Tim Walker on Cyclists

They’re a menace on our roads. They’re a danger to both themselves and to motorists. They’re a hindrance to the flow of traffic. They take up too much of the road. They look so bloody stupid in that Spandex…

We also run red lights, we never stop completely at stop signs, we’re often seen riding two or three abreast, we sometimes fail to indicate before we turn, we’re insanely erratic and yes, then there’s those bloody outfits we wear.

I’m a cyclist. Rather an avid one at that.

I have no issue with the haters, I can even sympathise with most of you. I have no problem with the typical motorist expressing his hackneyed opinion – embodiment of slothful ignorance that you are – for the most part I can even understand your viewpoint.

As a fat, lazy man the last thing you want to be doing is embarking on more exercise than is absolutely necessary. That being so, as you while away your Sunday afternoons over a few cool pints of ale at the local with your buddies; given that your office job provides little semblance of ‘Better Work Stories’, the topic of discussion likely turns to, ‘The main issue with those bloody cyclists’ or ‘How we need to get rid of those bloody cyclists’ or ‘The way our roads these days are overrun with those bloody cyclists’ or even ‘How you were almost involved in a traffic incident when your phone call was interrupted by the sudden appearance of one of those bloody cyclists’, or similar.

In your mind the more aspersions you can throw at these energetic lunatics, the less guilty you will feel about living a life of such indolence; therefore the less likely that you will ever feel compelled to get off your own arse and commit to a stint of physical exertion.

On the other hand perhaps you’re not trying to avoid exercise and the reason for your prejudice relates less to sweaty Lycra and more to cyclists’ ostensible arrogance on the road – on your road.

In which case, point noted.

Yes, cyclists do tend to be arrogant and even reckless on the road. That’s probably on account of having so much testosterone coursing through their veins. This is not me talking up the manliness of cyclists, this is merely the body’s natural reaction to prolonged exercise. Despite being among the less sizeable, less controllable and indeed, less robust vehicles on the road, when testosterone couples with adrenalin and begins to flow around our bodies, simply, we feel invincible.

Hence the occasional, apparent death-wish.

As for stop signs, have you seen the calamity involved in detaching, then reattaching our feet to the pedals? No? Fair enough then. I concede, that is unfair. Bicycles are vehicles and they should therefore adhere to the same set of rules as automobiles.

Truth be told, I seldom come to a complete stop in my car either.

Indication on a bicycle can be difficult. Under heavy braking, it can be an impossibility. The right hand operates the rear brake; the left is the front. The front brake has more stopping power but is more unsafe – especially in the wet. If a cyclist approaches a greasy intersection wanting to turn right, he’ll elect to use his rear – or right – brake. You see the problem. I do always make an effort to indicate but often, especially if it’s only a flick of the hand while still holding the handlebar, it is easily missed.

Typically a solo cyclist I am not a supporter of anything wider than single file riding. That said, and despite the ill-conceived instruction that cyclists are to be given at least a metre clearance when passing, personally, there’s nothing the matter with coming within 20 or 30 centimetres of us anyway. It’s when sides of trailers clip my knuckles on the way past…

While I am not an advocate of male leg shaving, I am a user of cycling garb. Hard as it might be to believe, those tight pants and stretchy shirts do amazing things to protect a supple body in the event of a crash. I’d know. My most severe spill occurred on a wet hillside road at over 57kph and had me sliding, tumbling and bouncing for the next 20 metres. Admittedly I came out of that crash with blood oozing, but only in exposed areas and nothing so bad that I was unable to ride the 35kms home.

I think what truly riles a lot tax-paying motorists is the fact that cyclists don’t – pay road tax. I wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. I don’t believe that cyclists will ever be respected as road users until they start paying for the road on which they ride. Every other road user pays to use the road, so why don’t cyclists?

I have no problem with the concept of bicycle registration. How can we as cyclists expect the road to be accommodating to us, with cycle lanes and the like, if we aren’t prepared to pay for it?



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Anita Band-Aid

Photography by Moe Tristan, Trey Le

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