325, as explained above), and one on red ($433), but rather than jumping onto their powerful motorcycles to catch the miscreants putting people’s lives in danger, they just chatted amongst themselves.

Great to know our safety is so important to them.


In recent news, it was reported that the number of fines issued to cyclists rose massively last year  – $1.99m in fines, compared to $0.33m the previous year. The number of injuries also fell, by about 7% – but cycling participation fell about 25% (from 17% of people to 12.5% of people regularly riding bicycles). This means, of course, that cycling actually became more dangerous last year. All those fines and police activity have driven people off their bikes, and made it more dangerous for those that remain.

And, true to form, I was pulled over yet again this morning. This is on a ride where I saw perhaps 4 drivers using a mobile phone, and close to 10 drivers driving through an amber or red light. So a pretty typical ride. The road safety priorities in NSW (and Australia more generally) are truly f—-d.

police again

Cops, cars, jaywalkers, bikes and priorities…

August 30, 2013 at 12:31 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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copcarI was riding home on Wednesday this week when a friendly oncoming cyclist on Pyrmont Bridge warned me that there were police at the end of the bridge pinging helmetless cyclists. I thanked him, and then rode on, keeping a lookout. I was expecting to see the usual bike cops, but saw there was a squad car parked on the junction, with two officers standing on the pavement nearby. I jumped off my bike and walked across the crossing, to avoid a tedious helmet conversation, and once on the other side paused to see what the police were doing.

The first thing I saw was a pedestrian being ticketed for jaywalking.jaywalker

Shortly after that, a car turning right out of Darling Drive went through a red light. The filter light on that lane is only lit for a short time, and it’s frequently not enough time for the queue of cars to get across. So it’s pretty much a dead cert that someone will push through as it turns red.

In this instance, I think probably two or three cars went through as it changed, with the last one evidently being well after it had gone red – indeed, he was so late going through that the pedestrian / bike crossing had gone green and a swarm of pedestrians were already in the road. This meant he got stuck in the middle of the junction – as it happens, slap bang over the bike crossing that links Pyrmont Bridge with the Union St cycleway.

This posed some problems for cyclists; either they had to ride around the rear of the vehicle, uncomfortably close to the oncoming traffic now coming out of Pyrmont Bridge Rd, or go around the front of the car by riding on the pedestrian part of the crossing.


In the picture above, you can see one cyclist doing exactly that – look for the flash of hi-viz behind the cop’s arm.

The car was stuck in the middle of the junction for quite a while whilst the crossing cleared (in the pic the ped lights have gone to flashing red and the car is still there), with two cops on the pavement, one each side of the crossing, perhaps five metres away from the vehicle.

So what happened next?

Well, the cop in the picture, turning and seeing the cyclist coming around the front of the car, pulled him over, asked to see his ID and gave him a warning about riding over the pedestrian crossing, although he stopped short of issuing a ticket. (Whilst this was happening, a pedestrian came over to where the cop was speaking to the cyclist, and started laying into the officer about how they were harassing cyclists!)

As the crossing cleared, the motorist drove away, with neither cop making any effort to speak to him, pull him over or capture his rego.

After the cyclist had ridden away, I took the opportunity to speak to the officer about his actions. He was very pleasant and courteous, and basically acknowledged that the cyclist was ‘the unlucky one’.

‘There’s things coming from all angles on this crossing, and there’s only two of us, and we can’t stop everyone.’ he said. ‘He was just unlucky this time; it’s just too busy to cover everything.’

I did gently press him about the motorist, pointing out that a car driving over a red light and towards a crowded pedestrian crossing perhaps posed a greater danger than a lone cyclist trying to get around an obstruction, and the cop did agree that, yes, the behaviour of the car driver was more dangerous. He also agreed that he’d seen lots of cars jumping that particular red light.

Internally at this point, I was shouting, ‘so why on earth didn’t you walk the five paces over to the car when it was stuck on the crossing to talk to the driver, instead of pulling over the cyclist?!!’. However, I kept that thought to myself. The cop went on to say he was a cyclist himself, and hated it when car drivers do that kind of stuff, and that poor driving around cyclists really annoys him. Not enough, it seems, to translate into action when he is on duty.

He also said they were positioned there because there had been lots of reports of conflict between cyclist and pedestrians in that area. The reason for that, of course, is due to the phasing of the lights. Cyclists and pedestrians get far too little green time, meaning that a large group of pedestrians builds up for each signal change – and many of them end up spilling into the bike lane simply because the crossing is not wide enough for that number of people.

Approaching cyclists, for their part, knowing that they have perhaps three seconds of green to get onto the crossing before they will be forced to wait another four minutes for the whole cycle to go around tend to speed up when they see the crossing go green.

Speeding cyclists anxious to get onto the crossing and a sea of peds spilling all over the road – hardly surprising that there’s conflict.

The number of pedestrians and cyclists at that junction at peak time far exceeds the number of motorists, of course. And yet the motorists get the vast majority of the green time. Simply putting in another pedestrian green phase in the middle of the cycle would probably solve most of the conflict issues, and save the police time and money having to patrol there. But that might cause a precious motorist to be held up for ten seconds longer – which clearly can’t be allowed, can it?


Pedestrian and bike path musings…

November 17, 2010 at 20:40 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I can’t help feeling it’s a sad day for pedestrians in Sydney. The traffic lights at the intersection between Kent St and Bradfield Highway are now in operation. At least in part, this junction was signalised in order to facilitate the bicycle path that has runs along Kent Street, which I suppose is to be applauded. However, the result is now that pedestrians, rather than just crossing the road whenever they need to, are forced to wait several minutes until the little green man gives them permission.
I think this is a retrograde step. People should have priority over cars, not the other way around. I also see that the traffic seems to be queuing for longer too, so it’s for the most part not helping drivers either.
I worry that this is a trend, and that zebra crossings are in general being replaced with signalised crossings. This is a pity, I think. I’d like to see lots more zebra crossings in the place of the current signalised ones. Make the cars stop for the people, and force drivers to pay attention to their surroundings. (And for those safety nannies out there, note that UK research shows that where zebra crossings are replaced by signalised crossings, the pedestrian injury rate tends to rise, not fall).

Whilst on the topic of inadequate pedestrian crossings, the crossing at the western end of Pyrmont Bridge is also poor. It’s simply not wide enough to cope with the volume of pedestrian traffic – indeed, the footpath outside the pub is also too narrow. There really needs to be one less car lane here, and the footpath needs to be much wider. It causes problems for cyclists too, as there are frequently a lot of pedestrians waiting in the ‘cycle’ area, which for example means that bikes don’t trigger the bicycle lanterns because they can’t get on top of the sensors – as illustrated in the picture.

In any case, the induction loop trigger on the cycleways are wholly inadequate. It’s a classic example of the RTA being unable to build anything except car infrastructure. Has anyone been able to get the lights at Kent / Erskine junction to trigger when going north? It doesn’t help that the sensor is for the most part in front of the stop line, but this morning I sat right on the middle of it on the Radish – a bike that has a lot of metal! – and the light didn’t trigger. Very frustrating.

Still, riding the Radish always makes me happy. Actually, riding any of my bikes makes me happy, but in different ways. I’d like to spread that happiness around, so I’m going to do something a friend suggested and attach a bubble machine to the back of the radish. Then I can cruise around leaving a trail of happiness and bubbles behind me.

Kamakaze pedestrian

August 27, 2009 at 22:39 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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I left work early today, as I was feeling crook. Because I was feeling crook, several people told me to ‘ride safely’.

It must have jinxed me, as I was knocked off my bike shortly after setting off. I was going down Miller St approaching the Pac Hwy, and there were some peds crossing in front of me. Most of them saw me coming and either stopped or scuttled across. As I got closer, one guy just stepped off the central curb where we had been waiting with his mates, and started sauntering across whilst looking completely in the wrong direction.

I hit the brakes and shouted ‘STOP!’ and ‘NO!” at him very loudly, but he was oblivious and just kept looking the wrong way. it was one of those ‘is he going to keep moving, so I should try and go behind him vs is he going to look round and stop so I should go in front?’ dilemmas.

I chose the latter. And he didn’t stop. So I ran into him. I’d slowed right down by that point, but he still managed to knock me off, leaving me sprawled in the road. He muttered a quick ‘sorry, sorry’ and ran off, whist I stood up and let rip with, I am ashamed to say, some rather colourful language.

I grazed by elbows, but I was more concerned about the paintwork on my beautiful new bike. All OK, except for a scratch on the black anodised finish on the rack.

Dratted pedestrians! The media gets obsessed with cyclists hitting pedestrians, but I reckon the reverse situation – a ped hits a cyclists and the cyclist is worse off – is much more common. Still, if I’d been driving a car he’d probably be dead. So I can say that I saved someone’s life today by riding rather than driving!

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