War of attrition: Cyclists and drivers in Brisbane

There’s been a recent spate of articles in my local rag talking up a warlike rhetoric between cyclists and drivers on Brisbane roads. The tone of the debate is disgusting – with people on both sides slinging mud and insults and even death threats.

It does make me wonder why road sharing issues, particularly in Brisbane, spark so much hate. As this interesting article of on the psychology of hating cyclists ponders in response those who publicly threaten to run over cyclists states: “This kind of sentiment would people locked up if directed against an ethnic minority or religion.”

I’ll confess that I probably shared similar sentiments to the hate-filled drivers a few years back, before I regularly started cycling to and from work. And while I don’t lyrca-up, nor even have to ride on busy roads thanks to being fortunately close to a bike path, there is a palatable sense of vulnerability while riding, where a slight mistake from rider or driver could be cause serious injury or even be fatal. As I write this, I remember the time when I was in my mid-teens, riding home from football training when a car reversed onto the road from a private property and sent me flying. Fortunately, it was at low speed so I was more shocked than injured.

Nowadays I try to be respectful of cyclists – give them enough room; watch out for them when I’m turning off a main road corridor, even keep my mouth shut when I see one of them break the moral code of the road. I don’t want to be burdened with the guilt of injuring or killing someone should I collide with a cyclist with my car. A cyclist is guaranteed to come off worse in these sorts of hypothetical events.

And this is why I really dislike the rhetoric of the articles I linked to above. Framing the ongoing debate about who should be entitled to use the road system in terms of conflict or a ‘warzone’ cannot end in a good way. It’s a slippery rhetorical slope – where drivers and cyclists can excuse their behaviour in terms of an ongoing battle or skirmish in this ‘war’. Morality gets thrown out the window and using such terms just encourages further misbehaviour by people on both sides.

Lose the war rhetoric and lets have a sensible debate.

5 thoughts on “War of attrition: Cyclists and drivers in Brisbane

  1. Totally concur. The ‘news’ websites have a lot to answer for. A brief article about a cyclist/car accident should not have an open and un-moderated comments section.

    You see disgusting responses like “I hope they died”, “they deserved it” and then the usual (perhaps justified) vitriolic response from pro-cycling groups. The one that gets me is “cyclists don’t pay for the roads”… This response is ill-considered on so many levels.

    Keep in mind that cyclists often behave in exactly the same way as motorists when pedestrians are ambling against the rules on shared/bike paths.

  2. The whole ‘cyclist don’t pay for roads’ is completely stupid argument.

    Not only are roads paid for from taxpayer money (including those who don’t drive – like kids buying sweets with GST attached) most cyclists are also drivers and therefore pay car registration.

    I do have some sympathy though regarding the share bike/pedestrian pathway. I often see pedestrians wandering down bike only paths at UQ. I try restrain myself from yelling though…

  3. I have to say I’ve recently become increasingly frustrated with cyclists. I drive a car (so do pay for our roads, what a stupid argument that is!) and also cycle on the roads, often with three children accompanying me. My husband cycles a lot more than I do. Because we cycle, I am super aware and cautious when driving near cyclists, giving them space and making sure never to cut them off etc. My recent problems arise because I live in Sandgate, which is full of road cyclists, usually in groups, and in great numbers on the weekend. I have no problem with waiting to pass in a safe area even when they are taking up the entire lane, but what I absolutely hate is the complete absence of using a hand to indicate their turning. In failing to indicate they’re far more likely to get themselves injured and it creates a lot of frustration on my behalf. The number of times I’ve waited patiently giving way to a cyclist only to have them turn off before reaching me, I can not count.

    1. Hey Sally – cheers for commenting. Actually I don’t necessarily disagree with you – there are many idiot cyclists out there, just as there are idiot drivers and I’ve often been taken by surprise myself.

      My main point was actually criticising the journalist writing the article and framing the issues between cyclists and drivers as a ‘war’. It’s a standpoint that can only result in people being injured.

      Though – I disagree with your quip inferring that only drivers pay for roads. Cyclists do as well – many cyclists also drive cars, and taxes pay for roads. Many people who don’t drive pay for roads. However, I’ll concede that wasn’t the thrust of your argument.

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