Q. For those people who would like to ride their bicycle, what prevents them from riding on the road?
It's not a fear of sunburn, or fear of a sore bum. It's not even a fear of falling off. They fear that one of the heavy lumps of machinery that populate our roads will smash into them, causing unimaginable injuries or death.
Is it a rational fear? Are they right to be fearful? Well, according to statistics, probably not.
Riding a bicycle is said to be generally safer than walking for transport, and the health benefits outweigh the risks of inactivity, but statistics are cold comfort when some hooligan screams passed within a hairs breadth. At that moment, you feel threatened and in danger. You have been assaulted by someone driving a motor vehicle.
Sometimes what people fear becomes reality. It doesn't take much. The people who ride regularly have been there. A failure to give way, a close pass that sees us bouncing off the side of a car, the left hook, or worse being hit squarely from behind by someone who was more concerned with the mobile phone in their hand than paying attention to the road ahead. Then there's the really intimidating angry driver, who hangs on the horn, passes close and hauls on the brakes right in front of you. You can't stop in time and crash into the back of their car. These people have no courtesy. They do not take a moment to assess your speed properly before pulling out. They don't wait patiently behind you for a safe time to pass. They barge through and push you out of their way. To them, you're a nuisance. To them you shouldn't be there. To them, they are more important.
So let's take stock of the situation. Around Australia, every year a few people get bitten by sharks while they swim in the ocean. Some survive, and some don't. I read we lost 7 people in 3 years off the WA coast to sharks. Our response? Culling. Sharks don't have number plates or registration stickers. We don't know which ones did the killing. We just target those we think might be responsible. A few different species of sharks, greater than a certain length. Crocodiles take even fewer people, but never the less, in the Northern Territory a boy was taken and at least three crocodiles were shot in response - though no one could be sure they were the culprits before they were dispatched.
In contrast, in Victoria alone, about 10 cyclists are killed each year and about 330 hospitalised when they come into contact with motorvehicles, and in most cases the offender is let off with little morethan a slap on the wrist. Had the offender been a shark or crocodile,they may not be so lucky. They might meet their maker. Their species would be targeted. They would be culled.
This is a sad state of affairs. Why are we not so concerned abouthumans that kill and maim other humans? Why do we forgive them? Ashumans we have far more processing power, and rules by which to happilycoexist. Sharks and crocodiles don't have these attributes. They killto eat, or feel threatened and defend themselves. In the wild, it's ado or die situation - but not on the road, at least it shouldn't be.
I say we need to bring about a change. I say we need to start culling motorists. They are the problem that must be addressed.
Oh, I know what you're thinking. "We can't go around exacting revenge on other people, or imposing corporal punishment!" But it need not go that far. To "cull" a motorist, we only need to prevent them from driving. Remove their license and confiscate their car. As a motorist they are no longer. They are culled. It will likely do them the world of good. They might learn to ride a bicycle.
I started a petition on change.org, to try to trigger a change in our road use culture.
Dr Jan Garrard, Senior Lecturer at the School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, summed up the situation very succinctly;
"I think the important points are (i) it doesn't have to be this way;(ii) it is not this way in many other countries (particularly European countries and some Asian countries such as Japan) - and I'm not talking about better bike paths and lanes - I'm talking about the inevitable cyclist/driver interactions that occur in all countries - SO much safer, friendly and courteous in these countries; (iii) we can change; and (iv) we must change."
See? It's all about "change". Changing the road use culture is what we must have to see bicycling blossom in Australia.
Others have already signed the petition. There are some excellent comments. One by a member of the Victorian Police, that really nailshome some issues.
Don't you agree? You can help, but will you?