Some days, as a bike rider, it’s hard not to think the world’s against you; cars leave you gaps no thicker than a whisker, pedestrians shout you off trails, paths and banks, and building owners refuse you any space to lock up your ride. This is not always the case, but today it most certainly was. I had a bus sidle up next to me as if he were a teenage boy making a move in the back seat of a car; I had a car blatantly turn right in front of me despite the bright fluro green circle glaring in my direction, and the red one glaring in his; and I had a ‘oh-so-lovely’ note from a ‘business manager’ telling me “do not park your bike here” (‘here’ being precisely where I was told to park my bike in the first place). What was perhaps the most perturbing part of my day was the confused look I received from the ‘building manager’ when I told him “no, I will not leave my bike unlocked, outside, unattended”. Funny how I don’t think leaving my $3000+ bike unlocked in clear view of random passersby is a reasonable proposition.
Yes, I realise I sound a little bitter; a little jaded; a little snobbish perhaps? I also realise that I, myself, have provided ample inspiration for many a “I hate bike riders” rant among Sydney motorists and building owners, but as a bike rider I am more vulnerable than these people; it is the rider, not the motorist, who will suffer irreversible facial disfiguration if a car door suddenly bursts open in a bike lane; it is my source of transportation, well-being and bank account that will be under serious threat if my bike is stolen outside a building; it is my livelihood that will be compromised should I failed to negotiate the millimeter wide gap between an over-eager bus and a poorly parked car.
But what is the solution? Rants are all very good for venting frustration and regaining dignity, but what precisely do I propose to amend this situation: Sanctioned bike lanes that don’t also double as car parking, rubbish dumping and dog walking thoroughfares? A cyclist awareness campaign for motorists? A plastic bubble separating me and my bike from the perils of the world? Although appealing, these suggestions will only go part of the way to fixing the problem – eventually bike lanes will run out and spit you back into the world of traffic, awareness campaigns are unlikely to erode the solid foundations of anti-cyclist sentiment and plain naivety currently haloing the Sydney public, and as for the bubble, well that was really a credible suggestion, I just like dishing out ideas in groups of three. So back to square one. The only real progress I can see us making in the decline of non self-inflicted cycling injuries, and terrifying near-misses, is to better equip bike riders to deal with whatever comes up. Become an expert at navigating gaps in traffic, kicking down swinging car doors, locking up bikes to whatever stable object you can find. Am I proposing you ride like a maniac? Not exactly, riding like a maniac can be fun in the peace of the bush or the quiet of deserted city streets, but I wouldn’t recommended as an every approach to cycling. What I would recommend is riding defensively and assertively, taking advantage of riding in a bunch, and learning to avert disaster where possible.
Ok, so this wasn’t meant to read like an advice column, and it certainly wasn’t meant to come across as holier than thou; though I fear it does both. Really, I just had the shits and felt like sharing what I believe to be a common state of frustration among fellow riders…