Sharing road space
Russell Degnan

I love plans that are destined to fail. Particularly those otherwise logically sound plans that give an insight into the mentality of the proponent. Like this one to take demerit points off the licenses of cyclists who break road rules. Naturally there are two problems. The first is they aren't driving. It makes as much sense as taking demerit points off passengers in speeding vehicles, or for that matter, for a crime like theft. Secondly, there is a reasonable chance that the cyclist won't have a license at all, which somewhat defeats the purpose.


There is a broader issue however, that relates to the attitude of cyclists to traffic and vice versa. On a normal road the cyclist has to contend with drivers in the cycle lane (if they are lucky to have one), drivers who cut them off, drivers who don't bother leaving space, drivers who think cyclists travel at about 5km/h and go in front, and plenty of other problems. In a big bunch cyclists are largely protected, visible and dominant. For all that their behaviour is illegal, it is occuring because for once it can. The level of scrutiny it is receiving is a disgrace when compared to that given to the poor and illegal driving that puts pedestrians and cyclists at risk.

But one other point should be made, and it is that riding in lage bunches is exactly the sort of social and physical activity that should be encouraged. At right are two pictures I took in Paris in 2001. It was taken very late at night, nearly midnight, when a certain number of roads were closed in the city centre for skaters. The cars had to wait, upwards of 15 minutes in fact, while thousands upon thousands of people cruised on by.

It is not unreasonable for a similar response here. Beach Rd. is not so buy, nor so important that it couldn't be closed for three hours on a Saturday morning for cyclists to use. it is certainly a better response than an indulgent legal crackdown in favour of a over-privileged drivers.

Sterner Matters 24th July, 2005 23:38:52   [#] 

Comments

Have aliens stolen your brain?
There are so many things wrong with this post I won't be able to cover them all!

What I find most objectionable is how somehow cyclists are the 'golden children', unable to do any wrong. The number of cyclists one sees on the road who do stupid and illegal things is very large.

However, I realise that like most things (inc driving), its the small minority who are causing the problem rather than the majority who do the right thing.

But why some cyclists think that it is OK to run a red light is beyond me. And if they are running red lights then they should be fined and lose demerit points (if they have a license).

The argument that because it isn't in a car you shouldn't lose them is flawed - it is a traffic offense and therefore you should suffer the same consequence as a motorist would. If they don't have a license they will be lucky in not receiving demerit points but perhaps we should introduce a cyclist demerit system as well after you rack up too many points if you get caught on the road you get fined (whether you are breaking the law at that stage or not).

So lets not pretend that cyclists who break traffic rules are a trivial matter. They can be just as big a problem as motorists who break road rules.

As for shutting down roads I think not. In fact, lets start enforcing the law and charging critical mass cyclists who block roads off, abuse and threaten motorists and generally add to the lawlessness that Victoria is encountering.
Pearcey  25th July, 2005 14:22:14  

Debate! Woohoo!
I don't agree with Russ fully on this one. Cyclists certainly aren't all as law-abiding as he makes them out to be, and from a pedestrian's point-of-view some of them are quite dangerous.

However, the logic of cyclists losing drivers license demerit points is completely flawed.

Firstly, a drivers license is issued to enable someone who has the appropriate level of skill to drive a car. Drivers licenses are necessary because motorised vehicles pose a potential hazard to other road users (including cyclists) because of their speed and weight.

Secondly, a license is not required in order to ride a bicycle. Children learn from a very young age how to ride a bicycle and hence it is considered something that is easy to do. The fact that bicycles are not registered and cyclists are not required to obtain a license encourages more people (particularly young, fit people) to cycle. Making them pay for a license and pay to register their bikes is a unnecessary disincentive.

Thirdly, issuing demerit points for cyclists who happen to hold drivers licenses is unjust in that people, under the law, should be treated equally. A cyclist holding a drivers license would be punished more than a cyclist who doesn't - even if they commit the same offense.

I agree with Russ about blocking off roads to vehicles on occasion to allow for cyclists to ride on mass. Cycling, unlike driving, can be a communal affair - allowing for interraction between themselves and with the city. While part of me likes the idea of Critical Mass and other groups blocking off roads as a form of liberating protest, the rest of me thinks that road closures should be done legally and traffic diverted thoughtfully.

It's not helpful for groups of road users and cyclists to blame each other for the chaos on our roads. A small number of drivers, cyclists AND pedestrians break the rules every day, and place themselves and others unnecessarily in harms way. The punishment should, however, fit the crime and I fail to see how removing driving privileges will encourage ALL cyclists to ride more carefully.
Aaron Hewett  25th July, 2005 17:44:23  

Close the road for the hell ride...
Spoken like a true motorist, Pearcey. Considering a tilt at the RACV board?

Clearly, there is a need for a need for a Sunday morning training track for road cyclists. As Russ said, Beach Road is hardly so crucial that it couldn't be closed for the purpose.
Rob M  26th July, 2005 10:40:37  

ms
\"....let�s start enforcing the law and charging critical mass cyclists who block roads off, abuse and threaten motorists and generally add to the lawlessness that Victoria is encountering....\"

Dear Pearcey, provide evidence please not hyperbole or whatever you overheard on 3AW. Who are these threatening cyclists. Please provide times, locations and details, as I wish to contact those responsible.
cileo  2nd August, 2005 18:18:29