Nothing gets motorists quite as fired up as someone on a bike, however cyclists aren’t as bad as many may think. Despite the fact that cycling is good for your health and means one less car on the road, cyclists cop a lot of criticism. But why? Because apparently cyclists break the road rules, speed, weave in and out of traffic and show irresponsible behaviour on the roads. And it’s true, not every cyclist is an angel, but we need to do something about the blame game that takes place on our roads everyday. Arguments with motorists, while in a bike lane, are a common occurrence, and many experience verbal abuse, threats and general harassment. There are articles that blast cyclists as Lycra-wearing, careless road users, and Facebook pages aimed at picking up everything that is wrong with cycling. Most cyclists just want to use the road and get to work safely without the threat of conflict, therefore it is necessary that we get a few urban cycling myths straight.
1. Cyclists should stay off the roads:
Every state in Australia has laws dictating that cyclists can use the roads. If people really want this changed, they will have to find a way to change the law – otherwise they will have to deal with it.
2. Cyclists always use the footpath:
It is not illegal for cyclists to use the footpath if they are under 12 years of age or riding with a child. Cyclists are also allowed to use footpaths if they are designated shared paths. These paths are often marked and sign posted.
3. Cyclists shouldn’t ride side-by-side:
It is a myth that cyclists are not allowed to do this. Under New South Wales law, riders can travel a maximum of two abreast in a lane as long as they are not more than 1.5m apart. In Queensland, the law now states that cars must drive at least 1m from cyclists and 1.5m in areas above 60km/hr. Check with your local transport authority if you are not sure.
4. Cycling benefits are overrated:
The health benefits of cycling are well known, but did you know that cycling benefits the economy as well? According to a Department of Infrastructure report released in 2013, every time that someone rides their bike for 20 minutes, the economy benefits by more than $21.00.
5. Cyclists cause accidents:
Cyclists do indeed cause accidents, that is no dispute. But then again, so does every other road user. Cyclists are not always at fault when it comes to accidents involving cars, although many people think they are. In fact, studies show that cars are more commonly in the wrong. According to the Centre for Automotive Research, in 79 per cent of cases the driver of the vehicle was deemed to be at fault.
6. Cyclists are a menace on the road:
Nobody is a perfect driver. While some cyclists may take risky moves in traffic, other roads users are just as guilty of doing the same thing.
7. Cycling isn’t dangerous:
An alarming number of bike riders are being killed on the roads at a faster rate than in past years. Australia is one of the only countries in the world that had an increase in cycling deaths between 2000 and 2011. This isn’t because cyclists are taking unnecessary risks, but more so due to an increase of cyclists using the roads. It is important to remember that cyclists are often motorists too, normal people with friends and family. Be sure to think about this next time you are passing one of them.
8. Cyclists should pay registration:
This has long been desired by those who want to make cyclists more accountable. However, bike registration is an option not even Australia’s peak motoring body agrees with. The NRMA’s Peter Koury said it would be difficult to enforce and there would be potential safety risks. For example, the idea of displaying a number plate like you would on a motor vehicle caused concern about injuries or distractions. “If we really want to see accidents involving cyclists drop, we need more education, better use of cycle lanes and better separation of cars and bikes,” he said. “We want to encourage people to use their bikes and registration won’t do that.”
9. Cyclists cause congestion:
Unless cyclists are taking up an entire lane for the whole duration of their journey, it is unlikely that they are causing more congestion. Overtaking a cyclist is no different to overtaking a parked car, but if it really bothers you, the best solution would be to avoid main roads with cycle lanes.
10. Bike lanes are unnecessary:
Bike lanes make cycling safer but according to the NRMA, they need to be in the right places. Mr Koury said the organisation was happy to promote the separation of bike and car users but that lanes should be built in appropriate places and not on busy roads. On the upside, the cost of a typical off-road path is about $1.5 million per kilometre, far cheaper than building billions of dollars in highways.