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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?
ausbradr 10:01 pm 01 Sep 14

HenryBG said :

if Copenhagen had any lycra-wearing twits, they would soon be asked to pull their heads in. Here, they have no shame.

Actually, my partner’s spent some time in Copenhagen, and they actually happen to have lycra wearing PEOPLE riding bikes. Just like Australia, it’s for the serious cyclists who want maximum speed/comfort.

Also, they can generally wear what they want without judgement (lycra, latex, whatever really). Take your fashion police nonsense elsewhere. As for telling them to pull their heads in… Why? They’re not hurting anyone.

ausbradr 9:55 pm 01 Sep 14

Road rules should apply to ANY vehicle using the road. Bike or car. Neither of the two are more important than the other. We all need to get where we’re going, safe and sound, and in one piece. The bike lanes and shared paths here are plentiful also. I can’t see them being a waste of ratepayer money seeing how many pedestrians, skateboarders, parents with prams, segways, etc all make use of the investment.

Something should be done about the unprovoked rage from car drivers though. Fair enough if a driver gets upset at a cyclist running a red light, but not all cyclists flout the law. But when you have rednecks that’ll get upset because a cyclist is wearing lycra, then proceed to harass or threaten that cyclist, then I’d strongly recommend a therapist. That hatred of cyclists has to be pathological, and can’t be healthy. Every road user (yes, even the odd bad cyclist running a red light) needs to work together to help make the roads safer, it’s really that simple.

chewy14 9:39 pm 01 Sep 14

Joelsomething said :

Roughly 25% of people in Canberra identified as having ridden in the last week, and nearly half in the last year.

The allocation of transport funds to cycling (and combined with walking paths) is somewhere under 7%.

Where is this disproportionate funding that Chic Henry is talking about?

What was the total km’s ridden/driven by each and what was the total economic benefit gained from each?

Dondon 8:40 pm 01 Sep 14

HenryBG said :

Huh??? Canberra is one of the least “flat” cities in Australia.

I’ll disagree, in terms of commuter cycling the paths around CBR are very flat with only a few small rises. If you want to include the likes of Mt Stromlo, Black Mountain, Mt Ainslie and Red Hill as part of your commute then yes it is very hilly, however all the paths run along the flat and detour these hilly areas.

The only hills that I would consider to be problematic for a relatively unfit commuter cyclist is riding from the route from Civic to Belconnon and from Tuggeranong up towards Woden.

HenryBG 7:30 pm 01 Sep 14

Snow_Crash said :

Alright, some interesting points there, but most of Canberra is fairly flat,

Huh??? Canberra is one of the least “flat” cities in Australia.

Snow_Crash said :

and there’s no point mentioning lycra. But I’m sure we’ll see some more lycra related comments. Let’s see how we go. I don’t see lycra, I see traffic, and try and judge it in the here and now.

The lycra is enormously relevant: in Copenhagen, a large proportion of residents use their bicycles to make numerous short trips of <1km, travelling at an average speed of 15km/h.

Here in Canberra, the few morally superior Canberrans who use bicycles to make their 10km+ trips tend to don lycra before taking obvious joy in obstructing traffic and yelling abuse at other users of shared paths.

The cycling mentality in these two different places is entirely different, chiefly for reasons of topography. If Copenhagen had any lycra-wearing twits, they would soon be asked to pull their heads in. Here, they have no shame.

thy_dungeonman 7:08 pm 01 Sep 14

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.

Maya123 6:41 pm 01 Sep 14

KB1971 said :

“Should road rules be the same for motorists and bikes?”

This is a bit of a silly question. The majority of road rules are the same for cars a bikes. As John Armstrong said, there are some special ones for bike, there are some special ones for trucks, there are some special ones for cars as well.

A better question would be “Do you think there should be the same law enforcement for cars and bikes?”

+1

Antagonist 6:07 pm 01 Sep 14

Pretty sure the laws are the same for cyclists and motorists already – with the exception of a few specific pieces that need to address issues that are bike/car/taxi/bus/heavy vehicle specific. This is not going to be much of a ‘debate’.

Snow_Crash 6:01 pm 01 Sep 14

HenryBG said :

I’m not sure why people always point to Copenhagen in the context of cycling.

Here are a couple of things to note about cycling in Copenhagen:
– the cycle paths are flat
– the average trip length is less than 1km
– average cycle speed is 15km/h
– virtually nobody wears helmets
– virtually nobody wears lycra
– they have 400km of cycle path
– a population equivalent to Canberra’s within a 4km radius of the city centre
– a population of 2 million within a 16km radius of the city centre
– 50% of the city population are cyclists
– 33% of the greater population are cyclists (see the pattern there?)

Canberra has a similar amount of cycle path total length (Thanks! Canberra Ratepayer!) but it is very under-utilised, for the following very good reasons:
– Canberra’s average commute is >10km
– Canberra is not flat
– Canberra has compulsory helmet laws (actually not a “good reason”, just retarded legislating)
– Canberra cyclists represent 3% of the population.

Canberra’s vanishingly small population of dedicated cyclists make noise (not to mention congest roads) way out of proportion to their numbers.

Let’s not inflict any more costs associated with cycling hobbyists on the Canberra Ratepayer, shall we?

Alright, some interesting points there, but most of Canberra is fairly flat, and there’s no point mentioning lycra. But I’m sure we’ll see some more lycra related comments. Let’s see how we go. I don’t see lycra, I see traffic, and try and judge it in the here and now.

If you take different zones you see different effects and possibilities. In and around the ANU you can see cyclists cars and pedestrians getting by just fine.

Go take a look. A drive, a cycle, a walk, you’ll see it. It works well. (And is a very pleasant area to be in). You might say that area is a sort of “Copenhagen.”

But that might not apply in other areas, fair enough. Still, that’s no reason to say that we should just ignore the possibilities where they can apply, just because we’re not Copenhagen.

KB1971 5:36 pm 01 Sep 14

Because Copenhagen is the worlds best model for cycling/car co habitation. Yeah, OK the physical stats are not the same but no two cities in the world are alike. What they are saying is look at the model and see if we can use some stuff.

Road congestion? It’s funny you know, whenever I drive to work I find there is more congestion from cars, trucks, motorcycles and pedestrians. I say this when I have a few dedicated riders who live in my suburb.

Riders are not ratepayers? Sh$t, can I get a refund on the $1600 a year I pay the government then?? I swear I am you to get a jersey made up that says “I cycle AND I PAY RATES!”

If I go by your reasoning I can expect to begrudge other parts of society for things I don’t want to pay for. How about smokers health care? That’s a hobby that costs the taxpayer big time.

junketFunket 5:22 pm 01 Sep 14

the problem with this chic henry guy’s rationale is that he thinks that spending money on cycling facilities takes money away from spending money on cars and roads or whatever and that’s all it is – a zero sum game.

But he fails to recognise the benefits to society in general for people riding instead of driving.

I’m not talking about big lofty ideas like less traffic congestion, healthier population, climate change or whatever either. For example, he mentions repeatedly about Canberra’s lack of parking facilities. Okay, well if a cyclist doesn’t ride, it’s not like he/she is just going to stay at home are they? No they’ll likely have to drive their car to work and making the parking situation even worst.

astrojax 4:10 pm 01 Sep 14

“I think that the motoring public, regularly ripped off by […] the ever-diminishing parking spaces, are not particularly sympathetic to pushy riders”

chic, you’re talking at cross purposes here – you’re ruing the ‘ever diminishing parking spaces’ in the same breath as deriding [pun intended] the pushy riders; who are saving those precious parking spots for you, old son… ya lost me there, i’m afraid.

HenryBG 3:30 pm 01 Sep 14

I’m not sure why people always point to Copenhagen in the context of cycling.

Here are a couple of things to note about cycling in Copenhagen:
– the cycle paths are flat
– the average trip length is less than 1km
– average cycle speed is 15km/h
– virtually nobody wears helmets
– virtually nobody wears lycra
– they have 400km of cycle path
– a population equivalent to Canberra’s within a 4km radius of the city centre
– a population of 2 million within a 16km radius of the city centre
– 50% of the city population are cyclists
– 33% of the greater population are cyclists (see the pattern there?)

Canberra has a similar amount of cycle path total length (Thanks! Canberra Ratepayer!) but it is very under-utilised, for the following very good reasons:
– Canberra’s average commute is >10km
– Canberra is not flat
– Canberra has compulsory helmet laws (actually not a “good reason”, just retarded legislating)
– Canberra cyclists represent 3% of the population.

Canberra’s vanishingly small population of dedicated cyclists make noise (not to mention congest roads) way out of proportion to their numbers.

Let’s not inflict any more costs associated with cycling hobbyists on the Canberra Ratepayer, shall we?

Joelsomething 2:04 pm 01 Sep 14

Roughly 25% of people in Canberra identified as having ridden in the last week, and nearly half in the last year.

The allocation of transport funds to cycling (and combined with walking paths) is somewhere under 7%.

Where is this disproportionate funding that Chic Henry is talking about?

KB1971 1:34 pm 01 Sep 14

“Should road rules be the same for motorists and bikes?”

This is a bit of a silly question. The majority of road rules are the same for cars a bikes. As John Armstrong said, there are some special ones for bike, there are some special ones for trucks, there are some special ones for cars as well.

A better question would be “Do you think there should be the same law enforcement for cars and bikes?”

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