CrankBusters: Debunking Cycling Myths
Devised almost 200 years ago by a practical German baron, the bicycle has evolved into an urban staple. Beloved of children, prized by inner-city commuters, it can be a lifesaver when summer smog chokes the nation.
Globe and Mail, Canada, 6th June 2006
The Melbourne Ride of Silence cycles through South Melbourne, 20th May 2006.
Now try to envisage the road space used if all these people were driving cars instead?
Many myths, generalisations and assumptions are often used toward cycling and riders. So here’s a collection of some commonly misunderstood issues accomponied by clarity that hopefully helps to clear up what many non-cyclists think.
If cyclists want to use the road, why dont they pay rego like us?
An all too common comment! Firstly, bikes are traffic. Therefore they should be on the road (unless a nicer alternative is available) Secondly, most cyclists DO pay rego. They just left the car at home and chose a cheaper, cleaner, healthier, less-road-wearing, less-congesting, usually-faster, and downright fun way to travel! Thirdly, and most importantly, is the weakest part of this gripe. Many hold a misconception that their registration funds the road network. This is totally untrue.
Not ONE CENT of your rego pays for roads. A small component goes toward the admin of running the rego system, the greatest element (over 80%) is a TAC insurance premium. This goes toward paying for the carnage (notice it’s not called bikenage!) that vehicles cause on a daily basis where thousands get killed annually. Our road network is paid for through general tax revenue. Currently only 30% of the excise on petrol has gone to funding roads. The balance is paid by you and me. Bike Rego has been costed by countless governments and abandoned for decades as it would cost far more than it could realistically collect.
But riding on the road is so dangerous!
TAC statistics and regular cyclists will tell you otherwise. Vicroads, Federal and State government stats show that per kilometre, it is no more dangerous than driving a vehicle. Some of us have been commuting for 15+ years and had perhaps one accident. How many have you had driving to work in that time?
Cyclists are dangerous on the footpath
Couldn’t agree more. Only shared paths, or exceptional circumstances warrant riding on the footpath Victorian road laws state: Children under 12 years old are permitted to ride their bicycles on the footpath. People who are 12 or older are not permitted to ride their bicycles on the footpath, unless they qualify for an exemption as outlined below. All cyclists permitted to ride on footpaths must keep to the left of the footpath, unless it is impractical to do so, and must give way to any pedestrian on the footpath.
The following groups of people are exempt from this law and may ride the bicycles on the footpath, under certain conditions:
People who are 18 or older who are accompanying a child under 12 and the child is under the rider’s supervision;
People with a physical or an intellectual disability and who carry a certificate signed by a medical practitioner that states that it is undesirable, impractical or inexpedient for them to ride on the road;
People engaged in the delivery of postal articles for or on behalf of Australia Post.
There is currently one poor anomoly to this law. Your 12-18 year old child cannot accompany your under-12 year old on the footpath. Rather anti-sibling, isnt it?
Cyclists are all fitness-zealots
Hardly. You dont need to be fit to get on your bike, but it can develop into a welcome side effect! Many of us cycle for fun. Some to save time (compare driving to a destination and include the time to find a park, to riding a bike), and many to save money.
But I cant afford to ride a bike
On the contrary, perhaps you cant afford NOT to! The average family sedan can cost $200 per week!! (RACV data) Some of us ride into the CBD daily and may only spend $100-500/year on ‘running’ a bike and associated equpment. That’s a saving of over $10,000 a year. And that doesn’t factor in your better health, lower sickleave taken, less stressed. No gym membership necessary, nor the fun you had doing it.
Bikes are always slowing me down
Maybe for 2-5 seconds! If that cyclist was in a car they would slow you down far more. passing a cyclist is easy. In a car you only get to park behind them at the next set of lights. Here are two real-world comparisons done recently with Red Symons and John Faine on ABC 774AM.
In both cases the bikes won hands down. And remember, a typical road lane can accomodate approx 1000 cars per hour in suburbia. That same road can handle 8000 bikes! So,who is slowing who down? We are all trying to get from A to B. It’s not a race. Lets get there and be safe.
All our roads are getting clogged up by bikelanes!
Balwyn Road in Melbourne’s north-east is the usual subject of this misnomer. Many people make an assumption that a two lane road has been narrowed to one-plus-parking-plus-bikelane. This is absolutely untrue. Vicroads standards will not allow this. Next time you are at one of these roads, take 5 minutes to actually study the road.
EBLs (Exclusive Bike Lanes a solid white line) are ONLY applied where either the VicRoads standard of 3.2m minimum car lane/s can be applied and if possible parking also. Balwyn Road is a perfect example. Parking lane (2.8m), EBL (1.5m) and one vehicle lane (over 3.2m). So it is more likely the parked cars are the ones impeding your progress. Unless you own a car that is 1.5m wide and you can squeeze between the parked cars and traffic!
Bikelanes denying cars? you do the math…
You will also notice (much to cyclist’s annoyance) that almost all bike lanes stop 50m short of intersections. Despite this being where cyclists are most at risk by the not-looking-just-turning-driver, cars are always given priority and thus get two lanes. Still not convinced about Balwyn Road?
Compare traffic flow at Whtehorse, and the Belmore Rd intersections. Despite identical vehicle numbers Belmore flows extremely well. The difference? The room to accomodate a righthand turn lane!
But its too polluted to ride
True. It is too polluted, but not to ride. Studies carried out in UK, USA and Australia have shown you take in more toxins if you are sitting INSIDE a car than on a bike! So cyclists are not only doing good things for themselves but for drivers too. It’s no coincidence that countries with far higher rates of cycling/public transport also have far lower expenditure on their health system. Our governments biggest expenditure item is on roads. The second item is on the Health System. A coincidence? I think not…
Cyclists take up the whole lane
Cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast, however it is more practical (not to mention courteous) to ride in single file in heavy traffic.
Cyclists pass on the left illegally
Cyclists are permitted to overtake on the left, provided the vehicle you’re overtaking isn’t turning left or indicating an intention to turn left.
All Cyclists run red lights!!!
How often do you hear that? Sadly SOME do. Any experienced cyclist, particularly a commuting one will tell you they loathe seeing this done as it only fuels the debate and shows a lack of respect for fellow road users, not to mention the inherent dangers to themselves and pedestrians. It is a $100 fine for this offence. We often witness drivers run red lights, speed, fail to indicate, using mobiles etc, but this does not justify it, neither should other errant cyclist’s behaviour justify you following their poor example. I have lost count of the times a nearby rider will run the red and I will pull up next to him at the next set!
“SMIDSY!” (Sorry mate, I didn’t see you!”)
Ever had a near miss with a car and had a genuinely apologetic driver say this? Perhaps next time it may be worth pointing out to said driver that a vital ingredient to ‘seeing’ is ‘looking’! All too often cars will pull out of sidestreets, make righthand turns in front of you, or accelerate past you to make a lefthand turn almost through you, and the basic error is either not looking or a very poor assumption of what speed you are travelling. “Oh, a bike. I am in a car. Quid pro quo, I am faster. Therefore I MUST go faster’. I have now had 3 drivers so keen to subscribe to this theory that travelling parallel with me in traffic they have accelerated past me very impressively, only to rearend the car stationery only metres ahead. ‘SMIDSY!’
Further reading + links
Cycling Promotion Fund: Bicycles belong on the road, registration free
There is a view that if cyclists want to be taken seriously and be provided with first class bicycle infrastructure, they ought to pay registration fees like motorists. By placing registration fees on bicycles, governments would be losing far more than they gain in registration revenue.
by Todd Litman (Victoria Transport Policy Institute)
This report investigates the degree to which bicyclists and pedestrians pay for the transportation facilities (roads, paths and sidewalks) they use. It finds that such facilities are funded primarily by general taxes, which non-drivers fund through general taxes, while they impose much lower costs per mile of travel than motorists.
The Right to Travel by Human Power by Steven G. Goodridge
Cyclists and pedestrians have a legal right to access every destination reachable by public roads. This means that they deserve safe accommodation on every road and across every intersection. Non-motorized travel must not be prohibited except where controlled-access expressways provide service that is completely redundant to safe and efficient routes for non-motorized users. Accommodation of cyclists and pedestrians must be provided via safe, lawful and courteous behavior by other road users and by appropriate engineering of roadways.
- Bicycle Transportation Institute: Right to use the road
- Team Estrogen: Cycling Myths Debunked, Part I
- Team Estrogen: Cycling Myths Debunked, Part II
- Cool Running Australia: Share the Road
- VicRoads: Share the Road
- VicRoad: Cyclists & Drivers FAQ
- Road Safety QLD: Bicycle Safety
- Road Safety South Australia: Share the Road Campaign
Return to Wheels of Justice home