A vicious cycle on the road

By Ross Tyson

DRAMATIC footage of a so-called “dooring” incident this week has again highlighted the combative relationship between cyclists and drivers.

The crash, in which a female rider was knocked from her bike when a passenger opened a door into her path, has sparked a fresh round of fierce debate.

While this particular incident occurred amid the chaos of Melbourne’s inner-city traffic, local cyclists maintain barely a training ride goes by without a close call.

Tamworth Cycling Club president John Saunders has two teenage daughters who regularly train out on the open road and he worries constantly about their safety.

He admitted there were bad cyclists – just as there were bad drivers – but said members frequently reported being deliberately harassed by people behind the wheel.

“People always say we put our lives in our own hands every time we go out on the road, but we don’t,” Mr Saunders said.

“We put our lives in the hands of motorists, because if there’s a bad accident, it’s the bike rider who’s going to get killed – not the motorist.”

Mr Saunders said riders were continually frustrated that many drivers simply did not believe cyclists should be entitled to use the roads.

“One of the things that gets thrown at us all the time is that we don’t pay registration and therefore should not be on the road,” he said.

“But most cyclists drive cars as well so we have paid our registration because you can’t ride your bike everywhere.

“And if we all paid for a special licence, do you really think it would stop the aggression on the road? I don’t think so.”

Driving instructor Peter Draper said part of the reason for the antagonism between the two groups of road users was an ignorance of the road rules.

“Ninety-nine per cent of people who are on the road wouldn’t have a clue about the rights of cyclists and they view them as a nuisance rather than a legitimate user of the road,” Mr Draper said.

“I don’t believe anywhere near enough people who use the roads are aware of the dangers of not treating cyclists with respect and I think a further education campaign is most definitely warranted.

“It needs to be a two-way street. While cyclists have a lot of rights, there needs to be a lot of common sense applied as well.”

Did you know that ...

Cyclists can ride two abreast, but no more than 1.5m apart;

Cyclists can overtake stopped or slow vehicles on the left-hand side;

Cyclists can turn right from the left-hand lane of a multi-lane roundabout; and

Cyclists can ride on the footpath if carrying a person under 10 as a passenger.

Source: NSW Roads and Maritime Service

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