Thursday, 24 October 2013

I'm a cyclist. And a mother.

I've just got back from the Hervey Bay police station, after having a very near miss with another car this morning. There have been a number of incidences since I started cycling in Hervey Bay (after years of cycling on the much narrower, more congested and busier London roads). While the other incidences have been due to the lack of care and ignorance of the drivers, this one was reckless and possibly even malicious. Worse yet, I had 2-year old Pickle on the cargo-bike with me.

I follow the road rules. Unfortunately it appears that many local drivers aren't aware that cyclists are legitimate road users. That we are allowed to take the centre of the lane on a multi-lane road*. I had been keeping to the left even on multi-lane roads, but found the ridiculously close passing put me in more danger than if I kept to the middle of my lane, though I now receive aggressive horn blasts and abuse hurtled at me through open car windows.

Don't get me wrong, the majority of drivers are friendly, safe and welcoming. In fact, on the way home a car slowed down and waved encouragement - this was not the first time. In addition to favourable goodwill from drivers, I've also had enthusiasm from motor-bike riders and pedestrians; young, old and middle aged people.

So why, when it takes an entire 15-minutes to drive from one end of Hervey Bay to another, do some drivers have such an aggressive sense of entitlement on the road?

The Amy Gillett Foundation has a vision to eliminate bicycle related fatalities and is spreading the word about 'a metre matters'. There is currently an e-petition that will be put in front of the Queensland Legislative Assembly in four days time, advocating for a minimum safe passing distance - I would love it if (as a Queensland resident or citizen) you would please sign it. Aussies can also easily write to their MPs (templates and contact details).

Others have written more eloquently about a cyclist always coming off worse
in a collision with a motor vehicle - there's not only the unprotected impact, but the risk of being thrown into - under - the path of another car. Though I can't seem to find any links to the articles at the moment, unfortunately. (See update below).

I'm a single mother, caring for a two year old. Part of simplifying my life, not least reducing the exorbitant
costs of car ownership (purchase price, tax, insurance, petrol, maintenance etc) has been to go car-free. I'm also physically and mentally healthier, am introducing Pickle to a healthier way of life in an era of increasing obesity, and just generally enjoying our day-to-day life more fully.

How do we get a message out to drivers that cyclists are not only legitimate road users, but (in my case) also someone's mother, daughter, sister, friend???

Cheers, KangaRue :)

* this is not meant as legal advice; road rules can differ from state to state within Australia.

UPDATE: An incredibly well put article: In the US and the Netherlands, two children on bikes are struck by cars—and the responses couldn’t be more different. 


  1. I wonder if you'll have any luck with the Council etc. You might want to try your local Councillor as well. I'd suspect the Liquid Lounge and the local cycling group would be keen to collaborate on a campaign of some sort!

  2. #fingerscrossed on the council - I will update accordingly. The local paper seemed pretty disinterested, though started to perk up when I mentioned both the local cyclist who was injured up the road and the Brisbane mother that was killed this week.

    Good idea - I will start writing to the Fraser Coast councillors now, thanks!

    I've been trying to get in contact with the local BUG (Bicycle Users Group) about various things since November 2012, again about a month ago and a couple of calls today. Have also emailed, but not holding my breath!!

  3. In London we see 'ghost bikes' everywhere now - old bicycles sprayed white and chained to spots where there's been a fatality to commemorate the cyclist. It certainly makes you stop and think but accidents go on happening. I wonder whether all driving tests should include a compulsory section on bikes? And whether cyclists should be encouraged to take road safety courses too so there's more mutual respect?

  4. What sort of response did you get from the police?
    Because the law says you must overtake as to "not cause a collision" they've not been to interested in WA unless they hit you.
    The horse has already bolted in this case.

  5. I'm still chasing a response six months later. So much for that then. Hopefully the new state laws will make a difference going forward.

  6. I've seen a few ghost bikes in Brisbane, which was gut wrenching. It certainly makes a point. Hopefully to the people who need it.

    Driving tests here do now include some questions on bikes - I've found P-platers to be generally pretty good on the road rules. It seems to be motorists who have had their licenses for a while who aren't aware of changes in the laws. I can't help thinking more regular testing should happen.

    Most people who ride bikes also drive cars (kids are obviously an exception). I think bike skills in schools have faded out - I certainly had them in "my day", but they don't seem to happen routinely now.


I'd love to hear your thoughts!