Supposedly, I’m a menace and a f*%king idiot. Why? I’m not really sure, but I think it’s because I ride a bike around Sydney.
I wear a helmet. I ride on the left side of the road. But, I have a cheap hybrid bike that can’t move all that quickly, and sometimes, when it’s dusk, I don’t put my lights on.
Last week, two men in cars started yelling at me while I was on my bike. This isn’t unusual, it happens a lot, and I’m quite used to it. But this time the yelling escalated until one of the men – a solid built, tanned fellow – jumped out of the taxi he was in. He grabbed my bike, while I was still on it. He dragged the bike (and I) to the side of the road, and continued to verbally abuse me. This is, without a doubt, the worst bike rage I have ever experienced.
I understand that it can be frustrating for drivers when they feel like they are slowed down by bikes. Plus, drivers can get anxious about hitting cyclists. We stress you, and that’s a shame. But, this experience made me think that people might need a refresher course in the Road Rules.
Bikes are vehicles too
According to NSW Road Rules 2008, bicycles are vehicles, just like motor vehicles and animal drawn vehicles (Pt 2 Dv 2 Rule 15). As such, bicycles must ride on the road. This rule applies across Australia, including Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.
Further, Rule 249 of the NSW Road Rules, stipulates: “The rider of a bicycle must not ride on a part of a separated footpath designated for the use of pedestrians.” If cyclists ride on the footpath, it can attract a fine. Again, similar laws exist around Australia.
If a cyclist is not wearing a helmet or appropriate lights – or perhaps they are stealing a bag of grapes as they ride – that doesn’t change these rules. Cyclists can get fined for their wrongdoings, but that doesn’t open the door for abuse from drivers. That would be like saying I’m allowed to smash a car window, because a driver hadn’t paid for their registration. I can’t. If I did, the driver and I would be acting against the law, for different reasons, and we could both be fined accordingly.
What this means is that drivers don’t have exclusive access to the roads, and that is the law. If drivers are frustrated and disagree with this, they can write letters to Parliament, or set up a peaceful protest.
But, before drivers start penning these letters, consider the benefits of cycling. Drivers might think that cyclists slow them down, but if riders were driving cars instead, it would significantly increase road congestion. According to the Queensland Government, current rates of commuter cycling reduce the cost of congestion around Australia by approximately $63.9 million per year.
There is also evidence that a strong cycling culture can reduce rates of obesity. If you don’t think this issue affects you, it does. In 2008, the total annual cost of obesity to Australia, including health system costs and loss of productivity was around $58 billion. If you’re not concerned about obesity, that money could have been spent on things you do care about.
I love riding. I don’t do it to offend cars, or annoy drivers. I just enjoy commuting on two wheels, and it’s perfectly legal. If drivers have a serious problem with it, they need to take it to the Government. No amount of name-calling is getting me off my bike.
For more information
- Road User’s Hand Book (pdf)