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?
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.
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)