Only problem with this article is that is says we are not insured when alot of us are.
Lucy Brook â€“ who neither drives nor cycles â€“ assesses the battle between motorists, pedestrians and pedal pushers and finds that all parties have Axles to grind
Over Saturday morning coffee at a bustling inner city cafe, itâ€™s Lycra versus cotton. Engulfed by a sea of spandex, denim-clad weekenders hustle for seats, their bleary eyes no match for hundreds of buzzing, high-on-adrenalin cyclists, who chat energetically about their early morning ride.
On the walking path below the Kangaroo Point cliffs, a group of riders zips past with cheery â€œhellosâ€ and â€œgood morningsâ€, followed by kids with daisy helmets and training wheels and a group of sweaty blokes training for a triathlon. Forty minutes later, strolling with the dog along Grey Street, three cyclists going flat chat come up behind me and scream â€œClear! Clear!â€ Bells are dinging, the dog has frozen to the spot (amid obscenities being shouted to get the dog out of the way) and they fly past me, so close that their skin touches mine. They are still swearing at me as I stand bewildered on the footpath (was that Lance Armstrong or just Joe Bloggs?), wondering if we will ever make peace on our roads, walkways and footpaths.
Cycling in Queensland is hardly a new phenomenon, says Bicycle Queensland manager Ben Wilson, though we have a long way to go before we are on par with European cities, where bikes were pushed as an innovative transport option in the â€™60s in a bid to tackle pollution and congestion. Today in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, 20 to 30 per cent of all trips are conducted by bicycle. Australians are keen though, with cycling the fourth most popular physical activity for adults and 1.3 million new bikes sold each year.
As a form of transport, it ticks all the boxes, with the capability to combat obesity, minimise traffic blockages, reduce pollution, cut petrol costs, promote a sense of community and encourage everyone â€“ especially those who require a low-impact form of exercise â€“ to become involved.
So how come a 2007 survey by CARSguide.com.au found cyclists are the most hated road users, at 28 per cent?
â€œI think thatâ€™s just life,â€ says Ben Wilson.
â€œUnfortunately, there are plenty of idiots out there. Some of them drive cars, some of them ride bikes. Itâ€™s the same everywhere, and itâ€™s a shame that the small percentage of riders gives the rest of the cycling community a bad name.â€
Ben says the number of cyclists is only going to increase in coming years, particularly as petrol prices soar, environmental awareness grows and traffic in Brisbane worsens.
The message? Get used to them, folks. Four thousand local cyclists were expected to take part in National Ride To Work Day on Wednesday, October 15, and a new facility in King George Square, Cycle 2 City, a Queensland Transport and Brisbane City Council initiative that opened on June 10, has proven immensely popular. It provides those who ride to work with adequate facilities, including access to secure bike parking, showers, towels and lockers.
â€œWhat we need is more cyclists on the road,â€ says Ben. â€œWhen cyclists arenâ€™t such a rare sight, drivers are going to get used to them. The more there are, the more tolerance we will see on our roads and bikeways.â€
Thereâ€™s no denying that for every agro cyclist, thereâ€™s a ridiculously intolerant driver â€“ the 2007 AAMI Crash Index found 91 per cent of people believe Australian drivers are becoming more aggressive.
Newstead father-of-two Griff Davies, a keen competitive cyclist, tells of a friendâ€™s recent ride, during which an egg was hurled at (and hit) his back. The offending car driver did the block just to throw another egg at the lone rider.
â€œAs a whole, most drivers are really good,â€ says Griff, 42, who visited a cycling shop three years ago so he could ride with his two daughters, only to become hooked.
â€œWe tend to have trouble with the odd truck driver or delivery van but itâ€™s generally OK. Itâ€™s different in Australia than in Europe though, where the respect between cars and cyclists is visible.â€
Dan Masasso, a 35-year-old chemical engineer, says drivers are becoming more patient on his daily ride along Abbotsford Road from Ascot to Fortitude Valley, but taunts from motorists arenâ€™t uncommon.
Dan shrugs off tooting horns and impatient hollers and says riding has become an integral part of his life.
â€œFitness wise, itâ€™s really good,â€ says Dan, who rides to work daily and for fun on weekends.
â€œIt wakes me up and gets me going. If I miss a couple of days, I definitely notice the difference.â€
The social culture of cycling is an added bonus for many, say Dan and Griff, with most riders hooking up with friends or a BUG (Bicycle User Group) and meeting regularly for rides and coffee. South Bank, Park Road in Milton and New Farm are the inner-city
Itâ€™s not all fresh air and freedom though, with cycling fatalities currently around two per cent of the total road toll, while crashes involving people on bikes account for around 11 per cent of all serious road accidents.
Other issues have emerged for motorists over the years, such as problems with speed ratios â€“ meaning some cyclists either hold up traffic or arenâ€™t able to get out of the way of danger in a hurry â€“ and arguments about registration and cyclists paying to use the roads in the same way that car drivers, motorcyclists and scooter riders do.
The issue of insurance is another sticky spot. Case in point â€“ last year my sister had stopped at traffic lights when a rogue cyclist crashed into the front of her car, causing significant damage. If this situation involved two cars, the drivers might have exchanged insurance details and settled the costs. In this case, the cyclist (who was fine, as was his bike) had no money or insurance for his bike, so my sister was left with a hefty damage bill and no redress.
Most cyclists in this situation would offer to cover the costs, but AAMI media spokesperson Geoff Hughes explains itâ€™s a complicated and undocumented area.
â€œAs far as I am aware, there is no actual policy to cover cyclists,â€ he says.
â€œHome and contents insurance of the bike would cover theft, but an accident involving a cyclist and a car or a cyclist and a person is a completely different thing.â€
If drivers and cyclists arenâ€™t willing to share the roads, and pedestrians and riders canâ€™t stick to a simple keep left or give way system, our city is in trouble, Ben Wilson says. â€œWe do need to learn to share,â€ says Ben, reiterating that cyclists are not likely to go away.
CYCLE2CITY â€“ WWW.CYCLE2CITY.COM.AU
BICYCLE QUEENSLAND â€“ WWW.BQ.ORG.AU