Pedantically preparing my equipment the evening before and conscious to the sock line on clothing etiquette, I will take time to ponder on the loop intended and of course base the entire experience around the best coffee stop. Once out on the bike, finally, it is within about 15 minutes that welcome blood pours sufficiently back into oxygen starved muscles with a wince before a kick and splutter and then power on away – we are cycling! How truly wonderful this is as an experience and every time I get out there I say to myself ‘I really should do this more often!’ So, recently I have been tinkering around in my ‘cave’. Nothing pre-historic here as ‘cave’ is the French term for storeroom and where I keep my bikes, wheels, old seats, odd fitting stems to never used handlebars etc. Basically what any normal cycling enthusiast (be they casual or constant) would have in their garage, only I live in Monaco and to own a garage here would be similar to owning the Sydney Cricket Ground. So why the tinkering? Well I intend to commute on bicycle for a daily run to fetch my kids from school in a bus / bike interaction evading the small town’s congestion woes (yes even in Monaco!).
Anyway, all this brings up the question of road use and cycling in a more relevant manner than merely reading the latest vomit from certain Sydney papers over the ‘issue’ of cyclist v motorist on the road. My personal view is quite clear here – we are ALL road users. Some happen to be driving beat out Valiant Galants, pristine Range Rovers or garbage trucks and others riding retro Colnago’s, mountain bikes from Big W (God help them), or the latest Trek Madone. There are no sides. It is not war. All road users share a responsibility. Story over. That said there is still plenty to discuss on improving a cyclist’s health and safety ‘out there’. In some places around the world the system is ALL about bikes. Holland for one is well noted for this but even more so is Denmark.
Both countries enjoy above average use of cycling for recreation, transport and sport. I have firsthand experience in Denmark on how cycling is well catered for, understood, used and enjoyed by many. The system works towards what I see as a direct influence on why the Danes remain to be so very nice, healthy, socially rounded, creative and sane. Thanks, in part, to the many uses of cycling, Denmark has a country of happy, fit people in a land with no mountains, non-stop rain and drizzle, shockingly high taxes and plenty of other reasons to produce a sad group of angry whinging individuals. Australia has a long, long way to go.
As a casual cyclist I choose to continue with the same attitude, when on the road, that I obtained whilst being an elite and professional racing cyclist accumulating an easy quarter of a million open traffic kilometres these past 15 years alone. That was, after my initial years of being a totally reactive and sometimes irresponsible road user, both on bike and in car, to being a more proactive and responsible (and happy), road user. Sure accidents happen and that is just what they are – accidents. But there are many things one can control whilst out-there and I have listed some here: Be thankful to be able to be out there. Plenty of people can’t. Be clear and precise in your actions on the road – be part of the flow yet modest. Eat smart. A drop in blood sugar turns people, all people into lunatics. Learn from experienced and well practiced others. Cycling clubs are perfect for this but also in Australia today there are some great foundations working hard for safer road usage i.e:
Always and unconditionally stick to the road rules. Catch up lost time from red lights by riding harder. If you are in a group that doesn’t do this then don’t be prey, find another group. Never respond aggressively to another road user’s incompetence or abuse. There is NO future in this for anyone. If there has been a wrong doing, try to record it and follow it up like any other road incident. Always THINK about your destination and find the safest route option.
Keep your bike and equipment in good working order and go for bright clothing. Recently I have introduced small flashing lights, both front and rear, for day time riding. From growing up in Sydney’s west to travelling through the States and living in Europe plus much time in central and South America, I have paid witness to the best and worst of cycling conditions.
Just like the weather things change rapidly and unexpectedly on the roads and certain areas have the equivalent of micro-climates. The only things you can control are yourself and your actions and you must be ready for anything. By doing so we cyclists remain as safe as any other road user and put ourselves on a sure footed platform enabling a return to the very (and many) reasons one wishes to be out there in the first place – like accessing all the good coffee shops.