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Thursday
Jan202011

Cycling 

THE only people that you will find outdoors at the moment are prostitutes, smokers and cyclists. And it seems in many circles that is how their social desirability is currently rated, in descending order.

I've had a gutful of "cyclists are a menace" comments. A car cuts them off? The driver is an idiot. A cyclist cuts them off? ALL cyclists are menaces and they should ALL be off the road and NONE OF THEM should be allowed to breed. Here's the truth: cars kill, injure, annoy, abuse, cut off and hassle far more cyclists than vice versa. And if you don't believe me, get on a bike.

There are thugs, lunatics, idiots and morons in all areas of life and cycling is no exception. So why is the odd maverick Lycra lout not simply viewed as an exception rather than an accurate representation of the entire cycling community?

You think the Hell Ride goes along Beach Road every Sunday? You should talk to some of the mums and dads, commuters and students who pedal during peak hour and they'll tell you stories of road rage that will make you think every day is a hell ride for them.

I want to say thank you. To all the cyclists getting out there in the wind, and the cold, and the rain and pedalling to work, to school, to get about their daily business. They are cutting down on road congestion, helping the environment, freeing up parking spots and reducing their stress levels through both exercise and the financial bonus of a cheaper form of transport.

Many households could (and do) solve the "no time to exercise, can't afford a second car and no parking at work" equation with a bicycle. Others solve it by buying a second car that they can't afford; which contributes to the national debt and in turn inflation and then up goes the interest rates as well as our carbon emissions.

Lay off the cyclists. They should be paid for commuting. We should be standing at the traffic lights handing them drinks and giving them towels when they arrive at work. The Government should be doing everything in its power to encourage and facilitate safe cycling in our glorious city.

Good news. Cycling is not just the new golf. Bicycles are the new cars. Australians have been buying more bicycles than cars for the past seven years. More good news. The British Medical Association found that the risk of inactivity is 20 times greater than the health risk posed by a potential accident on a bike.

According to Bicycle Victoria, cycling numbers along Swanston Street (Melbourne's cycling spine) have grown 680 per cent in 15 years. Cycle awareness will increase the more people cycle. People are more conscious of cyclists if their partner, their parent, their sibling, their mate, their children or themselves are out on the road pedalling.

A wonderful culture of cycling is flourishing. A few weeks ago I saw a line of peak hour traffic create a wider birth than was necessary for the stream of cyclists as the road narrowed. And whoever is behind the Free Bike Repairs at the north gate of Carlton Gardens every Sunday should be hoisted onto a sedan chair and given some kind of civic reception.

On May 28, 2006, the first Cyclovia in Melbourne was held. Cyclovia means "life to the streets" and it's been happening for more than 30 years around the world. A section of Sydney Road was closed off to cars from 8am to 2pm and people cycled, rollerbladed and strolled. All you could hear was the clicking of gears and the whoosh of bike tyres. It was marvellous.

Between 1974 and 2003, travel to school by car rose from 22.6 per cent to 70 per cent. Children being driven to school accounts for 18 per cent of peak hour traffic in Melbourne. We are constantly being told that children are getting fatter and driving cars is now the environmental equivalent to piping cigarette smoke into humidicribs.

Yet there are still plenty of people who could easily walk or ride their children to school at least a couple of times a week who don't simply because they can't be bothered. The most effective way parents can encourage children to ride bikes is by riding bikes themselves.

Children should be encouraged to think of their bike not just as fun and exercise but transport.

The Japanese believe that by carrying their babies on their back it teaches the child when to bow. I suggest that parents riding with their children in baby seats and on tagalongs gives them an instinctive understanding of the flow of traffic. Keep in mind that I have no facts to back that up, it's just what I reckon. I suppose that's why this page is called Opinion.