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How to give law-abiding cyclists a bad name…

Every city with a sizeable cycling population likely has one ride popular amongst the Strava set, the wannabe neo-Pros and resident/visiting elite riders. Here in Brisbane it is, apparently, the Zupps ride, a fast-paced 90km hit out departing the northern suburb of Aspley for Burpengary followed by a loop of the Redcliffe peninsula, before returning, via Nundah, to the starting point at the car dealership from which the ride takes its name.

The numbers participating in the ride vary depending on weather conditions (regardless, the ride still will take place every Sunday from 6.30am) or if regular riders are otherwise engaged in a real race somewhere else in southeast Queensland. Several years ago I took part in a number of Zupps rides with up to 100 other cyclists. Yesterday, at about 7.10am, whilst on the train to work I saw a bunch of about twenty riding north on Narangba Road passing the Dakabin rail station. From the speed they were going it can only have been Zupps, despite the route being popular among other bunches in the area.

The etiquette of the riders has been called into question on many occasions before. Previously I have criticised the attitude of the ride leaders and some others in the bunch towards compliance with the state road rules; apparently, red traffic lights on busy Gympie Road through Strathpine and Lawnton do not apply to cyclists before 7am!

Yet, despite the call by Queensland cyclists for respect, consideration and tolerance by drivers and the recent enactment of a minimum passing distance to provide an appropriate safety barrier between bicycles and motorised vehicles, there are some who, by their flagrant inability to ride safely and within the law, damage the reputation of those who do not take part in the ride and so do nothing to promote the hobby/sport.

This was never more obvious than at about 8.30am on Sunday at the intersection of Barclay Street and Adams Street in Deagon. Having received numerous complaints over several months of poor riding behaviour in the locality on Sunday mornings as well as generally poor driving behaviour by some motorists towards cyclists, particularly with regard to the safe passing distance legislation, officers of the Queensland Police Road Policing Task Force deployed on an operation to monitor and target errant cyclists and motorists. Knowing well the locations cyclists would be likely to break the road rules, the officers attended and observed in this instance numerous cyclists in the Zupps bunch ride straight through the intersection without complying with the visible stop sign and stop line.

Well done. Now not only do many motorists think cyclists wilfully flout the law but so do the police and we can be sure of an increased police interest in the area in the months to come.

The non-compliance with the recognised law on this raised some discussion Australia-wide on what is and what is not required to avoid falling foul of the law with there being some confusion as to whether the Queensland Government had agreed to the trial/ implementation of the “Idaho Stop” rule, effectively permitting cyclists, and only cyclists, to treat “stop signs” as “give way” signs. Proposed in the recent review of cycling law (which heralded the 1m rule) the motion was discarded as it would treat motorists different to cyclists, particularly at a time when cyclists were seeking a higher degree of equality with motorists.

In essence, the existing law remains the same: cyclists (and motorists) are required to come to a complete stop before crossing the stop line and then proceed if/when the road is clear for them to do so. Contrary to what some cyclists believe there is nothing in the Queensland Road Rules which requires ANY VEHICLE to stop at a stop sign for a prescribed time before proceeding. Likewise there is NO REQUIREMENT for cyclists (or motorcyclists) to place at least one foot on the ground whilst stopped.

Different states have different interpretations on this but in Queensland, to avoid copping a fine, you only need to stop before the stop line. Nevertheless, at least one Facebook discussion on this incident generated numerous comments from misinformed locals and interstate migrants alike indicating a poor knowledge and worse interpretation of the law on this matter.

One local cyclist, during the discourse and chastisement of myself (who unbeknownst it him has a higher than average knowledge of the road rules), proudly declared his cycling pedigree and imparted his and his ancestors’ opinion that stopping at stop signs is an unsafe practice.

I’ll wager it’s safer than blowing through such an intersection in a bunch (or by yourself) and ending up as a bonnet adornment of the P-plate Commodore speeding in the street you are entering.

Your call mate…


Finding a bunch (part 2)

First of all I must say I didn’t expect it to be almost three months before I wrote part 2 of my search for a good bunch to ride with. I could put it down to the pressures of balancing work and home life or that I can be a lazy git, preferring to sit with a glass of red and watching the crap that is on TV. Truth be told, it is a combination of both. I’ll leave you to guess the which carries more weight.

For a woman with an innate inability to master the use of gears on a bike my wife (bless her) struck gold in her recommendation I check out “the bunch in North Lakes.”

Dutton Cycles Racing & Recreation Club has been around since 2007. Founded by the Dutton family behind the Dutton Cycles shop at North Lakes, the club held its first bunch ride in March 2008; four members turned up. It was almost two years later that I joined, but in the intervening period the numbers had swollen proportionately with the growth of the North Lakes and Mango Hill developments and through word of mouth. The profile of the club was also noticed by the Sizzler restaurant chain in 2009 when they used club members to participate in a series of advertisments for the chain which were shown, primarily, during the 2009 Tour de France.

The Dutton Cycles club ethos was explained to me as joining a family. No riders would be left behind. Riders were encouraged by ride leaders to ride within the Road Rules. The attitudes were the complete antithesis of the Zupps Ride. This sounded like the bunch for me! I turned up one hot Saturday morning in early January 2010 and joined an easy bunch for my first ride (club rules) and completed the circuit to Woody Point and back via Scarborough. I expected a longer and harder ride and often during the morning felt I should join the next group up as I spent a lot of the ride easing off and letting the rest play “catch-up.” Nevertheless we all returned as a bunch to the Coffee by Di Bella shop at North Lakes.

Since then I have had great fun riding with the faster groups (mostly “Group 2″), joining in the sprints and suffering on the final bump up Mango Hill to North lakes after smashing it earlier in the loops. I’ve enjoyed also the climbs (23mins) of Mt Mee and, even more so, the descents (6mins). In addition I’ve enjoyed the frequent interaction with car drivers, many of whom have absolutely no understanding of traffic regulations pertaining to them, let alone those that govern the use of bicycles, and some who abuse then stop at the next red light seem quite surprised to be accosted by a cyclist brandishing police ID then given a dressing down. Other than club rides I take part in a number of organised rides through Bicycle Queensland and Bicycle Victoria as well as other rides that take my fancy. But, like many recreational cyclists, I am drawn to the consumption of fresh coffee and cakes. In fact no ride is really complete without it!


Finding a bunch (part 1)

When I started riding again it was, generally, to and from work in the city (about 28km each way – a journey I continue to treat as a time-trial) as well as weekend rides when not working. Having said that, a couple of weeks after I got the bike I picked up an Easter trip to Noosa for work and spent a few paid hours riding down and up David Low Way or out through Eumundi and Cooroy before flying down the hill into Tewantin. But riding alone ain’t much fun so I decided to explore the local bunch rides.

Now, most of the rides start in the centre of Brisbane, close to or from well-known bike shops or cyclists’ Meccas such as Park Road. But living where I do I’m not about to ride all the way in (about an hour with traffic lights), complete the circuit and then ride all the way home, despite how good the company and coffee might be. In addition I will be riding the Huyundai Excel of bikes amongst a sea of Ferraris and I’m sure me drooling over flash bikes is not appreciated. So I started looking for rides closer to home.

The Zupps ride starts from the Zupps car dealership at Aspley in North Brisbane. This is a twenty minute ride from where I live and actually passes about one kilometre from my front door. But if I started cold from home I would get smashed as they were already warmed up and riding at 40kmh pace. So I figured I would ride down there and join the bunch and see how long I would last. The ride that first morning I joined was over 100 strong and as we rode up Gympie Road through Strathpine and Lawnton the paceline was stretching out. It appears we had some of the elite Brisbane-based riders at the head. As we continued north approaching a set of traffic lights the lights started to change to red and, even though they must have known they were towing sixty or so riders through the quiet northern suburbs early that Sunday morning, the leaders decided to push on, most of them flying through the glow of the red lights much to the disdain of the drivers of the white utes and Commodores waiting to cross on their green lights. I stopped. Some behind me went through as well (Fuckwits!) but that was it for me. When the lights changed the remainder of the bunch continued at our own pace. I started the ride twice more, once when the same thing happened and a second time when I managed to keep up with the frenetic pace for a short time before getting dropped (however, I’m still grateful to the bloke who eased off and towed me back, even though I got dropped a second time).

The Zupps bunch riding north through Lawnton - acknowledgements to 'Groover' - see Blog Links

What sealed it for me though was the blatant disregard for other road users, something I find it difficult to come to terms with as a copper. The attitude to cyclists in Brisbane, compared to Melbourne, is appalling with many cagers verbally abusing and driving far too close to cyclists, whether alone or in bunches. Given there are some of us who ignore red lights, stop signs, and ride more than two abreast it is no wonder the rest of us are marginalised. But then most motorists are completely ignorant of what cyclists are allowed to do, such as ride two abreast AND wear Lycra! With my survival instinct kicking in I decided the Zupps ride wasn’t for me. Over the next few months I met up with a few similarly unimpressed souls and rode with them before the Minister for War suggested I check out a bunch in North Lakes…


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