Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Drag racing on Missenden Road - car v bicycle

(Images: google maps screen capture of Missenden Road and Campbell Street, Newtown)

I'm totally gobsmacked by this afternoon's dickhead driving episode.

So here's what happened...I was cycling along Missenden Road this arvo, indicating that I was about to turn right into Campbell Street (pretty much in the position of the white car in image above) when unbelievably BLI 86X hooned up from behind on the wrong side of Missenden Road, came alongside me still on the wrong side of Missenden Road and took the right hand turn into Campbell Street before I did - yes, still on the wrong side of Missenden Road... the quest to beat me to that right hand turn, BLI 86X was prepared to, and did, cross the zebra crossing from that wrong side of the road...

...what a frigging loser

Anyhoo armed with number plate details, I dropped into Newtown Police Station but they informed me very sweetly that unless they (the police) witness such an event the event is basically a non-event.

'No worries,' I said 'I understand.'

I do, I really do - if you're on a bicycle in Australia, you count for fucking nought.

OMFG...way way too close today


  1. Police everywhere are useless.

    If you'd pulled the driver out and punched him in the face, you can be absolutely CERTAIN you'd face the full force of the law.

  2. 131 444 Police Assistance, get a report number, follow up. They may get a warning, if there is a string of incidents they may get more.

  3. You know this behaviour is not what worries me the most. It is very hard to control the behaviour of a dickhead in a car even with strong legislation and cultural change.
    What contributes most to the near misses that I experience (and even now living in a rural city they are weekly) is the mindlessness and the inattentiveness of the average driver.
    Yesterday whilst riding to work I was nearly T-boned by a driver pulling out of an intersection - it was only when I met her eyes, bellowed and pointed at her that she noticed me. These incidents are scary because the driver sees me (ie his/her eyes collect the visual data) but the driver doesn't attend to the fact that their is a bicycle on a collision course.
    These are average drivers - suburban moms dropping off kids in their 4WD, tradies in utes, men in saloon cars - usually sensible drivers who fail to notice a bicycle sharing the road. They are usually contrite when I confront them - they don't want to harm me they just don't notice.
    Now it's not as if I'm hard to see - I usually wear a bright top I have a white head covering (don't want to use the H-word in this post), I assert my presence on the road, I use massively bright lights in poor light or at night - but nevertheless I'm just not seen, even when I see a driver look at me.

    This is what makes me nervous; not the trucks barrelling past me at 100 kmh on a narrow road, not the hoon dragging down the street but the average driver who is unpredictably and mindlessly dangerous.
    You know it's not even their fault. Our society doesn't demand good driving skills and safe driving, it just picksa up the pieces after the event.
    Now I'm a driver too so I'm not picking on those who own a motor vehicle - it's just the Australian way, the car has primacy over everything.



    1. It is their fault, Seamus!

      Upon achieving a licence to drive, drivers have a responsibility to drive in manner that will not 'mindlessly' harm others. If they are not up to the task, they should abstain from driving or expect to have their licence removed temporarily or permanently.

    2. Sue,
      If drivers have no insight into their fallibility than announcing 'you should abstain from driving' is meaningless.

      My point is that some of the drivers I encounter genuinely do not see a cyclist in plain sight.
      Watch this video and see what I mean:

      now read this and see what I mean:

      That's what I mean by drivers not being 'at fault'.

      How do we make cyclists more visible to drivers?



    3. Much of the rot started after the sharp reduction in cycling when helmet laws were introduced. 'Safety in Numbers' research shows that the more people cycle, the more drivers are likely to look out for and actually see cyclists ...

    4. Seamus,
      I agree. As you say "the average driver who is unpredictably and mindlessly dangerous" is a real problem.I used to think that bad driving was the result of some drivers being silly, angry or thoughtless. After watching a few episodes of the BBC show Dangerous Drivers School I now think that there are a significant number of people who are incapable of ever being a safe driver. I don't mean they are a bit rusty and just need more practice and a few lessons. I mean, just as some people are colour blind or tone deaf, some people are incapable of understanding how the car works or operating the controls or mentally manipulating what they see in the space around them to a degree required for reasonably safe driving.
      And yet they have a license and it is very hard to lose that license.
      The Dutch (where else) apparently have a system where, for a serious offence, your license is suspended. You then have one, and only one, chance to get it back by taking a 3 day course (time off work at your expense) costing €800. Failure to pass the exam at the end of the course means no license - ever again.
      The only reference I know for that is in this video..

      The first time I tried the gorilla test I didn't notice it at all.Recently I inadvertently did an experiment that hints that the proposed minimum passing distance rule might help to counter the invisible gorilla effect.
      I carried a couple of bundles of 1.5m tomato stakes home tied sideways across the rear rack.They were centred so the stakes extend to 750mm either side of the centre of the bike. This is on semi rural roads with an 80kph limit. Normally almost all cars overtaking stay at least half in the lane even though there is little traffic and the other lane is almost always available.With the stakes on board every overtaking car changed to the other lane.
      I assume that they see the stakes as something they don't want to risk hitting.
      It's possible that a minimum passing distance rule would change cyclists from invisible gorillas into white basket ball players. Only if it got a bit of enforcement and promotion of course.

    5. Seamus,

      Yes, it's awful...

      Licenses are far too easy to obtain and too difficult to lose in this country. They should be treated like gun licenses IMO.

      Off the top of my head I would also like to see:
      - Compulsory retesting every 5 years for all drivers
      - A written test which covers law changes since their last test as well as general rules
      - A driving test if they have received an infringement at any time in the preceding 5 years.

      If they fail, they go back to square one. Would be a nice revenue stream too... ;)

      Paul Martin

    6. There's a large poster on one of our arterial roads with the 1m minimum passing advisory displayed. It's a start i suppose.

      I actually don't agree with anonymous above. I think the 'safety in numbers' effect is real but must be considered in the larger picture. For example, cycling is increasing in victoria but injuries are also increasing

      the same effect as is occurring in the UK:

      It's no surprise really, as cycling increases exposure increases and injuries and deaths increase. I'm sure there is a threshold above which driver behaviour changes in the presence of many cyclists. I'm not sure how great this effect is as Bay Road has many cyclists on the weekend and anecdotal reports (or at least newspaper letters) would describe the tolerance of this phenomenon as poor (although they are lycra fetishists not grannies on step throughs). I cannot find any hard data that describes a change in driver attitudes or a reduction in cyclist injuries in the areas of Australia with the largest participation (ie inner city melbourne and Canberra). The NT has a cyclist injury commensurate with the rest of Australia despite high cycling volume.

      My point being that there is more at work here. Cultural and infrastructural reform is needed (I believe) before an increase in cycling safety will result; irrespective of the number of bikes on the road.

      I fear that all will be achieved in the short term by promoting cycling is more injuries and deaths. As the UK has recently experienced. I ask you: why would a state government promote cycling if it leads to a greater acute healthcare burden?

      Cycling is more dangerous than driving or catching public transport. In the absence of legal, cultural and infrastructural reform why should the state encourage it? (this is a rhetorical question, by the way - I am a believer in increasing cycling., pedestrianism and mixed modal non-car transport as an urban design priority).



  4. Paul,
    yes this seems sensible. I think more rigorous driver training and testing before licensure is a needed reform also. Speed limiting technology is out there but woe betide any government that tries to bring that in....



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