Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Bikes, drivers and me (not just another rant).

Whilst I have ranted and railed against cars, I have to date avoided ranting at drivers themselves. However this exchange which Graham Reid over at PA kindly allowed me to post has helped me articulate some thoughts on the matter in a vaguely rational way. What follows was stimulated by this post from GR and is really a throw away comment about cyclists who appear not to care about what is going on around them.

The comment was:

“However, I wish they'd focus on these dickheads on bikes who run lights, weave in and out of traffic like God gave them the right, and then blame drivers who accidentally bowl them over when they are coming from the wrong damn direction with no lights or even a florescent flag top warn us of their presence.”

On reflection my own objection to this comment rests with its desire to take issue with the cyclists as though they are the soul cause of the problem. Weaving cyclists are part of an escalating debate IMHO. BTW I do feel superior on my bike not because it doesn’t pollute but because I have the character to do something many people are just to lazy to even try despite the social, personal and environmental advantages.

Whilst GR and I may have to agree to disagree on a number of issues I think we both agree that personal abuse is a waste of time. Thus I was sad to hear that Graham received a deluge of personal and abusive e-mails from bikebums. I confess when I think of loud mouth fools I do think of motorists, one might forgive Graham for thinking the same of bikebums. Which is a shame for those of us describing cycling as the intelligent option.

One last word from me: The conspicuous behaviour of a minority of foolish cyclists neither mitigates nor explains the appalling collective attitude of motorists in their dealings with bikes. Nor does the comment “but I’ve ridden a bike” provide any kind of fig leaf, ride often enough and you will appreciate the issues and the anger. Bugger the moral superiority, crickey I walk to work how green is that ?

Anyway the exchange:

Graham –

This is a bit long (and possibly a bit dull) but it is the response of a cyclist of some years, please do read if you have the time and I hope it makes you chuckle and think a little bit.
ah yes i knew THAT would get the riders writing!

at least you didn't get too personal like some of the other cyclists who have written accusing me of being too lkazy to get off my fat arse (do i have a fat arse? my wife doesn't think so!) and driving some gas-guzzling monster.

Yes I do believe that cars are the enemy of physical activity and the majority of the population would be better off making somewhat fewer journeys in their boxes (You can imagine my frustration at the recent budget announcements !).

while i was being a little i did know it would get a
response but at no time did i suggest that ALL riders were like that .. although you seem to be suggesting that ALL drivers are inconsiderate people who ("invariably"??) think they own all the road. If that were true then there'd be no cyclists left by now!
however could i make one thing clear.

No I don’t think all drivers are inconsiderate either. I do feel that legislation does not force them to look for, acknowledge and act accordingly towards other road users. There is a degree of car centric/car supremacy culture that is exemplified in the attitude of Auckland drivers towards anything that isn’t a car. And before you say it, the rule of the majority in a democracy should not be at the persecution or detriment of the minority. Given that we live under the Treaty of Waitangi it is amazing the number of Kiwis who fail to grasp this concept. The problem with bikebums is that the only time they are noticed is when they;

i) do something wrong - used by drivers to justify indignation, existing behaviour and seizure of moral high ground.
ii) get in the way - sorry guys but not every space is a car shaped passing space – if it ain’t big enough WAIT.
iii) are subject to a collision – on the majority of occasions where near misses and collisions have occurred any apology is usually tempered with that “ its your fault for being on my road/in my way” look. Don’t be guilty be observant…..

Bikebums are on the roads at other times but are constantly subject to the law of SIDSY (sorry I didn’t see you).

Q: Were you looking for me ?

i do not think that riding a bike makes anyone morally superior to someone
who drives, that's a line that seems to be advanced by cyclists all the time ("oh we aren't polluting therefore . . .")

There are a number of moral goods that can be attributed to cyclists that are not attributable to motorists, why does that bother motorists; if not because of dissonance with their own behaviour ? Cyclists are doing the right, thing are you absolutely sure you are ?

i used to travel to the city by bus or train (believe me the latter took some patience when the damn things would NEVER run on time) but if i have to go to howick from morningside then i am going to take my car. there is no other way of getting there that makes any sense. You can't cycle out there and back in any decent amount of time to make it financially viable if time is money (and mine is actually)

Yes I would take the car for cross town journeys too at the moment, it would take all day to get form the shore to Green Lane and back on a bike. I might think differently if:

1. Motoring was more expensive.
2. If there was a proper public transport network.
3. Public transport was equipped to transport my bike.
4. If Auckland had built a harbour bridge to accept anything other than a car (this speaks volumes about how much thinking and culture has to change in this respect).

Q: Would you ride on a bus with A WI-FI uplink ?

so this notion that if you look at a car and see just one person in it then
therefore that person is a lazy sluggard who just loves pumping shit into
the atmosphere might not always (("invariably"??) be right at all.
anway i have to say that while i think there are some very responsible
riders (most I would say) in my experience driving around the central city many are not.

Many responsible riders rarely ride in the city anymore. My wife and I have commuted on bikes in London, Sheffield, Biejing, Vancouver and Paris. I may be getting older but riding in Auckland give me the s**ts and the wife won’t do it either anymore. Sorry Graham but many drivers here are either too ignorant/arrogant/lacking in vision to be regarded as anything other than a menace.

Q: Do you switch off your mobile before getting into the car ? n.b. hands free kits are still an unreasonable demand on safe driving.

why are rear view mirrors not mandatory on bikes but they are in cars and
motorbikes etc??

For the same reasons that internal combustion engines don’t have speed management fitted to them - Because it would make other operations impractical – something you would know if you had thought this through or indeed have ridden a bike yourself. If cyclists used their mirrors as much as some motorists did there would be no point anyway.

i find riders will wobble wildly across the road or just put out their hand to cross a line of traffic without even a glance behind to see what might be there coming up. that's suicidal and crazy, and the other day when i nearly hit a guy who just shoved his hand out and then just pulled out in front of me (i was very aware of him and travelling well below the speed limit)-- and he yelled at me!!!!

Question of perspective here, drive a bit slower, leave a few more gaps and such manoeuvres become a lot easier for cyclists (That said, if you can’t ride one handed then walk !). I do not think it reasonable that I should have to dismount and cross the road at a crossing in order to complete a right turn on a bike, because all motorists insist on travelling at the maximum legally permitted speed at all times. Usually a reduction in speed for you would amount to a delay of a few minutes at most, is your time really that expensive ?

irresponsible shit! and you and i both know that if i had belted him he'd be
telling all his mates about yet another stupid auckland driver etc etc.
sorry, not a lot of time for that nonsense. In my experience some bike riders in the central area are careless with regard to their own safety, and that is borne out of driving most days in abject fear that i will hit someone. and i take great care and try (on narrow roads sometimes) to give a wide berth to cyclists because i am
terrified i will hit and injiure someone (and it'll my fat arse gas guzzling
no-good-polluting shitbag fault no doubt!)

Even if it is your fault, why worry ? You won’t pay for the treatment (ACC) and I think you will find that litigation rarely results in a meaningful conviction for the motorist (your insurance company lawyers deal with that). I have been deliberately run over by a guy in a car in front of witnesses the charge eventually came down to careless driving ? When motorists become more personally culpable for their actions and specifically their misdeeds involving bikes then I think attitudes will change as they have done in Europe.

and don't get me started on joggers who run on the roads when there are
perfectly good footpaths there for that purpose!!

When they employ tow trucks to remove cars from pathways and they prepare/maintain paths to the same standards as roads then we can talk about this issue. At the moment many paths are clearly employed as an extension of the drainage system or parking system. The camber on Auckland paths costs me a fortune in physio bills (not paid for by ACC unless I twist my ankle).

so cheers and thanks for reading and taking the time to write. i was pleased
to see in today's herald that someone picked up on the courtesy on the roads
yesterday -- but my feeling (as opposed to yours obviously) is that
aucklanders have been getting much much better rather than worse as some say.

Hmm moot point here the wife says I am a much nicer driver after a week with the rellies in Dunedin. I understand everyone was well behaved for perhaps the only time this year and it was only for a morning.

of course some clown will always run a red light or cut a cyclist off just as some cyclist might cut me off and run a red light, but mostly i see patience and good manners
i must be driving in the wrong part of town!

I will front up on one matter: I regularly jump red lights but with causes that can be justified from the cycling POV.

I am not going to wait for a car to come up behind me in order to get across a junction because I am not big enough to trigger the control switch.

For my own safety I do punt across junctions before the green lights in order to get across and to the side of the roads before I impede the traffic behind me. I do this a lot where there is a split left filter lane (danger of getting run over by inside passing cars going too fast/not seeing) and when the cycle lane runs out at a junction just when I really need it. These options are safer for me and actually speed up traffic flow.

I don’t see the point of not crossing the lights at a controlled T junction when clearly the cycle lane clearly permits unimpeded flow for me and turning traffic. This doesn’t make me bad it does make me intelligent (though illegal I must agree).

Don’t expect cyclists to exhibit any better behaviour than motorists but do ask the question are they actually any worse than motorists or is it just they they aren’t in cars ?

and be safe out there.
mine's the xxxxxx xxxxx xxxxx right behind you -- look out!

I am old enough to remember truly courteous roads that I could ride on as a six year old without fear. Can’t do that now…..sadly and certainly can’t let my future heirs do it either. I am the owner of several broken bones and missing a few teeth from various MVC’s mostly caused by lack of observation by motorists.

I promise to be very safe and very defensive for the time being but be warned I am big and look like a bank robber (face modified in a crash). Beware of my wife who has attacked offending cars with her shoe for want of a better weapon !

And remember we always hate the other guy because….he drives just like us.

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