New season, new gripes.

It’s the third day of spring in Melbourne. Mother Nature has rewarded us with three days of glorious weather, which is quite unusual in Melbourne in particular, because spring will usually lull you into a false sense of security and then pelt hail on your head as you commute home in a singlet and stubbies. Last week, to prove to us that it was still winter, we had torrential rain and some crazy winds, something like 100km/h! Oh you crazy Mother, Nature.  Well, so far so good with the spring weather. This morning it was an unheard of 16ºC at 8am! There was glorious sunshine and no need to wear longsleeves for the first time in months. Ideal conditions for commuting to work by bicycle I hear you mutter. And yes, it has been. And it has also been a nightmare on the roads! With the new season comes all of the old season cyclists out of the warm and cosy closets for the first time since before winter. Bikes that have been sitting in the garage since July have been pulled out of retirement faster than you can say Lance Armstrong, and judging by the squeaks and clunks being emitted by these machines, they haven’t had much TLC over the winter break. The riders themselves haven’t had much TLC either, it seems. Getting back on the roads after a substantial break can be daunting, and I would think that starting the season by heading straight into peak hour cycling may not be the best idea. Given the tentative nature of many of the cyclists I have been stuck behind over the last few days, I’d say most of them have just dragged out the old bike, without so much as a touch of Heavy Lube for the chain, and charged off into the carbon monoxide filled cloud of peak hour mayhem without so much as a thought for Road Readiness.

I realise that this sounds like a big old fashioned whinge and I suppose it is, but in my humble and not very educated opinion, I would recommend a few weekend rides to become acclimatised to cycling in traffic once again before heading out in peak hour after several months away from the saddle. Countless times in the last few days I have had to come to a complete stop behind someone who was too uncertain whether to go around the car; whether they would fit through that gap; whether they should give way, etc. I know that as a cyclist you are at risk of injury and even death while out on the roads, but being a tentative cyclist is as dangerous as being a tentative motorist. Ringing your bell at a car that is 20 meters ahead of you to alert them of your approach is likely to be as effective as cleaning your house with a toothbrush, and if you feel the need to be so safety conscious that you have to ring your bell every five seconds, then at least have the common courtesy to stop at a red light!

Speaking of red lights, there is another Bike Blitz going on at the moment. I was alerted by a friend to this press release by the local constabulary, which details their current program to target cyclists who disobey the road rules. Funnily, before being alerted to this campaign, I had noticed an increase of police standing by the side of the road, especially along Princes Bridge and the start of St Kilda Rd. Funnier still, another cyclist and I pulled to a stop a red light directly next to a couple of police who were studying cycles and cyclists intently. Even more hilarious was the fact that while we were stopped at the red light, a car tore straight through it without even so much as slowing. The police didn’t seem to care whatsoever. Perhaps instead of focusing on one particular aspect of road safety, the entire spectrum should be covered holistically. And if police do wish to target cycle safety, as they claim in the press release, then I will happily point out several ‘black spots’ where pedestrians daily flaunt the laws forcing cyclists to backpedal, so to speak, in order not to hit them or become road kill themselves.

End of rant.

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