Saturday, January 26, 2013

Riding against the Traffic Part 1

Another footnote in the anals  annals of a cyclist... ;)

Over the years I have had too many conversations about, rules, regulations, laws etc... when it comes to cycling. I have read 1,000s of blog articles, news reports and so on about the merits of cycling, the attitude of  drivers vs cyclists and so on... My experience has been that arrogance, self righteousness and pigheadedness are not the exclusive domain of car drivers. If you're a pedestrian on any of Darwin's shared cycle/footpaths you will find that some cyclists can be even bigger arseholes than the majority of drivers when it comes to their sense of entitlement on what they perceive as 'their road'.

Quite a while back I wrote a blog post that discussed roadmanship; at the time I thought I'd continue to write about such things but the reality is, I don't have the time or the energy to devote to producing any deep study or reflection on the subject. These days I'm flat out just getting to work and performing my parental duties, but, all the same issues still irk me! Besides that I've discovered that I'm actually lazy. ;)

As a cyclist and someone who would like to see much more acceptance of bicycles as a legitimate form of transport I am often dismayed by the crazy shit I see cyclists doing on the road. (OK I've made a few mistakes on the road and have been grateful to survive.) I am not talking about minor maters like failing to dismount to cross a road. There are a lot of road rules that make no sense and I believe that with a strong sense of self preservation, a clever defensive cyclist can assess the potential for danger and choose the path of least hazard regardless of what appears to be the rule. Helmets are a good example. The NT has quite sensible helmet laws. Children must wear them all the time, adults can choose not to wear a helmet  when cycling on the bicycle paths but must wear them on the road. I'd prefer no laws on helmet use for adults but can live with what we have here. It makes sense and common sense dictates that even if the police aren't too interested in busting people for not wearing helmets on the road I wear one whenever I ride on major roads. There are signs along one of the local bike paths that instruct cyclists to dismount before crossing the road. This makes no sense and is potentially more hazardous so I do not comply! However there are some activities that defy logic. One of these is riding against the flow of the traffic!

WHAT NOT TO DO! (Giddy Goanna, Bikes Busses and Roads. Book 4, 2000 Giddy Goanna Ltd..)

I don't know if this happens so much in the other states but here in Darwin I regularly see people cycling on busy roads against the traffic. I admit there are times when crossing a road or switching paths I have found it necessary to travel a short distance in a contrary direction to the rest of the traffic. For example there a section of road inbound on the Stuart Highway where the bicycle path ends a few hundred meters away from the Post Office in Winnellie, it's crazy, that there's nowhere to go except onto the verge and into oncoming traffic, I have ridden it a few times and it's always hair raising! For me this is an exception. What I am talking about in this post is something else. It's about the large number of people in Darwin who seem to think that riding against the traffic is the norm. It is my belief that riding against the traffic is extremely dangerous and creates all kinds of danger on the road including potential head on collisions with other cyclists but so many cyclists in Darwin seem oblivious to the danger. 

What spurred this post was seeing yet another wrong way cyclist on my way to the Airport recently. I saw a young woman cyclist cross the road on the opposite side of the road to me and was confounded by the way she rode. She was heading in the same direction as me but was riding against the traffic. She rode boldly along the side of the road, not on the dirt but on the road toward oncoming traffic. The traffic was not going fast but the combined speed of car and bike increased the danger enormously. I watched the cars coming towards her and flinched at the thought of the impact. The cyclist peddled on oblivious. I have seen it so many times before... why do they do it?

I have discussed the practice (issue for some) of riding against the flow of traffic with a few people, cyclists and drivers, and have had some curious responses to my questions about safety. Perceptions seem completely contradictory to each other, yet none of the people I've spoken with have offered any logical argument either way... What has become most obvious to me is that generally people don't seem to be interested in thinking about these things they just want people to stay the f--k out of their way. 

Now I've written a swag of words and still haven't made my point so I'll label this 'Post 1'and try to follow up another time.


mxt21 said...

I'm sure the word is annals, with two 'n's

David J said...

You don't think writing a blog post, (and possibly a series of them) about the direction other cyclists choose to ride their bikes is just a little bit anal?

Oh... I guess it kind of backfires when someone who doesn't spell too good tries to be punny. ;)

mxt21 said...

Generally I have found bicyclists try to ride forwards. Backwards is just too bloody hard.

David J said...

Oh stop it... your killing me.

bicycletravels said...

Have you ever thought about stopping these "against traffic pedalers" and ask them? I think (I hope it's not a prejudice) Darwin has a large percentage of backpackers and overseas' students who come from countries where you drive on the other side of the road.

I remember seeing this same phenomenon in Cairns where people also ride on the other side of the road, esp. Asian girls. Maybe, just maybe, riding on the "wrong side of the road" is the higher perceived risk to them?

Oh, and I never knew that the NT allows cycling without a helmet on bike paths. What a sensible law! Albeit, I sometimes find cycling on bike paths here in Brisbane more dangerous than cycling on roads. :-)

David J said...

Hi Groover,
Yeh I'd like to flag them down and interview cyclists about this phenomenon. I could do a bit of a survey on those who ride against the traffic but haven't worked through the questions I'd ask yet. An obvious one is "err... why do you ride against the traffic?"

Next time I come across one riding towards me I will stop them. You are right about the foreign tourists and female Asian workers. There are a lot of Asian girls working in our hotels who cycle and do ride against the traffic. I have met a lot of tourists who cycle but they tend to stick generally to the road rules. The other contingent is young males, who ride recklessly without helmets but a disturbing thing is that a lot of the kids who ride around the neighborhood are riding on the wrong side of the road. I'm sure there may be an element of rebellion in their behavior but mostly I reckon it's a lack of education.