• Why can't we all get along on the roads? (Getty) (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
If there is one thing that frustrates me as a cyclist is the suggestion that because there is available infrastructure I must use it. Here's why I probably won't.
Cycling Central
13 Nov 2015 - 8:04 AM  UPDATED 13 Nov 2015 - 9:45 AM

In the past week there have been two well publicised incidents on our roads which generated lots of conversation. One took a life and the other involved a former Prime Minister. 

What struck me in the news reports of the first fatal incident was this - that serious cyclists somehow have a first responsibility to use nearby infrastructure rather than the road.

John Fidge offered that view.

“The death of a cyclist on Sunday was one of those who chose to ride on the road, only a few metres from a bike path. It begs the question of why a cyclist would avoid a safe, tranquil ride for the dangerous, turbulent, 100kph roadside. If the bike riders have no good reason for avoiding the bike paths, then local laws need to be passed to allow bike riders to be fined for using the road instead of the bike path."

There there was the other in which Daniel Ferri said:

"It is infuriating. If cyclists rode single file, cars could pass safely. But since they don't, cyclists render the road unusable for others. Cyclists, of which I am one, deserve to use the road. Motorists must pass them safely, but cyclists must also put courtesy for other road users above their desire to chat with their lycra-clad mates."

Here's the reality of what we do and why, particularly if we are riding in a bunch. Much of the infrastructure built today is often unsuitable for any serious cyclist, doubly so for a bunch travelling easily at 45kph.

Even if we're travelling solo and reasonably fit we'd be running at 30kph. Speeds also easily attainable by anyone riding a recumbent. 

Then there is the issue of kids, dog walkers, strollers and joggers often using and sharing that infrastructure in areas of density...useless for sustained and effective training rides and something that only brings additional conflict with a different subset of users.

Then there is the single-file bunch riding thing.

Why do we ride two abreast? Its not just about talking to our mates, it's safety in numbers and moving collectively like a vehicle.

When a motorist passes a bunch, they should view us as they do a slower moving vehicle, which does similarly take the width of a complete lane.

We take the lane because it forces you to pass just as you would a slower moving vehicle - wait for the oncoming traffic to clear, swing around and drive past - easy-peasy, and something you've done hundreds of times without even thinking.

If we do ride single file, you will often pass much closer, forcing us off a safe line and onto a soft shoulder. Dicey with only 25mm width of rubber on the road. 

Additionally, a single file of even a dozen fast moving riders will take longer for a you to pass. Heightening the potential danger for both of us.

And guess what happens even if a hard shoulder is available? We then have the pleasure of riding through the detritus of everyone's daily motoring excursions. 

Broken glass, chunks of metal etc all end up there. What does that mean for us? Punctures and riding over objects you can't avoid for starters. Safe? Of course not.

And that's why its often safer for us to ride in the lane proper, singly or as a group.

Kind regards, Phil.