I'd like to think I'm a simple person who enjoys the simple pleasures in life - one of which is riding my bike every weekend.
It's come to pass that while cycling continues to enjoy an amazing
growth spurt, my recent on-road experiences tell me it still struggles
for acceptance among the masses.
What am I talking about? Let me explain.
There's nothing that gives me more excitement than to link up with my
regular riding buddies for the weekly trek through the suburbs of Sydney
- my home city.
I generally clock up around 85km per day,
door-to-door. The route takes in the parameters of the Sutherland Shire,
an area known for its glorious beaches, estuaries and sporting culture.
In more recent times "The Shire" has gained a reputation for possessing
a somewhat insular outlook, and that was never better illustrated as a
result of the 2005 Cronulla riots which made international headlines.
But also troubling is the apparent disregard by some in the area for those who enjoy an (very) early morning ride.
Some describe them as "red-necks", but I prefer to use the current Australian slang, bogans.
You know who they are -- those stereotypes who stick their heads out of
older model Commodores (usually) and hurl abusive language to us
warriors wearing lycra and whose main aim is to simply enjoy life,
minding our own business and pushing a two-wheeled machine in the quiet
hours of the day.
So there we were on Good Friday, copping a
mouthful from a bloke who had more fingers than teeth. The b, f and
c-words were dripping from his re-arranged mouth.
In fact, from
my experiences, it seems we get the abuse every time we enter The Shire
and from what I can tell, that sort of behaviour doesn't regularly exist
in any other part of Sydney -- or so I thought.
It prompted me to make a call to Twitter and ask my fellow roadies: "is this behaviour exclusive to Sydney? Need assurance?"
Much to my surprise I was inundated with responses from cyclists from all over the country.
Take some of these comments for example:
- "Brisbane has got to be the worst place for abuse. Cop it pretty much every ride." Declan Kilkenny.
- "Melbourne's eastern suburbs is full of the same, but mainly
swerving from BMW owners in their shiny 4WD's is the bigger problem."
- "I got yelled at as well today. Always a P plate on the offending vehicle." A Rod
- "Rosebud Mornington Peninsula worst! Perfect storm of bogan meets geriatric meets badly designed cycle lanes!" Sven
- "Nope, not exclusive (to the Shire). I get yelled at all the time
while dodging broken glass those types were no doubt responsible for."
- "Just think the more expensive the fuel gets the less you will see of the morons, total reversal." Darryl Noonan
- "Come down to Canberra and ride during Summernats. Abuse is the
least of your problems. Fireworks, cans, other objects thrown." Martin
- "Also get that in Perth during morning rides. Surprisingly, don't
get that during evening/nite rides. Bogans 2 drunk to drive?" Dean A
- "I like to hurl abuse at other cyclists while I ride Mike. Just keeping in touch with my roots as a bogan Aussie!" Greg C
Now, this is just a small sample. I got many, many more tweets from
riders expressing similar experiences. So how do we stop the abuse?
For now I can only scratch my head in confusion as I don't have a
definitive answer, but I'd say an educational process for those who have
never ridden a bike may be a good start.
After all we are
constantly encouraged to share the roads, but if verbal attacks are an
everyday part of riding a bike, then maybe there's still a long way to
For daily rapid-fire commentary in 140 characters you can follow Mike on Twitter.