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RiotACT Face Off: Should road rules be the same for motorists and bikes?

By Canfan 1 September 2014 34

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For this Face Off, we decided to launch headlong into a long standing topic of local debate. We invited the Executive Director of Pedal Power ACT, John Armstrong and Summernats creator, Chic Henry to answer the following question:

Should road rules be the same for motorists and bikes?

John Armstrong
john-armstrong-faceoff

Of course – why shouldn’t they be? If we are to share the road then we should share the rules. Of course there are some specific rules that cover the role of the heavy vehicle or the role of the motor cyclist, so it goes to order that there should be some specific rules that cover that of the cyclist (e.g. riding two abreast).

In fact the rules are pretty good if people abide by them. Primarily it provides for the safety of all on the road. However there is a specific element that is attached to the cyclist v the motor vehicle that causes some issues on the road – the disparity in speed.

The rules are pretty clear in that the person on the bike and the person in the car are both legitimate road users – but it is in dealing with the disparity in speed and the “rights” of the road users in low-traffic v high-traffic conditions that can lead to concern … around sharing the road in traffic, around overtaking distances, around turning in a multi-lane environment, around expectations on country roads, around crossing intersections. So approaches that lend to the safety of the more vulnerable user are important. The letter of the law v the spirit of the law might lead to a different approach by a cyclist to a right-hand turn in a two-lane roundabout in a heavy-traffic v low-traffic environment.

In the ACT a bike rider is also able to share a path, so there are some other rules that assist the amenity and priority of cycling as an activity, but whilst on the road – the rules should be the same.

It goes without saying that many of us bike, walk or drive at some point; that most people who ride a bike also drive a car; that because I love my bike does not mean that I don’t love my car. We are all just people trying to get from A to B safely and conveniently – and sharing the road (both a rule and an attitude) is primary for the safety of all. Why do people ride the bike? It is the most effective mode under 5 km – or longer in some cases to areas of heavy traffic or scarce/expensive parking (eg Civic). The Copenhagen experience is that, overwhelmingly [88%], people ride bikes because it’s the fastest and most convenient way to get around. Bikes free up road space and parking, reducing the need for road works.

Chic Henry
chic-henry-faceoff

I am a car person, of that there is no doubt. I am also someone who believes in progress and I greatly believe in expression, respect and understanding. I am also practical and realistic and I recognise what is worth thinking about and what is ultimately a reality. Canberra is a car city. It’s very unique decentralised design ensures that it is that car that will be essential to get to and from wherever and whenever. This means that thousands of people have grown up with that aspect and it is ingrained, so when the majority believe a minority is getting too much, the majority get a bit concerned. Even angry.

Canberra is a car city but it is of great value that people consider the worthiness of the humble pushbike as a cheaper and practical mode of transport that is great for one’s health and sporting enjoyment. We must consider the other mode of transport that are the bits at the end of our legs called feet but, our unique City covers a big area and our transport system isn’t great so a car still beats the other two or three.

A government made up of people who believe that they know what is best for people, makes (or should make) decisions on what? Practical reality? Ideology? World’s best practice? Pressure from self-interest groups? Business interests with lobbying power?

I think that the majority, the car owners, believe that in Canberra, pushy riders are getting a bit too much attention via Govt. $$$, when the roads and especially parking opportunities, require some serious attention. Pushy riders, especially the lycra-clad clan, are becoming a bit too possessive of their dedicated pathways, especially the shared places that are actually dedicated “foot” paths. The very expressive pushy lobby are getting a very good hearing, especially with our Greens balance-of-power-person, who by my estimation, hates that cars play a huge part of life in the Capital. He rides a bike and loves trams too.

I think that the motoring public, regularly ripped off by fuel prices and the ever-diminishing parking spaces, are not particularly sympathetic to pushy riders; especially those who seem to demand their opportunity by ripping from footpaths across pedestrian crossings and an Assembly that gives the lobby more whilst doing the minimum to make the motorist (THE MAJORITY) more thought of as we move into the future.

We must of course, be respectful and understanding. Roads are for cars. Riding a pushy on certain roads can be risky and that’s a given, especially when I constantly see riders at night dressed in black and without adequate lights. Most drivers I believe are sympathetic and aware.

A registration fee for cyclists? Who will police it? Please don’t ask our poor overworked coppers and besides, the income from pushy riders is so damn small, the cost of administration isn’t worth the effort.

I’m sure the Assembly will continue to spend more for cyclists whilst-ever we have an Assembly set up the way it is. We can only hope we temper our aggressiveness towards each other, then again there’s a lack of respect out there in modern society in so many ways and the aggressive drivers and assertive cyclists could do well to back off a fraction.

I’m sorry that I’ve just identified what we already know. This is one time I can’t offer a practical solution. I’ll do better next time.

(Photo by Juzz Photography)

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34 Responses to
RiotACT Face Off: Should road rules be the same for motorists and bikes?
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ausbradr 1:15 pm 04 Sep 14

Bosworth said :

I don’t understand why some people get upset with cyclists.

Cyclists are great!

For every person not in a car, there is less trafic, and more parking spaces.

I wish more people would cycle to work, so that my commute is quicker and easier.

The only people I notice that seem to be upset are just generally grumpy, and further upset because they’re stuck in traffic, or Derryn Hinch told them to feel that way. :p

dannybear 12:25 am 04 Sep 14

bundah said :

I have asked about dash cams on here before and no one answered. My question was along the lines of: If you have a dash cam, are involved in an accident, can the plod seize it as evidence? What if you are at fault and choose not to provide the item/destroy it/deny ever having one?

I’d say the answer would be yes if they suspected it could be used as evidence then they would have the power to seize it. Can’t be bothered looking for the reg to confirm though Porker….

My understanding is that unless the camera was used in the commission of a crime (say you punched someone using the camera) it can’t be seized on the spot, the data would have to be acquired through a
Subpoena or search warrant, so if I were in that situation I wouldn’t mention to anyone that I had a camera as to not incriminate myself.

Bosworth 2:36 pm 03 Sep 14

I don’t understand why some people get upset with cyclists.

Cyclists are great!

For every person not in a car, there is less trafic, and more parking spaces.

I wish more people would cycle to work, so that my commute is quicker and easier.

KB1971 9:05 am 03 Sep 14

thy_dungeonman said :

Putting aside arguments about hills and distance, in comparison to Copenhagen infrastructure quality and consideration of convenience is what I find truly lacking in Canberra. It’s strange that although cycling is the slower mode of transport any given route from a to be is usually longer in distance on a bike path, decreasing the convenience greatly. I like to play a game when I ride on paths and cycle lanes called “If this were a road would it be safe/acceptable?”. I wish the people who plan and construct cycling infrastructure thought it out as much.

I have thought about this a lot over the years. On my longest commute, 30km, I ride frim Lanyon to the City and there are a number of crossings that are not cosher.

Johnson/Drakeford Dve is one, that roundabout is one of the busiest in Tuggers and can be a bit like Russian Roulette to cross at the bike path on the western side.

The other is Athllon and Sulwood, so much traffic its just as bad.

Then there is the path down through Yarralumla, it has so many roots and badly paves sections its not funny, that and the hideous street crossings and it just not worth the effort and I ride Mueller St instead.

ausbradr 10:34 pm 02 Sep 14

Pork Hunt said :

I have asked about dash cams on here before and no one answered. My question was along the lines of: If you have a dash cam, are involved in an accident, can the plod seize it as evidence? What if you are at fault and choose not to provide the item/destroy it/deny ever having one?

I’m pretty sure they’d want the SD card you’ve recorded to, if they attend to the scene of an accident. Not sure about seize, but it would help them get to the bottom of things. Not sure how your second question would go. Haven’t really tested both questions either… With or without my dashcam, I have to behave myself when driving as my car has my company branding… :p

thy_dungeonman 6:09 pm 02 Sep 14

magiccar9 said :

thy_dungeonman said :

If we are going to have equality in rules how about we also have equality in infrastructure. It would certainly cause outrage if there were major roads that came to an end in the middle of nowhere, or if the switched between dirt and bitumen or if a lot of them of them were shared with pedestrians.

We already do share the roads with pedestrians, and cyclists. Also, in your “equality” vision, would you also be slugged $12.50 to park your bike with reduced spaces available (in comparison to demand)? We could also make sure through Civic that cars got their own special “express way” because find it too difficult to share.

I’ll ignore the parking comment because other posters have already made the point that it is ridiculous. Car registration etc. pays for road maintenance, bikes paths don’t require the same amount of upkeep and if they did I would be happy to pay. Roads are payed for out the transport budget and as has already pointed cycle paths receive less funding in proportion to use. Cars already have their own expressways. They are everywhere around canberra. The civic cycle loop is broken up to the same degree with intersections as the road is. Cars still park on it too.

Putting aside arguments about hills and distance, in comparison to Copenhagen infrastructure quality and consideration of convenience is what I find truly lacking in Canberra. It’s strange that although cycling is the slower mode of transport any given route from a to be is usually longer in distance on a bike path, decreasing the convenience greatly. I like to play a game when I ride on paths and cycle lanes called “If this were a road would it be safe/acceptable?”. I wish the people who plan and construct cycling infrastructure thought it out as much.

bundah 5:44 pm 02 Sep 14

Pork Hunt said :

I have asked about dash cams on here before and no one answered. My question was along the lines of: If you have a dash cam, are involved in an accident, can the plod seize it as evidence? What if you are at fault and choose not to provide the item/destroy it/deny ever having one?

I’d say the answer would be yes if they suspected it could be used as evidence then they would have the power to seize it. Can’t be bothered looking for the reg to confirm though Porker….

Pork Hunt 5:12 pm 02 Sep 14

ausbradr said :

Redrider said :

There is a need for vulnerable road user legislation. Easy really, you mow someone down, you prove you were not at fault! Bet that would change the dynamic.

Actually, considering this, it wouldn’t be too difficult for car drivers anyway. Dashcams are cheap and easy to come by, and if a cyclist cuts in front of you without looking and gets hit, then you can simply make a copy of the footage to the police, and it’ll be pretty clear if a cyclist just blindly cut in front, or if the driver increased speed whilst behind the cyclist. Such a law theoretically shouldn’t have too much complaint in passing.

I have asked about dash cams on here before and no one answered. My question was along the lines of: If you have a dash cam, are involved in an accident, can the plod seize it as evidence? What if you are at fault and choose not to provide the item/destroy it/deny ever having one?

ausbradr 3:30 pm 02 Sep 14

Redrider said :

There is a need for vulnerable road user legislation. Easy really, you mow someone down, you prove you were not at fault! Bet that would change the dynamic.

Actually, considering this, it wouldn’t be too difficult for car drivers anyway. Dashcams are cheap and easy to come by, and if a cyclist cuts in front of you without looking and gets hit, then you can simply make a copy of the footage to the police, and it’ll be pretty clear if a cyclist just blindly cut in front, or if the driver increased speed whilst behind the cyclist. Such a law theoretically shouldn’t have too much complaint in passing.

Maya123 1:38 pm 02 Sep 14

ausbradr said :

Or perhaps not even contemplating costs for parking a bike because of the advantages that cycling has to the community. Bikes don’t take nearly as much space as a car, causing less congestion in the city, because of that small footprint, there’s no major real estate taken up by them either when parked either. That can be chained up to any form of immobile object (street light, power pole, fence, park bench), not to mention the fact they have no emissions (or that of about 40 cents of electricity on the e-bikes, still bugger all really), the weight of them doesn’t fatigue the road surface, and they’re safer in a pedestrian collision than a car. A lighter slower object will cause less harm to pedestrian than a 2t block of metal moving at 80km/h, period. Charging cyclists parking would just be legislation gone mad, and it reeks of sour grapes from car drivers.

If we were mad enough to stoop to any paid options though, I’d happily pay a dollar or two to park my ebike for a couple of hours in a bike locker that had a powerpoint available, I could charge the battery while I do the shopping, etc.

Good comments.
I was not suggesting charging for bike parking. I was following on from the previous comments. I think more people should be encouraged to cycle; when commuting to work, all the way if work is close enough, or to a park and ride system if further away. Also to cycle around the local areas. Free parking would encourage this.
If bikes were charged for parking I wondered how many bikes could park in one car spot. I found this:
http://www.citylab.com/commute/2013/12/bike-vs-car-parking-spot-edition/7893/
Ten apparently. I would also add to that the area that is needed for a car to drive into the parking lot and backing and fronting area to get into the park spot. Twenty bikes per car spot perhaps (actual car spot plus other associated road surface). Add to that the less wear and tear bicycles have on the road surface. Do those who advocate bikes pay for parking really want the administration costs to charge for that little amount?

ausbradr 12:08 pm 02 Sep 14

Or perhaps not even contemplating costs for parking a bike because of the advantages that cycling has to the community. Bikes don’t take nearly as much space as a car, causing less congestion in the city, because of that small footprint, there’s no major real estate taken up by them either when parked either. That can be chained up to any form of immobile object (street light, power pole, fence, park bench), not to mention the fact they have no emissions (or that of about 40 cents of electricity on the e-bikes, still bugger all really), the weight of them doesn’t fatigue the road surface, and they’re safer in a pedestrian collision than a car. A lighter slower object will cause less harm to pedestrian than a 2t block of metal moving at 80km/h, period. Charging cyclists parking would just be legislation gone mad, and it reeks of sour grapes from car drivers.

If we were mad enough to stoop to any paid options though, I’d happily pay a dollar or two to park my ebike for a couple of hours in a bike locker that had a powerpoint available, I could charge the battery while I do the shopping, etc.

Postalgeek 10:03 am 02 Sep 14

magiccar9 said :

thy_dungeonman said :

If we are going to have equality in rules how about we also have equality in infrastructure. It would certainly cause outrage if there were major roads that came to an end in the middle of nowhere, or if the switched between dirt and bitumen or if a lot of them of them were shared with pedestrians.

We already do share the roads with pedestrians, and cyclists. Also, in your “equality” vision, would you also be slugged $12.50 to park your bike with reduced spaces available (in comparison to demand)? We could also make sure through Civic that cars got their own special “express way” because find it too difficult to share.

Naturally you’d divide that $12.50 among all the cyclists who can squeeze their bikes into the one car space.

Maya123 9:09 am 02 Sep 14

Maya123 said :

magiccar9 said :

thy_dungeonman said :

If we are going to have equality in rules how about we also have equality in infrastructure. It would certainly cause outrage if there were major roads that came to an end in the middle of nowhere, or if the switched between dirt and bitumen or if a lot of them of them were shared with pedestrians.

We already do share the roads with pedestrians, and cyclists. Also, in your “equality” vision, would you also be slugged $12.50 to park your bike with reduced spaces available (in comparison to demand)? We could also make sure through Civic that cars got their own special “express way” because find it too difficult to share.

One car spot would hold several bicycles, so even if bicycles were charged a parking fee it would be far less than for one car taking the whole space. I was charged a fee to park my bicycle once in the Netherlands, but it was much less than the cars had to pay and the bike parking was right outside the entrance, while car drivers had to park further away.

Added: The fee to park a bicycle should be reduced even further when compared to a car, because the extra parking room that cars need, as per example, in lanes between rows of parked cars would be much less for bicycles. So it would not only be a matter of how many bikes could be parked in a car spot and dividing the parking fee by that, but also reducing the parking fee even further, by how much less other infrastructure is needed to get the bike to its parking spot.

Maya123 9:03 am 02 Sep 14

magiccar9 said :

thy_dungeonman said :

If we are going to have equality in rules how about we also have equality in infrastructure. It would certainly cause outrage if there were major roads that came to an end in the middle of nowhere, or if the switched between dirt and bitumen or if a lot of them of them were shared with pedestrians.

We already do share the roads with pedestrians, and cyclists. Also, in your “equality” vision, would you also be slugged $12.50 to park your bike with reduced spaces available (in comparison to demand)? We could also make sure through Civic that cars got their own special “express way” because find it too difficult to share.

One car spot would hold several bicycles, so even if bicycles were charged a parking fee it would be far less than for one car taking the whole space. I was charged a fee to park my bicycle once in the Netherlands, but it was much less than the cars had to pay and the bike parking was right outside the entrance, while car drivers had to park further away.

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