Sharing the Road

I was bicycling to meet my children this past week. They had set off on foot for school and we agreed to meet half-way up the hill. Earlier this year, we agreed that they were responsible enough to walk together. I had planned to ride to the office after catching up with them and walking with them to school.

The usual route to everywhere. School, the city, the Eastern Suburbs. J.Crew dress, ancient Geox heels, Yakkay helmet, Tom Ford sunglasses, Cartier Santos, Linus Bikes Eleanor pannier bag, EZee Sprint. 

Emerging from the garage on ebike, I had looked up and down the road for traffic. Our street is a mix of cafes and apartments and is a low traffic area. However, drivers will sometimes travel far greater than 30-40km/hr up our street.  I looked again and set off. Suddenly, the driver of a blue Toyota Yaris came flying off Albion Street and onto our street. I heard the car and the honk behind me. And then he came very close and overtook to stop 2 seconds before me at the stop sign.  I shouted. “Hey!” And I was incensed.  Adrenaline pumping, I shouted, “What. Are. You. Doing!?”

He took off before another few cars came to the intersection. While I was waiting for the traffic to clear, I could see that he was pulling into the garage just a few metres away. I followed him to the building where the garage door was still open. I may have shouted, “You need to go home. You have no idea how to drive.”  I couldn’t hear anything in response because he was in the car. But the acoustics of the concrete-clad underground park magnified my shout. After this, I may have also shouted, “I bet you can barely manage to string a sentence together at work today by the way that you drive.” I could hear a faint sound of shouting coming from the car which was not yet parked. I had distracted him from his task.

The addition of Campbell Street Cycleway up the next block has made it even better to bicycle! J.Crew dress, Geox. heels

I had enough time on my e-bike to reach my children who were half-way up the hill. For the sake of getting to work two seconds earlier, the Yaris driver unnecessarily overtook me on a quiet street and nearly hit me. For what purpose? And what might have happened is unthinkable.

Many friends have expressed concern and suggested that I should ride with a helmet-mounted-camera. But I have refused. I have spoken with my husband how riding with a camera can be helpful. Yet, we have both decided against it. We believe that it creates a negative mindset as a bicyclist. We both firmly believe in the goodness of people, within reason, of course.

So, what is the solution? I keep riding. Sometimes I ignore the words or actions of people who are selfish, ignorant or both. I stay alert. Fortunately, we both had to stop. Occasionally, I have thought about carrying raw eggs in a special pouch to throw at careless or aggressive drivers. How many eggs would I throw in a day? Hopefully not many. But again this is a negative mindset.

Approaching our street from the other direction. Again, keeping close watch for oncoming traffic. Covering the brakes with two fingers.  Zara jacket, ancient Aerosole heels, Yakkay helmet, eZee Sprint, Aldi cashmere scarf, Linus Eleanor pannier bag,

What other solutions are there?  Increasingly, I choose a quieter path with less cars. But this was just outside my front door. Consequently, from time to time, I make my displeasure known. Sometimes, it is as simple as asking drivers, “Why did you pass so close to me? Would you please give me more space? There are more bicyclists around now in the city.” I have  received an apology a few times. Mostly though, I have encountered nasty, snarling and brutish.  As a general rule I avoid cursing. My comments have ranged from:

“Go back to your hole where you belong.” “Forgotten how to drive properly?” “Driver re-education is in your future.” “You’ve forgotten how to share [the road]. You mother would be ashamed.”

I asked my husband about the “Plan your Curves” signs that I have seen for motorcylists on country roads. The manner in which you position yourself to corner results in where you will exit the curve of the turn. In this case, I could see there were no approaching cars on our street. 

I have also had this exchange. Two tradies in a white panel van told me to get off the road “because it was for cars only.” They had cut me off on College Street not long after its destruction. I asked them, “Don’t you know how to share the road?” Cursing was the response followed by the uncreative, “Get off the road, Chinky Girl.”

Me: “Ten years of bad sex for you.”

Them: “I don’t like chinky p…y.”

Me:  “What I have is far better than what you could possibly offer.”

The right turn signal meant that they had to disappear onto Williams Street. Congestion was waiting for them.

Because our street is narrow with parked cars on the opposite kerb, it’s a good idea to stay to the left in case of oncoming cars. In a few seconds, I would correct my exit to keep to the left and to enter our garage.  To better corner, I could have taken a wider entrance onto the street. In this case, I cut the corner which put me in the middle of the road. 

For me, the practice of shouting creatively helps. I get rid of the bad feelings that arise after a negative interaction with a driver.  It also helps to belong to a supportive community of bicyclists, one of which is my husband.

Happy and Safe Bicycling!

X Sarah

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  1. Australia has done quite enough to suck the joy out of riding a bike, and I found riding with a camera did contribute to that. It was another thing to fuss about, charge the damn thing etc, certainly not helpful when you’ve got other things to deal with. And yeah, probably always keeps that adversarial mindset at the ready. So I’d say your assessment is right. Besides, everything is pretty much on CCTV these days 😐


    1. Its true cameras are not convenient, and once the sun is down they mostly record a blurry mess! But thinking that someone else will capture anything/something is not going to work either, and even when there is video recorded it usually requires the police to intervene and obtain the footage.

      But of course even with everything handed to them on a plate the police aren’t interested:
      Another example of a driver trying to save seconds or less without regard for anyone else.


      1. Yes. Very unfortunate and we have plenty of those in Sydney too. Consequently, what are the solutions? Escaping with one’s life is the bare minimum as many of us have experienced. Would it help if we grew cycling to even greater numbers? I wonder.


      2. It is a challenging question, especially when the actual safety of cycling in Australia is quite good on a world scale. Increasing the mode share of cycling is a nice ambition but its something that only happens organically when people see it as a better alternative to other transport modes. For instance I cycle because it takes less time to get to/from work, pure utility.

        What can be done in the short term it to look at the road rules, fines, and their application. Drivers won’t look out for vulnerable road users when they have so little incentive to do so, motorcyclists see similar problems and I think the road rules should reflect the risk posed with higher penalties for drivers causing danger to vulnerable road users.

        This is the opposite of what NSW has done by increasing fines for cyclists to the same level as car drivers, the law should acknowledge that driving a car through a stop sign or red light is far less desirable than doing the same on a bicycle.

        Overall the road rules (and the road environment) continue to promote car use. Take for example the situation of cars moving through a car park, the drivers will get out and become pedestrians but once they do so they are obliged to give way to the motor vehicles. Drivers fight to get as close as possible to the entrances and minimise their exposure, even spending more time waiting for a park so they are not just trying to save time. Car parks should either be required to have footpaths from every parking space or the road rules need rewriting to require cars to give way to pedestrians in those areas. For instance a simple law might be cars give way anywhere the speed limit is less than 20km/h.

        Even without enacting such improvements the existing laws need better enforcement, fining drivers for stopping in bicycle storage areas or parking across pedestrian access. Once they are looking for the infrastructure rather than driving blindly across it then they will see the users of it.

        Finally, when building infrastructure we need to balance any changes which improve the safety of one mode against and loss of safety for others rather than always favouring cars as we see now. Pedestrians and cyclists are not separate modes of transport that are disconnected from road projects but their movement needs to be included in the costs of any new road works.


  2. “Ten years of bad sex …” Classic!
    Tradies are, by far, the most self entitled, belligerent drivers on the road. I hate cycling to work early, or around 4 oclock in the afternoon as this is the time they are most likely to be on the road.
    I usually try to stick to back streets as you suggest, but am often frustrated by “rat runners” who are speeding through quiet back roads to avoid a set of traffic lights.
    Looking forward to a world where every car journey is recorded and automatically checked for speeding (and, why not? The govt has no problem recording all of my internet traffic).


  3. Sarah, you do better than me: when the adrenalin is pumping I simply cannot be witty or caustic in response – that usually comes about three hours later! (Hence I’m going to save some of these rejoinders for possible later use.)

    And: vulnerable road user legislation. I want and expect people behind the wheel to be better human beings, but in the meantime I’ll settle for a legal framework that, in the first instance will presume their fault in the case of any road incident, thereby causing them to think twice before behaving recklessly or distractedly…


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