There is no doubt that cyclists, especially those who ride with others, or who ride in garishly coloured Lycra, or who ride bicycles more expensive than a white 1991 Holden Commodore, are not the most liked road users in (insert name of Australian city here). Not a day appears to pass without some poor cyclist(s) being targeted for verbal abuse, thrown objects or vehicular intimidation by the drivers of cars, trucks and even buses.
The reporting on this by the media, often including comments about the cyclists which add nothing to the issue and do more to fan the anti-cyclist fervour, is less than impartial and does nothing to promote tolerance of ALL road users (by both motorists and cyclists) and certainly has little impact on promoting safer road use.
Such mundane facets of life are left to the individual cyclist and, increasingly, state and territory cycling associations, national lobby groups and independent organisations. The promotion of cycling for many such groups is a fine balancing act with them seeking ways to work harmoniously together to achieve their common goal. There always will be differences of opinion in how to approach tasks but with most the desire to seek the best outcome for everyone overrides the desire to marginalise motorists whilst making the most noise in the narcissistic quest to get more followers. (And woe betide the followers of at least two particular groups for they are not allowed to express any opinions different to that dictated by the relevant group’s pontificating Führer or they will be blocked from commenting further).
The involvement of an individual, a member of their family or a friend in an incident where that person is placed at risk creates in many a sense of confusion as to what to do next. Do they report that person to police? Do they report them to their employer if they can be identified as driving a company vehicle? Or do they report them on social media for the benefit of ridicule by the aggrieved’s wider circle of friends so leading to a suggestion they, perhaps take the bull by the horns and confront the individual at fault or their employer, in person, at the workplace?
The first has benefits if that person is seeking a degree of application of law, i.e. a verbal warning, written warning or punitive action by police. There is no doubt there are some police who would rather watch paint dry than do police work and, because they are human too, there will be some that have no love or respect for cyclists. But if a member of the public wishes to make an allegation of crime then police are obliged to make some form of formal note (written or entered into the relevant online database) detailing the allegation and any advice given or action taken. If the police to which it was reported do nothing the complainant is within their rights to seek further advice from that person’s supervisor. In such circumstances it is refreshing to see the speed of action generated by the involvement of a more senior officer. Newton must have another law of motion to explain this as the degree of action is directly proportional to the rank of the supervisor involved and potential disciplinary trouble the errant officer could find them-self in.
The second course of action, contacting the employer of the driver concerned, has limited benefits. These are dependent on whether the person seeking redress is content with an employer dealing with the matter in-house thereby having little control over whether the employee is admonished or given a pat on the back for good driving. Such action carries greater risks in that the company concerned may be openly hostile to criticism of its staff, whether from cyclists or other persons.
The third option, at least in the short term, often can satisfy the primeval desire for instant gratification. Exposing through the various forms of social media the perceived wrong doings of drivers brings with it the support of family and friends and that warm, fuzzy feeling of having the moral high ground. Adding a YouTube video of an incident together with the registration number and any identification details reaches a much wider audience and before you know it a sense of euphoria, bettered only by a good single malt, washes over you. Many friends will suggest contacting police and in the early stages that still is an option.
The advice of many of the cycling advocacy groups is to take option #1 and not to be fobbed off by an individual officer’s apathy; remain respectful and firm.
Deciding to contact the individual or a company in person places the aggrieved person at higher risk; it is human nature to be defensive when confronted. It all depends on whether the cyclist is prepared for a confrontation to turn nasty and whether they want to risk being assaulted or have property damaged.
So it comes with a modicum of surprise to see that one noisy cycling advocate has apparently advised the family of yet another target for anti-cyclist abuse to visit the company office of the errant driver and make a complaint.
The company representative spoken to stated the driver would be reprimanded and a note placed on her file. This may be the desired outcome of many (assuming that is the company took the action indicated) but the big question is whether it is enough of a deterrent in today’s environment of willfully targeting and intimidating vulnerable road users?
In effect, wouldn’t a visit by police prove more of a deterrent and so send the relevant message to others? And isn’t such a course of action worth pursuing further?