Road users and mutual respect – Time for reflection

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 drivers  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 admitted  he  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.

Multiple  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 that  motorists have to obey and we have  seen them dangerously slipstreaming vehicles ahead of them.

The funeral yesterday of prominent  local sportsman Rex Sizeland  highlights the problems for cyclists on the roads.  The causes behind his tragic death will be decided by the coroner who  hopefully    will make  recommendations that will help prevent future  fatalities.

The problem Geelong faces _ along with all other major Australian cities _  is that it is a slow and sometimes reluctant convert to  the energy efficiency of the  bicycle as a way of moving people. European cities have for many years been providing special facilities _ lanes, parking, security etc _  and businesses  provide employees’    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 Howard  to not just add their names to  safety campaigns and motorist/cyclist education but to sit down with  VicRoads or the appropriate agency and work on a series of  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, anywhere  so the message can get across.

Bikes are here to stay and  cyclists and motorists have to learn to live with one another;  last year, more bicycles were bought in Australia than cars.  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.

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