Jan 032014
Media: Courier Mail
Date: 4th December 2013
Headline: Cyclists backpedal on bad behaviour so State Government passes new safety legislation
Link: http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/cyclists-backpedal-on-bad-behaviour-so-state-government-passes-new-safety-legislation/story-fnihsrf2-1226774575560
Journalist: Damien Stannard Brittany Vonow
Yet another article that purports to talk about cycling but only references sport cycling. As if that were the definition of what cycling is.  Reading this article, you would assume that riding a bike is soley for the purpose of sport – racing and training.
Cycling is a wonderful sport, but that type of riding isn’t what is going to save our cities from gridlock and air pollution, save the earth from carbon dioxide pollution (global warming) and save us all time and money getting around. Changing the laws is, or should be, all about getting more people to use the bicycle to get around – safely.
So much else is wrong with this article. The strong implication is that cyclists only deserve respect if they “clean up their act” and “show respect”. How about similar calls for motorists to respect the people they regularly kill and injure? How about recognising that cyclists are given a road system and set of laws designed only to facilitate motor traffic, that doesn’t meet cyclists’ needs? How about discussing the fact that because of this dangerous and unfair system of roads, it’s often safer to break the law than to follow it?
 Posted by at 11:30 am
Sep 062013

Media: The Age
Date: 5th September 2013
Headline: More people are riding their bikes to work than last year
Link: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/more-people-are-riding-their-bikes-to-work-than-last-year-20130905-2t7ft.html
Journalist: Marnie Banger

The article is about a count done annually by Bicycle Victoria in Swanston St, for one hour in the morning.  This year it showed an increase, as it did last year – compared to each preceding year and an increase in the proportion of women.  The Age then asked for comments from Cycling Victoria and proceded to discuss sport cycling, with examples from sport cycling clubs of women who race.

As Pip Carroll from The Squeaky Wheel remarked when speaking at a recent Melbourne Writers Festival event, the cultural perception of cycling is that it is a sport, done with special equipment and special clothing.

But the intersection of Swanston and Bourke Streets isn't a good place for racing, and it's hardly the place to look for sport cyclists. It's a good place to see people getting around on bikes.  Not racing, just getting about.

 Posted by at 9:33 am
Jun 022012

The BUG extends sympathy to all involved in the dooring of a cyclist by the Lord Mayor’s car on St Kilda Road 31/5/2012, especially the cyclist. The irony won’t be lost on anyone who is aware of the great progress being made in the City of Melbourne to encourage more people to use bicycles during Robert Doyle’s first term in office.

Two articles were published in the Melbourne media regarding the incident:

Media: The Age
Date: 1st June 2012
Headline: Mayor’s car in ‘dooring’
Link: http://newsstore.fairfax.com.au/apps/viewDocument.ac?docID=AGE1206014U6FE1D1TJM
Journalist: Mark Forbes

Media: Herald Sun
Date: 1st June 2012
Headline: Cyclist ‘doored’ by Lord Mayor Robert Doyle’s car
Link: http://m.heraldsun.com.au/news/more-news/cyclist-doored-by-lord-mayor-robert-doyles-car/story-fn7x8me2-1226379490273
Journalist: Aleks Devic

Both articles describe the incident and the Herald Sun carried an apology from the Lord Mayor. Neither article took the trouble to link to the current Parliamentary inquiry into dooring penalties, or mentioned whether the incident was reported to police and the offender fined. Neither article mentioned that the City plans to improve safety for cyclists on this stretch of St Kilda Road – except for the exact place where the dooring occurred. In the Council’s 2012/13 budget provision has been made to provide separated lanes for bikes – southbound all the way across Princes Bridge and down to the intersection with Southbank Boulevard. In the direction the cyclist was traveling however, no separation is planned until reaching Princes Bridge.

This stretch is a “kiss-and-ride” location for the arts precinct and it makes some degree of sense not to put bikes on the left of parked cars when there are a lot of people getting in and out of cars there. In this case it is important to provide safe conditions on the other side of the parked cars. The City needs to take action to give bikes more space to avoid car doors on this stretch, remove through traffic from this lane and reduce the speed limit to 30km/h – measures which will improve safety for everybody, including people riding bikes as well as the kiss-and-ride users.

 Posted by at 12:25 pm
May 082012

Media: ABC News 24 Breakfast
Date: 7th May 2012
Headline: Drivers who open doors on cyclists facing increased fines: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-05-07/car-door-bikie-hits-increase-in-melbourne/3995038
Presenters: Karina Carvalho and Michael Rowland
Reporter: Simon Lauder

Cyclists in Melbourne would no doubt welcome the increased interest in dooring from the mainstream press, however they would have been left rather perplexed by this question from ABC News 24’s Simon Lauder to Bicycle Network Victoria spokesperson Garry Brennan:

Are you worried that by increasing [the penalty for dooring] it might be sending a message that it’s always the motorist’s fault?

The issue of fault was then discussed by the live news channel’s breakfast presenters, Karina Carvalho and Michael Rowland:

Rowland: Now just to even the ledger up a tiny wincy bit, did I hear [Brennan] say it’s always the motorist’s fault or is my hearing failing me?

Carvalho: No, we both heard that, and I would say that you would probably need to take that comment with a little bit of caution, because it’s not always the driver’s fault.

Rowland: …a sack of salt, not just a grain of salt, because without pillorying cyclists….I have seen my fair share of reckless cyclists so I think it’s very unfair to purely blame motorists 100% of the time.

Carvalho: …and more education and more awareness on both sides is what’s needed.

Pointing the finger at reckless cyclists is a regular tactic in trying to deflect motorist responsibility for car/bicycle collisions. No one denies that such cyclists exist and should be held accountable for their actions, but the issue of fault in a dooring incident is not debatable: it is always the motorist’s fault. This underpins the current proposal  to increase penalties for car dooring, which aims to deter motorists from committing this serious offence.

Carvahlo’s suggestion that both sides need more education also needs to be examined. Cyclists are legally required,* and expected by motorists, to ride in poorly designed bike lanes that present a serious dooring risk, so they are regularly advised by cycling groups to stick to the right side of the lane away from the dooring zone. Motorists, on the other hand, are mostly uninformed about the serious danger they present when exiting a vehicle without checking behind them. Education and awareness are definitely required on both sides, but it’s on the motorist side where it’s seriously lacking. Hence the new penalties.

It would be possible to take these comments with (to borrow Rowland’s phrase) a sack of salt, but cyclists who have been involved in or witnessed a dooring incident would perhaps beg to disagree. Rowland and Carvalho were wrong on this issue and made light of an extremely serious concern for regular bike commuters.


*s247 of the Road Rules 2009 requires cyclists to stay in the bike lane ‘unless impracticable.’ Arguably this could extend to unsafe bike lanes, but it needs to be clarified.

 Posted by at 8:00 am
Apr 302012

Media: Melbourne Weekly
Date: 30th April 2012
Headline: Chapel St: Bike lobby driving to ban cars
Link: http://www.melbourneweekly.com.au/news/local/news/general/chapel-st-bike-lobby-driving-to-ban-cars/2538919.aspx
Journalist: Nicole Haddow

Bicycle Network Victoria spokesperson Garry Brennan was quoted as saying through traffic should be diverted out of Chapel St, not exactly what the more sensationalist “ban cars” of the headline, but apart from that small criticism, the article has a welcome focus on the dangers caused to cyclists by motor vehicles.  However even the local MP, Clem Newton-Brown appears to be responding to a “closure” proposal, not the “diversion” proposal of Bicycle Network Victoria. Is this a straw man argument to discredit the proposal?

Removing through traffic would be a good start, congratulations to BNV for suggesting it.  Removing most parking would help a lot too and allow for wider footpaths.  Then the only vehicles needing to enter would be deliveries, during restricted hours, leaving Chapel St a very attractive place for the large number of people walking, riding and tramming it.

On the BIV website, it is pointed out that Chapel Street could be part of a longer north-south route going all the way to to Clifton Hill.

 Posted by at 6:49 pm
Mar 222012

Media: Melbourne Herald-Sun
Date: 16th March 2012
Headline: Pic of cyclist with baby sparks fury
Link: http://m.news.com.au/NationalNews/fi984962.htm
Journalists: Elissa Doherty and Courtney Crane

This article attacks a woman carrying a baby on her back.  The baby is too young to wear a helmet, no helmets are available on the market and in any case would likely damage the baby’s neck.  As you know, young babies can’t hold their head up, which is why they are often carried close to their carer, with the head supported against the body of their carer.

What particularly outraged these reporters was that the woman riding the bike was wearing a helmet herself: she was “selfish” for “endangering a baby’s life – but protecting her own”.  Actually she was wearing a helmet to avoid getting fined for the safe and healthy activity of riding a bicycle. Would the journalists have been happier if the rider was not wearing a helmet?

Congratulations to Garry Brennan of Bicycle Network Victoria for defending the woman, and pointing out that this is the normal way to carry very young babies all over the world. BV’s bravery in standing up to the onslaught is to be commended.

As the law in Victoria stands, it is impossible to get around on a bike with a baby too young to wear a helmet. So if the bicycle is your means of transport, you are grounded. How unfair is that?

As usual, the article totally fails to mention the reason why helmets are considered necessary: because motor vehicles endanger cyclists. So not a word about solving the root cause of the problem, ignoring the elephant as usual.

 Posted by at 12:55 am
Feb 222012

Media: Melbourne Age
Dates: 10th February 2012, 11th February 2012
Headlines: Cyclist killed in highway car collision, Fatal February looms as another cyclist killedLinks: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/cyclist-killed-in-highway-car-collision-20120210-1s73p.html, http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/fatal-february-looms-as-another-cyclist-killed-20120210-1smf7.html
Journalists: Megan Levy, Adam Carey

The Age’s photo of the Melton cyclist death shows an intersection designed only for fast moving cars.  There are no cycle lanes, no separate crossing for bikes, no way for a bike to trigger the traffic lights and dangerous slip lanes for turning cars.  The Age ignores these most relevant factors and instead focusses on things that would have made no difference.  Bike lights pointed away from the traffic would not have enabled cars doing 80+km/h to stop in time.  It was deemed relevant that the cyclist was wearing earphones and “may have been listening to music”.  Nobody asked whether the car driver had the radio on.  Nor would a helmet designed for 20km/h impact be relevant.

If we focus on irrelevant “causes” that blame the victims we will never implement solutions that work.

In London men are more numerous on bikes than women and yet more women are killed by trucks. A study for Transport for London, the government body responsible for roads and public transport in London, found the reason was that men were more likely to break the law by going through red lights to get away from the trucks at intersections.  Women obey the law more and are killed more often as a result.  There are many reasons why a cyclist would break the law that don’t result from carelessness but in fact are a rational response by cyclists to roads that are not designed to make cycling safe.

The Netherlands hasn’t reduced its death toll by blaming the victim with campaigns, fines and lectures about being “safe”.  It has done it with safe infrastructure and campaigns, fines and lectures directed at motor vehicle drivers. A focus on the real causes will produce results, while focussing on irrelevant “causes” will perpetuate the problems.

 Posted by at 3:58 pm