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?
I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not perfect. No, it’s true! (But please don’t tell my wife and destroy her perception). I swear too much and have bad habits too numerous to mention but none of them, now I’m middle-aged, include driving or riding in a manner that is likely to cause danger to others or myself.
My commute to work is about 28km of a few rolling hills and one nasty one towards the end, with both pedestrian crossing and traffic intersection lights on the ascent and, in Spring, a particularly aggressive magpie. But the first part of the journey isn’t too bad. There have been a few occasions where cars and trucks have come too close for comfort but none like there was this morning.
The incident which increased the heart rate above 135bpm at about 6.50am yesterday occurred on a roundabout at Petrie (ignore the date/time stamp on the recording). Travelling south in Beeville Road the road widens from one lane plus a parking lane to two lanes (with no parking lane), the left most of which is signed for traffic to exit on Dayboro Road towards Strathpine. The right lane is for traffic going straight ahead into a housing sub-division or right on Dayboro Road towards Youngs Crossing Road intersection or past there to Dayboro. Approaching the roundabout Beeville Road bends slightly to the right and as it widens to two lanes I checked back and saw a silver four wheel drive a short distance back, still climbing the hill. I signalled my intent to turn right and – for reasons of safety – positioned myself in the left lane whilst continuing to signal right with an outstretched arm letting traffic on the roundabout pass in front. I then moved onto the chevrons to the left of the edge line and continued to ride towards Dayboro Road still with my right arm signalling my intended course. So, considering I had signalled heaps more than many other cyclists tend to do I was a bit shocked to find the silver four wheel drive, a Mitsubishi Pajero Queensland registration 692ITY drive straight in front of me into the Petrie-on-Pine estate. But as he/she had signalled their intent (note flashing indicator) to turn into this road then their wanton disregard for other traffic can be forgiven. Apparently. But as my name is not Jesus I decline to forgive and so you shall have your 15 minutes of fame.
Some forty minutes later, and still marvelling at my good fortune of almost meeting the courteous Pajero driver, my disappointment in the attitudes of some Brisbane road users continued. On Old Northern Road/South Pine Road at Everton Park, just after the intersection with Dargie Street, the traffic starts to back up to a standstill. For some unknown reason drivers are unable to position their cars on the road to allow cyclists to pass safely on the left, so many cyclists, myself included, pick the safest option which is to ride between the two lines of traffic (see, I told you I wasn’t perfect!) until the space on the left increases . Unfortunately, just after the intersection with Stafford Road the entire scenario is replicated on the approach to where South Pine Road becomes Wardell Street. This is a long, straight stretch with an appalling road surface and camber on the left of the southbound lanes. The road passes Mt Maria College and so is in a school zone. Now traffic is so heavy here that speeding is not an issue but right outside the main entrance to the school is a pedestrian crossing controlled by traffic lights. So you would think that when riding along through stopped cars and trucks, which are stopped because the lights were RED, that you would err on the side of caution and stop too or at least slow to a crawl pending their change to green. But, no! Apparently if you are a cyclist then that ridiculous rule shouldn’t apply to you. So a big round of applause to Mr “Lend Lease” for doing the wrong thing at a red light and giving Brisbane drivers more anti-cyclist ammunition. And a dollar to the swear jar for me for calling him a fuckwit.
But it didn’t end there. A bit further on Mr “Lend Lease”, like me, took an exit to a back street next to the Enoggera train station. Due to a blind corner at the bottom of the off-ramp the intersection is controlled by a stop sign. The big question for users of this intersection during the morning rush hour is whether there is a police officer on the other side, just out of sight, but in possession of a video camera filming the evidence before he issues the $300 fine. Lucky for Mr “Lend Lease” there wasn’t since he (and the driver following) made no attempt to stop.
I eventually caught up with Mr “Lend Lease” when he stopped for the lights at the Samford Road / Enoggera Road intersection (this one is a bit busier and so perhaps he didn’t feel so brave). I told him he was doing some wonderful things to enhance the reputation of Brisbane cyclists in his disobedience of the red light and the stop sign and called him a tool (no more money for the swear jar!). I must have hit a nerve because he reacted and told me in no uncertain terms to worry about myself.
And their lies the root of the problem because I do worry about myself when riding, especially during rush hour. All the time. I worry that some cranky motorist who has seen other cyclists ignore the road rules will give me less room because, well, I must be a road-rule flouting cyclist like Mr “Lend Lease”. I worry that some cyclist-hating driver will report his sighting of the behaviour of those Mr “Lend Lease” types and give fuel to the anti-cyclist vitriol published ad nauseum in the Courier Mail. I worry that my wife and kids will one day receive a visit from a workmate with the news that I won’t be home for dinner. Ever. But I also worry that one day I might be the one that has to deliver similar news to the family of cyclists like Mr “Lend Lease”.
P.S. Unfortunately there appears to be an issue in the uploading of videos 2 & 4 in that the sound is out of synch to the files held on my hard drive.
P.P.S. If you are a manager from Lend Lease (offices at Waterfront Place in Brisbane) and you recognise this fool as one of your employees I most strongly recommend you “educate” him in setting the right example when riding on the road. Alternatively you could recommend he doesn’t provide such negative advertising to your brand.
Yes, this is my first blog post. Well…if you discount any of the shit I write on Facebook or Twitter of course. Actually I have had this site for just over three months and have repeatedly either left it on the back-burner or been too buggered from work and just wanting to settle down in front of the TV with a glass of red as opposed to think of what I should try and type without typos (yes, I’m drinking a “red”).
But today is a special day. And a shit day. And not because of anything to do with what I have decided I would rather comment on. No, this has almost nothing to do with cycling (except that Damian was a triathlete). And for that I do not apologise. For today I joined almost one third of the entire strength of the Queensland Police Service as we bade goodbye to Detective Senior Constable Damian Leeding following his murder in the line of duty as he attended an armed robbery with hostages taken. The selfless response by “Damo” and his partner to yet another robbery of a Gold Coast business was par for the course for many officers. However, they were unlucky enough to be faced by one of the most violent individuals I’ve ever had the misfortune to learn about. And I did that in 2004. The truth will be known in due course but at least he has been caught. Not that this will ever compensate Damien’s wife, family, colleagues and the rest of us in “blue” for their loss. Damian, you have paid the ultimate price in fulfilment of your Oath of Service. To his wife, Sonya, two-year old son, Hudson, four-month old daughter Grace, parents, Sonya’s family and extended family: I and many others will never forget this day. We will remember him; hasten the dawn.
With honour He served…