Not often I do this, but this editorial (December 31, 2009) in the Geelong Advertiser warrants repeating in my view. Not often we see an informed balanced commentary in a newspaper, so please let the Geelong Advertiser know your views on the topic by posting a constructive comment on their website.
THE unfortunate thing about cyclists is that there are some drivers who hate them.
Thankfully, they don’t mirror the opinion of the vast majority of driversÂ but the contempt and the dislike for cyclists and their rights to the road included in some texts and letters to the editor of this paper is worrying.
In general, there is a lack of respect for cyclists in Australia. World road champion Cadel Evans recently admittedÂ heÂ risked his life every time he went out on a training ride in Australia. It was never so much a problem in Europe, he said, because there the motorists respected the riders.
MultipleÂ Australian road champion John Trevorrow can see it from both sides. He has been a victim but he can also see the need for cyclists to follow the road rules. All of us have seen cyclists disregard rules thatÂ motorists have to obey and we haveÂ seen them dangerously slipstreaming vehicles ahead of them.
The funeral yesterday of prominentÂ local sportsman Rex SizelandÂ highlights the problems for cyclists on the roads.Â The causes behind his tragic death will be decided by the coroner whoÂ hopefullyÂ Â Â will makeÂ recommendations that will help prevent futureÂ fatalities.
The problem Geelong faces _ along with all other major Australian cities _Â is that it is a slow and sometimes reluctant convert toÂ the energy efficiency of theÂ bicycle as a way of moving people. European cities have for many years been providing special facilities _ lanes, parking, security etc _Â and businessesÂ provide employees’Â Â Â showers and change rooms.
These are facilities provided after the fact. Where Australia has to lift its game is to provide genuine, safe conditions for cyclists who choose to ride to work. It’s all very well to have the scenic bike paths around the rivers, alongside golf courses and following historic rail trails; they’re undoubtedly pleasant but not very practical for getting to and from work.
Perhaps it is the responsibility of people like Evans, Trevorrow and our own budding road champion Leigh HowardÂ to not just add their names toÂ safety campaigns and motorist/cyclist education but to sit down withÂ VicRoads or the appropriate agency and work on a series ofÂ information videos educating cyclists and drivers alike on rules of the road and mutual respect.
These videos could be included on strategic websites of cycling clubs, car service clubs like RACV and NRMA, driver training school websites, online newspapers, education departments and insurance company websites. In fact, anywhereÂ so the message can get across.
Bikes are here to stay andÂ cyclists and motorists have to learn to live with one another;Â last year, more bicycles were bought in Australia than cars.Â Like so many things in life, it’s a two-way street and an effective campaign is badly needed to make that street safer for all users.