Let’s be careful out there, but learn some bloody road rules!

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Are bike lanes enough to guarantee cyclists' safety? (Image Arne Hückelheim, Wikimedia Commons)

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I was going to write another doping-related column this week, but instead, my mind was changed by some other kinds of dopes – those that get around in cars and a few who ride bikes.

The past few days have been horrible for cyclists in what is always the one-sided argument against cars.

In Adelaide, a 49-year-old woman was killed on Saturday morning when her bike and a car collided in West Lakes.

In Brisbane, a motorist was run down from behind on Friday afternoon as he rode off from some traffic lights.

Amazingly, he escaped with a few cuts and bruises.

In Melbourne, a rider was ‘doored’ on Monday by someone getting out of a taxi in the CBD.

And then there was the weekend crash in Sydney, where six people were knocked down by a four wheel drive, leaving two cyclists with spinal injuries and one facing up to six months in rehab.

The circumstances behind the Sydney and Adelaide crashes are unknown, but one thing can be said for all four of these incidents – they happened in broad daylight.

But some theories can be drawn from the Melbourne bingle, which, for the cyclist at least, doesn’t appear to have resulted in any serious injuries.

I’ll preface my comments by saying I’ve been commuting to work for almost 20 years. I also ride on weekends, but only socially with mates. I’ve never raced.

I’m also just back on my bike after a crash which left me with a dislocated AC joint in my shoulder, which I can’t afford to have operated on because I’ll be completely immobilised for six weeks.

But more about that later. Here’s the video of the rider getting ‘doored’ in Melbourne.

A few things annoy me about this video.

Firstly, the taxi passenger says “no offence” has been committed and questions the rider as to whether she is riding in a bike lane.

Well, Mr whatever your name is, you’re wrong because in Victoria it is an offence to open a door and cause injury to someone.

Here’s the relevant section of the road rules introduced by the Victorian Government two years ago. It is an offence to “cause a hazard to any person or vehicle by opening a door of a vehicle, leaving a door of a vehicle open, or getting off, or out of, a vehicle”.

The on-the-spot fine for opening a car door in the direct path of a cyclist has increased to $352, up from $141. If you go to court, you could be smacked with a $1408 fine, an increase of almost $1000.

There are clearly a lot of people like him, who just see cyclists as always in the wrong and show them no respect. But obviously, he doesn’t know the road rules.

He also doesn’t know that when you injure someone, it’s not wise to leave the scene without giving your details. For him and his fellow passengers to do that is quite sickening.

Clearly, the lady wasn’t in an immediate life-threatening situation, but there was no excuse for him to refuse point blank to take responsibility for what he did, which clearly was accidental.

That said, his “where’s the bike lane” question is relevant, because according to The Age, who ran this story, there isn’t a bike lane in that part of Collins St.

As a cyclist I would ask, why, when knowing how risky CBD riding is, would you ride in that position on the road in the first place?

If that was me, I wouldn’t be riding like that. I would try and sit directly behind the taxi and then if it stopped be looking to go around the outside, not the inside.

‘Dooring’ as an offence or not, riding up the inside like that is asking for trouble.

We have no chance on the road when it comes to collisions with cars, so why invite trouble by putting yourself in such a vulnerable position to begin with?

To me that’s just not sensible riding.

Luckily, most of my ride to work is via bike lanes – most, but not all. So when I am ‘out there’ in and amongst the cars, I try not to ride too close to the gutter.

I feel that only encourages motorists to try and squeeze past you when maybe there isn’t really enough room.

If you look timid on the road because of the position you occupy in the lane, you’re asking for trouble.

I also never try to squeeze past cars on the left when they have stopped. Even at traffic lights.

I also have a little problem with the camera on the bike.

Yes, it’s helped write this story, and it might even help catch someone guilty of an offence, but sometimes I wonder what’s behind the purpose of putting a camera on your commute ride?

Is there a secret hope you might catch a motorist ‘bang to rights’ cutting you off or almost killing you? Does it automatically make you a little more aggressive and tensed up about what might happen? I reckon it does.

I’ve only done half a dozen commute rides since my accident, and there’s no doubt what happened to me back in January has unnerved me.

I was ‘taken out’ by a cyclist riding in my small group as we came down a steep hill. He hadn’t noticed I had stopped to turn right and ploughed into me as I headed off into a side road.

I had no idea the crash was about to happen, so the impact felt like a king-hit.

I’m glad to be riding again, but despite considering myself a good defensive rider, I’m now worried about another impact from behind, especially from my right-hand side.

Listening to music while I ride has never been something I’ve done and it’s not something I’d recommend either. I feel you need every sensory fibre you have to identify potential danger because, as I found out, it can be when you least expect it.

And like that cyclist in Melbourne found out, not everyone is willing to take responsibility for their actions.

The driver in Brisbane did stop and assist the injured cyclist but has not been charged with any offence, despite clearly being at fault for what happened.

To injure six people and sustain so much damage to their car must have meant the Sydney crash occurred at a relatively high speed, but again, in broad daylight, how could you not see a bunch of cyclists in front of you?

So what’s the solution?

Better bike infrastructure is an obvious one, and over time, we’re seeing more of it appearing in our cities. But there needs to be education in how to best use it, not just installation.

Has anyone suggested closing the left lane on multiple lane roads on weekends for bunch riders? Why not try this on popular cycling routes between 5am and 11am on Saturdays and Sundays? Cars can have the one or two lanes on the outside and bike the whole of the inside lane. It surely is worth a try.

Or can the ‘one metre matters’ campaign be legislated and, just as vitally, policed?

Of course, cyclists could just give up on riding on the roads, which would no doubt please many motorists, but it would also increase traffic, and no one wants that.

Clearly, we all have to share the roads, but it seems the reports of incidents like the four I’ve highlighted are increasing exponentially.

The Melbourne accident shows everyone needs to do more to be aware of the dangers, so we start by just taking a little more care out there.

Learning the road rules properly would also be a good start.

Ride safely.

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