Tag Archives: Safety

Changes. But for the better?



In the wake of a terrible few weeks for cycling, a dooring in Melbourne, a nightmare rear-ender in Brisbane and multiple riders being hospitalised in Sydney – all seemingly due to inattentive car users – a few Sydney clubs have been making changes.

Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club, the club directly affected by the shocking Sydney incident, have removed Southern Cross Drive from their ride roster entirely. Randwick Botany Cycling Club havetaken a different tack and are now endeavouring to make their club rides vehicle-supported, with a tail-end vehicle equipped with “cyclists ahead” signage.

I’ve seen mixed opinions on this, and I’m not sure of the full implications of these two announcements myself. But I do have some commentary.
Continue Reading →


Image: Daily Telegraph

The last couple of weeks have been pretty tough. In Sydney and London, my two most recent home cities, cyclist deaths have been mounting up, and naturally nerves are wearing somewhat thin. For my part I’ve been alternating between despair and fury over the situation. I either want to stay at home and never ride again, or I want to go out and kick some wing mirrors off.

In the press and on the blogs, much ink has been expended on the fact that the Amy Gillett Foundation’s “A Metre Matters” campaign needs to be implemented here and it needs to be implemented now. With this I strongly agree – though I personally think more than a metre is needed.

Very few column inches, however, have been expended on the fact that we already have safe overtaking laws, right now.

In NSW, rule 15 defines vehicles. It is abundantly clear over the fact that a bicycle, for the purposes of the rules, is a vehicle.

We are not second class citizens on the road.

Many road users, cyclists included, seem to be entirely ignorant of this, so let me just underline it – because it’s important for what follows. A bicycle, for the purposes of road rules, is a vehicle, and therefore carries all the rights and responsibilities that any other vehicle carries – with some specific exceptions.

Further down the rules, you come to Division 3: Overtaking. Within this division, rule 140 forms a master template for safe overtaking between vehicles. It’s pretty clear and unequivocal

A driver must not overtake a vehicle unless:

(a)  the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic, and

(b)  the driver can safely overtake the vehicle.

Let’s just repeat that

A driver must not overtake a vehicle unless:

(a)  the driver has a clear view of any approaching traffic, and

(b)  the driver can safely overtake the vehicle.

This rule, part B of rule 140, would cover every single one of the dangerous overtaking moves that I’ve experienced as a cyclist, and criminalise them with 20 penalty units. What we seem to lack is general knowledge of this rule, the fact that it applies to overtaking cyclists, and meaningful enforcement. Being inside a metre is emphatically not safe. A driver passing this close has breached rule 140.

NSW Police, and more broadly all jurisdictions in which similar laws exist – yes, they exist in the rest of Australia and in the UK too – could be enforcing this rule right now. But they never seem to bother. What we get is mealy-mouthed excuses and instead of being charged under rule 140,  drivers are sent on their merry way with a mere warning – or at best an incorrect charge – while at the side of the road, the ambulance service and the health system is left to pick up the pieces.

Enough is enough.

If, like me, you’ve over it, may I suggest you write to the NSW Police Commissioner and demand that rule 140 is enforced, in the absence of more specific one metre rules. Demand that his officers correctly handle collisions and near misses when reported. Write to your local politicians and press home the point that we need a metre or more, and mention that we already have unenforced laws which can handle this. And if you have driver friends who aren’t aware of these rules, tell them. Make sure they know that if they can’t get past a bike with a safe margin, then they must not overtake. Make sure they also know that bikes are vehicles and therefore they are treated as such – at junctions, roundabouts and when emerging from parking spaces. Give way, give space.

This needs to change. Enough people have died.


Rocky Trail Shimano GP, Stromlo, 2013

Found via Carbon Addiction, this interesting post from the NY times takes a helicopter view of cycling safety and injury rates. Overall, it paints a cautiously positive picture of the kind of dangers the average cyclist will face.

For my part, I could see a lot of my own cycling history in the post. As the article notes, many cycling injuries go unreported. I’ve never yet been to hospital, or even a GP, for a cycling-related injury, though I’ve had many. In my former life, before taking over a decade away from the bike, I was largely injury-free, with cuts and bruises being pretty much the limit of what I picked up. Low speed crashes in icy conditions spring immediately to mind as a hazard of riding year-round in Britain. Usually, the bike would be worse off than me – I’ve pretzeled a couple of mountain bike wheels in crashes that left me personally unscathed. The worst I can think of is a black eye picked up when I put a pedal on the ground in a corner and went face first into a kerb. I was pretty lucky. Continue Reading →

Calling time on that whole “bell” thing

“Bike coming through. Keep to the left please”

I called out in a bright cheerful voice this morning

The reply came back

“Where’s your bell?”

That exchange happened this morning as I rode down the Cooks River Cycleway on my circuitous but somewhat pleasant commute to work.

Now before I get to the meat of the post, I’d like to first address the unspeakable stupidity of that response.

In no possible universe does “ding ding” convey more safety-related information than a bright and cheerful “keep to the left please”. “Ding ding” does not convey, for a start, that the right thing to do is to move to the left. “ding ding” is, in fact, considerably less safe, and less polite, than a cheerful “keep to the left please”. You’d have to be breathtakingly dense to think that was the case. One certainly does not need a PhD in Information Theory to understand that “ding ding” is a low information density phenomenon, whereas verbal communication of the “keep to the left please” variety conveys an order of magnitude more.  Ten thousand years into the future, when this blog post is retrieved by some far-distant digital archaeologist, people will be seen to remark “Fuck me, that was a really stupid response. People were sure thick back in the 2010s, eh?”. The kind of person who would make that response would be incapable of thinking his or her way out of a wet paper bag if that wet paper bag was open at both ends and clearly marked with the words “exit here or here“. The person who said it probably believes that she is a crusading figurehead for pedestrians’ rights, standing up to an evil, law-breaking cyclist. What she actually is, is a moron.

That pleasant little rant out of the way, let’s address why I do not and will not fit my bike with a bell. Continue Reading →