Magda Szubanski's skit on Good News Week was a sour note to what should have been a positive week for Aussie cycling, writes Philip Gomes.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

While many of us were distracted by the cycling exploits at the world
championships, one of Australia's most lovable character actors went
about destroying any possible goodwill Cadel Evans' eventual victory
may have generated amongst the general public for the sport.

The
story is this. Mix low brow comedy with a bunch of clapped out
celebrities. Add grasping attempts to make fun of some of the most
defenseless users of our public roads system, shake vigorously and you
have the toxic brew stirred up by Magda Szubanski on this weekends Good News Week. Here's a taste.




Critically, the skit wasn't funny, in fact the entire show is a bore with far too much comedic overreach; the talent pushing toward boundaries they don't have
the talent to push.

But there's no accounting for taste, many
people like the show, so it can be influential - naturally, cyclists
reacted with anger toward Szubanski and the show.

Here's a sample from Ozsoapbox:
"As someone who uses a bicycle to get around frequently I'm appalled
that this made it to air. I can take a lycra joke as much as the next
person and agree that the 'human condom' look is ridiculous. To suggest
people run over cyclists and door them over it though... seriously?"

And the excellent Cycling Tips
blog: "Magda's jokes start going down the toilet when her and Julia
Morris start going on about "take them out with your car!" and "open
your door on them!". I know they think they're being funny, but we can
all agree that these type of comments in front of millions of viewers
fuels the very hot fire that already exists between motorists and
cyclists."

Szubanski has now apologised, saying, "I am so sorry
that the skit on bikers has caused offence. There are so many safety
issues surrounding cyclists. Certainly motorists need to become much
more aware and considerate of cyclists on the road. My belief is that
responsible cycling is to use bike paths where possible and if it's not
possible, to be extra careful on the roads.

We all make
mistakes and the point is that hopefully we learn from them. Clearly my
joke was stupid and insensitive but perhaps it has brought to light
that there are frustrations amongst cyclists and motorists. Hopefully
some good will come of this and it will help promote useful dialogue
between the two groups where some of these frustrations can be worked
through in a productive way.

I am a bike rider from way back
and in fact have been planning to buy a new bike. As a gesture of
solidarity I have offered to participate in the National Ride to Work
Day on 14th October. Apologies again. And, yes, I will be wearing
lycra."

But it's not the tired and trite routine that angered
cyclists, they have big shoulders and they've heard it all before. They
spend their mornings training and commuting and duking it out amongst
the metal monsters every day. It's when these statements veer into
incitement that they sit up and take notice.

It's nice that
Szubanski has apologised but a specific acknowledgement of that incitement
as being beyond the pale would have been better, it wasn't just "stupid
and insensitive."

Still, Magda Szubanski's comments on the show
are a symptom, not the disease. She is herself a victim of the defining
hegemony on our roads.

We've organised our societies around
it, built our cities to accommodate it and gone to war to defend it.
Sadly, motoring makes the rules and she was playing by those rules -
speaking it's language.

The bigger question now is how to change things for the better?

As
she says, dialogue is important, that combined with education and
awareness, backed with social policies that affirm the rights of all
road users to the detriment, denigration and contempt of none, would be
a start.