Friday, October 30, 2009

Tell me the old, old story.

There has been a lot of anti-cyclist rants in the nation's newspapers over the last few days. No sooner had I posted about the Brisbane bus assault there was a second such attack in Sydney. This time the cyclist was arguably in the wrong. Despite the fact the bus did nearly kill him, the rider was illegally on a bus-only stretch of road. Still, the incident provoked the sort of predictable outrage I normally ignore. Like rubbernecking at a car crash sometimes I just can't help myself but read this garbage.

Someone called Michelle Cazzulino at Sydney's Daily Telegraph headed the charge, with an extraordinary rant under the headline Idiots on Bikes Powered by Smugness. It was not only poorly written but poorly argued. A professional journalist should be able to be better than this, because even the most committed cyclist will enjoy an original take on the age old debate. Poor Michelle proved herself unequal to the task - it's pretty sad for her when an inflammatory piece on a hot-button issue attracts just 26 comments online. Not much in that one for those of us who ride because we enjoy it, or because it's a practical way to get around or to stay fit, or to save a few bob on petrol or parking each day. It's a bit sad too when the News Ltd One Degree global warming campaign is trying to encourage people to ride their bikes instead of driving.

Token right-wing Sydney Morning Herald columnist Miranda Devine was next, again with nothing new to say. Roads are for cars, she says, forgetting buses, trucks, motorcycles and, gasp, pedestrians. I hope you get run over crossing the street Miranda, I really do.

There's nothing new, not in the columns themselves, nor in the tides of impotent rage from either side. But even as a few dumb columnists plow through the motions of causing division and beating up whipping tribal hatreds one more time, people are dying because somehow as a society we can't find a way to co-exist on the roads.

It's a shame nobody can muster the same sort of outrage we've seen this week when someone is killed - but no, that sort of response gets saved up for when a newspaper columnist's drive to work is slowed by a few seconds or because their body image is threatened by someone wearing lycra. It's a funny sort of society we've made for ourselves.

But at the heart of it, maybe no one really cares. Just this week, a driver in Adelaide who has killed two people in identical accidents at the same intersection in seven years was described as a river of "limited aptitude, competence and temperament" by a coroner. A driver so bad, so dangerous to us all, that her licence was suspended taken away from her for a staggering 18 months.

I wish it wasn't so, and I also wish that every time this debate flares anew, those of us who cycle and who drive and who pay the taxes which build our roads could come up with a better response just ranting on the internet.

4664km so far this year.

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