While I was living in Melbourne, a television personality went on a bit of a rant about cyclists on the TV show Good News Week (see video) and stirred up a bit of controversy. Though it was a comedy show, the angry rant displayed exactly the kind of mentality I experienced from motorists when cycling in Melbourne.
I’ve cycled to work daily in two major cities (Ottawa and Vancouver), but in Melbourne I’ve only been cycling once or twice per week. Yet, the number of times I’ve been harassed by motorists here exceeds all the times I’ve been harassed by motorists elsewhere. Of all the instances, two were particularly intense.
I was cycling down Victoria Parade approaching Hoddle Street, in the leftmost lane on a relatively busy Wednesday evening, when some bogan shit bloke (Australian hillbilly) in a lime green ute (Australian pickup truck) starts laying on the horn relentlessly. He recklessly accelerates past me on the right, then has to stop for the red light at the Victoria/Hoddle intersection about 50 meters ahead. I glare at the driver window as I approach and he rolls down the window, shouting “Arrogant! That’s just arrogant!” Implying that by occupying the whole left lane I was being arrogant. I was planning to give him an earful, but after that statement I was baffled. All I could do was half smile and shake my head in amazement.
Then there was the incident late one Sunday afternoon, again on Victoria Parade, but approaching Smith Street this time. I think this tweet captures my feelings at the time…
(I think by “Next time I’ll stop.” I meant that I’d stop after the second honk and make her stop and go around. I was still boiling with rage when tweeted that.)
It’s almost inconceivable that someone would honk in this situation. I mean two other traffic lanes were completely unused! It would seem that some motorists don’t believe that cyclists deserve to share the road with them at all, no matter what the conditions. In their mind you have no business being out there. This is a dangerous attitude and one that could be changed through education.
Unfortunately, what I saw during my short stay in Melbourne was law makers and the media reinforcing this mindset, villainizing cyclists as reckless rebels who don’t to obey the rules of the road and kill pedestrians. Rubbish!
I really hope the next time I return to Melbourne, motorists have been better educated about sharing the road with cyclists and I can ride down Victoria Parade from Collingwood without being harassed. Melbourne is an absolutely beautiful, charming city and cycling is a wonderful way to experience it if you are lucky enough not to encounter an ignorant motorist.