It’s a tale as old as road cycling – the ongoing feud between cyclists and drivers on Canberra roads.
Drivers regularly complain about how annoying it is to dodge cyclists riding on roads, frustrated at large groups that spill into driving lanes and the inconvenience of slowing down.
Meanwhile, cyclists exert their right to be on the road and the legal obligation of drivers to pass safely.
There’s a clear responsibility on both sides in the eyes of the law, but that clarity doesn’t dampen the antagonism between the groups.
Lately, I’ve noticed a sort of belligerent doggedness in the cyclists I pass, who refuse to move over or adjust their riding to make passing them any easier.
More than a few times I’ve encountered pointed glares as I pass or a cyclist, on their own, cycling in the middle of the lane with no intention of moving. I feel like people would usually move over out of politeness, even if only a little, and similarly, I would coast far back until I had room to move over. It was just mutual courtesy.
That acknowledgment of each other seems to be dwindling, certainly in the interactions I have on country roads.
Now, I appreciate that being a cyclist on the roads must be incredibly frustrating – many drivers don’t know or care about their obligations to cyclist safety, and I’ve seen plenty of dangerous manoeuvres from vehicles passing bikes that don’t allow anywhere near enough room or cut out in front of oncoming traffic.
Given cyclists are the vulnerable ones in the situation, I completely understand their expression of their rights and the desire to be obstinate in the face of bad driving.
That said, I feel like it’s getting unnecessarily acrimonious on the roads, and after I coasted for ages behind a cyclist on a country road the other day, who could have moved over to allow me to pass him safely without having to veer into the other lane through a blind stretch of road, but who chose to stay smack in the middle of the lane, I’m wondering what it will take to break the negative cycle (pun intended).
I’ll admit that I occasionally mutter under my breath when passing huge groups of cyclists on single-lane country roads. I wonder if they could perhaps ride on roads that are more appropriate for their numbers. I get annoyed and impatient like many drivers, but I would never drive dangerously or compromise their safety to shave a few seconds off my driving time.
For every driver like me on the roads, there are dozens who, I have no doubt, don’t show the same concern for cyclist safety. And there are plenty of cyclists who make no attempt to meet us halfway, either.
Do we need better driver education on our obligations for safely passing cyclists? And if that’s the case, should road cyclists also have to do a compulsory course or training on safely riding on the roads? Do we need more bike lanes on our roads?
Or are Canberra roads doomed to forever be the sites of silent standoffs between road cyclists and drivers, both of whom have a right to be there, but neither seem willing to broker a truce to keep the roads safe and fair for everyone?