The second most popular article on The Advertiser website today is one about a police blitz on ‘cyclists flouting the road rules’ (on reading it is actually a crack down on motorists doing the wrong thing as well but clearly that doesn’t make a headline in this town). At lunchtime I mentioned this to a friend who replied with a curt ‘so they should’. I bit my tongue. Later this afternoon I came across this pretty accurate article and could only sigh in recognition. Defending cycling is exhausting.
A quick review of the comments (yes, I know I shouldn’t) on The Advertiser article reveals the same, tired, us-versus-them arguments that seem to go around and around and, gosh, it’s pretty boring really (the humans really like having something to get grumpy about don’t they?).
I’m both a driver and a cyclist. These are not mutually exclusive pass times. I don’t exist as one or the other and neither do most cyclists I know. I like cyclists and I like drivers and it would be great if we could all be allowed to just get on with it.
For me, loving cyclists is not about hating on drivers. We’re complementary – here are eight reasons why:
- For every cyclist there is one less car on the road. That means less cars banked up ahead of you (and me) in your commute to work. That means you get there faster. It also means that when you get there one more park is waiting for you to fill.
- Cyclists are not polluting the planet for our children. Their impact on the environment is minimal; they’re helping to keep the world beautiful. A 2014 study by British Cycling found that “shifting just 10% of journeys from car to bike would reduce air pollution and save 400 productive life years” – this is pretty amazing stuff.
- Cyclists often feel vulnerable – they need drivers to protect them. It’s scary on the roads trying to be seen and be safe. When I ride and a driver sees me in the bike lane and stops and waits for me before they turn left I feel happy and cared about. As a driver I also love giving you way and knowing that I’m helping you get to where you want to go safely. This is what community is about.
- Cyclists are trying to be healthy and stop themselves being a burden on the health system, increasing your taxes and taking up hospital beds when you need them. In fact, a study of Copenhagen cycling commuters found that “bicycling to work decreased risk of mortality in approximately 40%”. Cyclists also drink less because they want to get up early in the morning and feel the wind in their hair. This is good thing.
- Some of the loudest cheering of the Tour Down Under competitors is from the cycling community – their enthusiasm is one of the key things that keeps this wonderful event in our state. They travel here from interstate, they spend money on accommodation and food and when they get home they tell their cycling friends.
- They’re encouraging the next generation to explore. With more of them out and about, in all shapes, sizes and capabilities, the roads are safer and our kids might return to pottering around their neighbourhood on wheels, discovering new things.
- When cyclists are on their bikes they are also unclogging gym classes, they’re creating one extra spot in the lap pool each morning swim and leaving a weight machine free for someone else to use.
- Lean bodies are lovely, sexy things. Even in Lycra they’re pretty lovable.
Cyclists are not perfect by all means. We’re human after all. But annoying is not on our agenda. Getting where we want to go and being happy and healthy while we do it is the only thing that drives us. So go on: be less grumpy drivers and find a way to #loveacyclist instead.