Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bikes

R says, ****ing bicyles should be banned. Our views are framed by our experiences. They annoy him because in the quiet little street where we live, there are a lot of cyclists passing. I have learnt that if there is a cyclist on the left of you, you can turn left, so long as they don't have to brake and avoid you. Otherwise, just slow down, slot in behind them and let them go first.

R's view is also framed by an encounter with a very nice looking guy who called out 'careful' just before he almost ploughed into us as we walked along the Southbank. R got a serious fright as did I once when I walked around a corner into a main street and was nearly cleaned up by a cyclist at high speed on a busy footpath.

They were bad boys and need to be severly spanked. I do appreciate that cyclists put up with a lot from motorists, but it isn't right that they can pose such a threat to pedestrians on shared paths.

I don't cycle now, but I have in the past and may in the future.

What really alarms me is when I am on a shared footpath and a bike comes up behind me and goes past at a fair speed. Maybe there is some possum shit on the path in front of me and I will step to the side just as the bike is about to go past. Bang. Sometimes you can hear them coming, but not always. I don't expect them to ride along ringing their bells constantly. Once, just once, a cyclist came up behind me and there was just a dull click from some device on his bike, maybe a dampened bell or similar. It wasn't loud, but enough to let me know of his approach.

I thought this was a great idea and I wish more would do it.

2 comments:

  1. Andrew,

    I really should write a considered, in-depth response to this post, but it's getting late, but I'd like to say something, so I'll make it incoherent and brief:

    I have an admission: I ride on footpaths, and do so with regularity. I do so for a few reasons:

    - Road scare the living bejeezus out of me sometimes, and I'd much rather remove the possibility of an encounter with a car and take the (often) more circuitous route on the footpath to negotiate and area. My attitude is that a car could easily kill me while I'm on the road, simply through inattention and negligence, but when I ride on the footpath, I do not have the mass or velocity to do the same to a pedestrian (I know this could be argued).

    - I come from Canberra where it is legal to ride on footpaths and have always done so. That said, where there are on-road bike lanes (and the there are many in Melbourne - compared to NONE in Sydney) I use them, as they are the easiest and fastest way to get around. Note that Canberra also has a great bike path network, distinct from footpaths.

    - Riding on the footpath is fun at times. I ride an MTB with full hydraulic disc brakes and can stop on a dime, and also track-stand dead stopped. This does put me at odds with most peoples perception of what a bike can do: most people have never ridden a bike that can stop from 30kph to nothing in 5 metres, and also most people cannot balance their bike stationary. I can, and as such know that I can negotiate out, around and through "obstacles" with far more adeptness than people imagine.
    I have never hit or injured a pedestrian at all, and as such attribute this to riding with awareness: I know that riding round corners blind is silly and that giving people a wide berth is the smartest and most courteous thing that you can do. I also acknowledge that I have no right to be on the footpath and have no right-of way, so when I am riding there, I go to lengths to ensure that I am not inconveniencing pedestrians at all.

    Shared pathways are another issue altogether. It's always hard to combine two uses that have two varying speeds (5kph v 30kph). I always try to give people a wide berth and often if there are two (or more) people across a path I simply call out “passing on your right” from a distance, allowing them enough time to react. I don’t' actually carry a bell on my bike as they ding irritatingly all the time (ie: when bunny-hopping, riding rough surfaces) and are not communicative enough. I’ve developed a loud enough voice from communicating with drivers through their cars, to be able to call out to other trail users. I think that using your voice is a better way to communicate than dinging a bell, which I find sounds rude and generally unhelpful, as you don’t know if you’ve done something wrong or if you’re about to be run over. I probably have been guilty of scaring a few people in my time by flying past them, but often by warning of your approach, you cause a reaction that is often problematic as people get startled, turn around erratically, vary from their line etc... A tap on the brakes often produces enough noise for a pedestrian to be aware of my approach, or even a shift of gears - that might have been the "click" that you heard Andrew.

    I hope that this comment was of value, even if it pegs me in the bad boy club.

    Regards, m1key

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  2. Interesting M!key. I was just out for lunch and within a minute, I saw two cars cut in front of cyclists to turn left. One cyclist had to go around the corner with the post office van or he would hit the side.

    The click was definitely a bell. I remember there used to be a bell that had an external striker and it only hit once. But this one must have had something stuffed inside it to muffle it.

    A wide berth is probably the best course.

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