Adventures in Cycling: Who is in the wrong?

Who is in the wrong?

By Bike Designer Dave


I commute to work every day by bike. Riding a bike 40km a day in Sydney’s peak hour traffic provides a fair bit of time and an unfair number of unnerving experiences upon which to ponder the essence of humanity. This morning, like most Friday mornings, was relatively quiet on the roads; far less cars getting in my way but also less bike riders out than usual. So I was having a fast yet uneventful ride until a series of events along a twenty metre section of Kent St startled me back into pondering mode.

I was riding along the bike lane when suddenly, a Ute travelling the same direction swung across the bike lane in front of me, pulling into a driveway. After a defensive yelp, at a pitch I’m not proud of, the driver stopped his Ute just in time so I could swerve around his bonnet rather than get t-boned and driven into the pavement. As I looked back at him to give the “use-your-bloody-eyes” hand signal, I noticed he was busy multitasking, with the majority of his focus directed to his “smart” phone.

At the next intersection I planned to turn right, so left the bike lane and waited for my green arrow in a right turn lane. Most other riders, pedestrians and motor vehicles also waited patiently for their turn to cross the intersection. Then, just as the pedestrians crossing the bike lane got their “green man”, an impatient bike rider ran the gauntlet, safely avoiding any cars but barely missing a handful of startled pedestrians.

Finally I was given the green light to turn right, however a pedestrian’s instincts told him it was his turn to cross in front of me and the line of law abiding vehicle drivers behind me, despite his comrades not moving, the “red man” standing stationary and a stream of peak hour traffic hurtling toward him. So I safely maneuvered around him and continued on my ride; pondering, who is in the wrong?

From this twenty metres of evidence, it’s hard to conclude otherwise that some motorists, bike riders and pedestrians ALL do the wrong thing! Although the majority of road users in this exemplar were following the rules, a few selfish, perhaps ignorant individuals considered saving seconds of their own time more important than the health and safety of other humans, and in some situations, even their own!

So, considering this undeniable conclusion, how should one react when they see such illegal behaviour? Options include declaring “War On Our Roads”, demand all road users (pedestrians included) to “pay rego”, simply run innocent individuals off the road in a bigoted act of retaliation, then tweet about the “#bloodycyclists” later, or blame mandatory helmet laws for motorists’ road rage.

Personally, I like to continue riding my bike, wearing my helmet, following the road rules most of the time (sometimes I feel it’s safer to hop a gutter than get squeezed by a bus, or turn right safely on a red to avoid being rear ended while perched defenselessly in an intersection), overtaking on the left of stationary or slow moving traffic and keep beating the majority of vehicles to my destinations. When someone does the “wrong thing” and it has a negative effect on me, I’ll politely suggest they don’t do this, without threatening their life. I also pay my car rego, income tax and Council rates and am still overwhelmed by the bad state of some roads. However, I wait until I’m finished driving before ranting about it with my smart phone.

5 thoughts on “Adventures in Cycling: Who is in the wrong?

  1. Another well said, thoughtful commentary on the duality of our existence as cyclists in a cyclist-hostile country, Dave.
    As you know, I feel that the safest way to commute is the way that gets you to your destination fastest without taking unnecessary chances and putting others at risk, and to me, that means bending some rules, and sometimes breaking others. I always say, “I don’t take unnecessary chances but I DO take safe opportunities.” Others may decry me for it, but I’ve been commuting by bicycle in this city for well over 10 years now, and in my opinion, the best way to avoid the ire of motorists is to spend as little time around them as possible – aka – get to your destination the fastest. I did a stint where I followed every road rule to the letter, and it was not a pleasant experience, with a lot of abuse and hostility being hurled towards me by motorists who felt that the precious seconds that I added to their commute time were justification for abusive (and occasionally dangerous) behaviour.
    However, the tide, I think, is slowly turning as more and more people start riding bicycles as a form of transportation and we slowly stop looking less like a distinct, tiny minority, and more like fellow users of the road. I suppose when we can be consistently treated like that, I’ll make a return to strictly law-abiding style of commuting by bicycle.

  2. Dave,

    I feel your pain. Just last week, I was nearly taken off my bike by a ute driver that came speeding up behind me, honking and squeezing past. Funny thing was as there is no bike lane, I was in the bus only lane and the drive of the ute decided it was his lane. I got yelled at and got the finger as I passed him two more times as he was stuck in traffic. He even moved over close to the curb to block me, not seeing the driveway that allowed me to go on to the sidewalk and pass him anyway. I was just at a loss that he was in such a hurry to get stuck in traffic and do so many stupid things that not only endangered me but other drives that he cut off. In the end it doesn’t matter who is in the right or wrong as a cyclist in an accident always comes of second best. Keep riding and stay safe.


    Blue from WA

  3. Unfortunately in life there happens to be a idiot minority in all aspects of of all things. Sometime or other we will all do the wrong thing, make the wrong decision or something like this. As long as we do our best to try and stay safe and not do the wrong thing that is all we can do. I ride with certain individuals who love to yell and scream at people doing wrong by them on the road whilst at times being totally oblivious to their own shortcomings in this regard. Being hostile won’t change others from being hostile in return and may in fact cause hostility to come your way as one friend who will remain nameless found out off a rather large truck driver who happened not to see him. Live and let live and hopefully we will all be able to share the roads, paths and tracks for many years to come.

  4. Hey Dave. I think a lot of regular riders out there who ride to work will relate to your experiences. Part of the problem I face along bike lanes is a lack of ability for others to judge just how fast bike riders can go. Obviously they think they have the time and then the result is some very annoyed and potentially injured people. At the same time as riders I think we need to be aware that not all road users are used to our presence, motorists and pedestrians alike. In that sense we need to be ready to make well judged evasions like you managed. If we keep doing the right thing as cyclists, hopefully that will be noticed and a bit more respect will come our way.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>