Archive for the 'Bike Blitz' Category

Bike blitz and hissy fits.

So cycling has returned to the news this week, with another Bike Blitz underway. Victoria Police have announced another campaign against ‘rogue’ cyclists, with “Victoria Police planning to have a quiet chat with 30,000 cyclists about road safety during October.” Apparently the police have decided that October is time to head out on the streets and hunt down those ‘rogue’ cyclists, because the weather is getting nicer and more people are out on the roads. In this video the Victorian Police discuss what they are searching for when it comes to ‘rogue’ cyclists. It could be anything from not wearing a helmet or lights, but I get a sneaky suspicion that they will be out targeting fixie riders with no brakes. Perhaps they will also be targeting recumbent cyclists, as they are the true ‘rogues’ of the cycling world.

In other cycling related media news, comedian Magda Szubanski went on a tirade against cyclists on ‘comedy’ show Good News Week this week. Good News Week is an example of how something terrible can remain on television for an extended period of time, despite logic and sense. In fact, that describes much of television, especially ‘variety’ and ‘comedy’ shows. GNW is hosted by the forever terrible and particularly unfunny Paul McDermott, who was once bearable as one third of the Doug Anthony All-Stars. Somehow he managed to get his own show, and has managed to stay on air for more than one season. During this weeks show, Ms Szubanski took aim at ‘lycra-clad cyclists on Beach Road’ for being in her way. She also had a go at cyclists who track stand at the lights, both of which I tend to agree with, although watching someone trying to trackstand is definitely funnier than listening to Paul McDermott. Anyway, things got serious when Magda suggested opening car doors on cyclists because they pissed her off. Now, only a matter of weeks ago Ms Szubanski was the butt of a joke by inept sensationalist ‘journalist’ and one time TV host Kyle Sandilands who suggested she should should be put “in a concentration camp and you watch the weight fall, like she could be skinny.” The backlash was typically uproarious, as everyone got in on the anti-Semitic defense. Sandilands is well known for being an arsehole, and Szubanski is well known for being funny, but to see the two personalities merge with tasteless comments regarding violent, antisocial behavior is quite hilarious. Of course there has been a backlash against Szubanski, who responded:

“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.”

Well, if anyone out there wasn’t sure that there was a certain level of animosity between motorists and cyclists, then they will now after Szubanski’s rant. Funnily, it seems that anybody accused of inciting violence against any social, racial or minority group now has the excuse of providing a public service announcement to fall back on. I think Sandilands could take a leaf out of Szubanski’s book when it comes time to apologise. “I’m sorry for suggesting you should be placed in a concentration camp, but I was just trying to raise awareness of genocide.”

Anyway, here is the video for you to enjoy.

Until next time, ride safe, and watch out for comedians opening their doors on you.

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Bike stacks hurt.

Last week I had the misfortune of having my first bad bike stack. I’ve had some minor crashes in the past; running into the side of a car that failed to indicate, running into the back of a pedestrian who failed to look before stepping out into those “safe” Copenhagen-style bike lanes, but this was my first major oops-fall-down-scraping-your-helmet-on-the bitumen accident. I must say that it wasn’t much fun either. Now I realise that everyone who rides a bike has fallen off at some point, and that nobody really needs to hear another tale of woe, but seeing as this is my blog, I will continue with my story.

It began as any other day, cycling into the city, then onwards to my place of work. The day way clear and fine. The sun was shining. I had made it to the crossroads where I had managed to photograph the evasive RoboCop Cyclist, and before I knew it, I was heading head first towards the bitumen. I could feel my helmet sliding along the road, and then I came to a stop. Picking myself up, I realised that I had had an accident. Damn it. I suppose I was a little out of it. Picking up my bike I made my way to the footpath with the help of a couple of friendly cyclists who stopped to assist me. Looking at my bike and noticing the buckled front wheel was when I actually became annoyed that I had stacked. Until then it seemed like some kind of wonky surrealist hallucination, but seeing my mangled bike brought me back to reality. Of course after that I noticed my mangled hand. By this time a few nice old ladies had come to my assistance, offering band-aids and antiseptic wipes from their hand bags. This was only minutes since the accident had happened, and I was still foggy headed. I checked my helmet, expecting massive gouges from the road surface, but there was only a minor scratch. If I hadn’t been wearing a hemet, I though, my head would be scraped along Swanston St, and there was no way I could have walked away from the scene.

I sat in front of the great old church on the corner. sorting myself out, mopping up the blood. I figured that it might be best if I went home instead of to work. So I made the appropriate calls, and finally noticed the time. The date was the 9th of the 9th 2009, and by my calculations my accident happened at 9:09! 09/09/09 at 9:09am! Can you believe that? Well, do, because that’s what happened. Somehow the universe had managed to gang up on me, and tilt the earth so only I would lose my balance. That’s what I figure happened, anyway. It’s funny, though, because the other times I have had an incident, I have been able to learn a lesson, adjust my cycling habits and move on, a little bit wiser. This time however, the only thing I have been able to learn is that falling off your bike really hurts, and that skin grows back pretty quickly. Perhaps I can also learn that on days when the numerals in the date are all the same, catch the train.

In other cycling news this week, it seems that there has been another famous bike blitz, this time focusing on cyclists who illegally ride though parks. 100 cyclists have been hit with $250 fine for cycling in parks where bikes are banned. Oh well, I say. To me it’s the same as riding on the footpath, unless it’s a shared path, stick to the road. As usual, whenever the newspaper publishes stories about cycling, a massive debate ensues, usually between motorists and cyclists. This time the battle is being waged between pedestrians and cyclists, each side claiming that they are being hard done by. Give it up, guys. Don’t you realise it is just a ruse by the motorists trying to divide and conquer the non-motorists! Please! When cyclists and pedestrians can no longer commute because they are too busy pulling each others hair out, the motorists have surely won. Don’t let it come to that.

Till next time, ride safe, and wear a helmet!

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.

Bike Blotz on a Friday night

OK, so I may have sounded flippant when describing the amount of policing of the recent cycling ‘Blitz’ on Melbourne’s streets during the week. I saw a total of 6 police during my morning and evening commutes to and from work, so to me there didn’t seem to be heaps going on towards it. Jump to Friday night, when I have actually left the house and landed in the ‘big smoke’ for an evening of square dancing and virgin mojitos. Now, for some inexplicable reason, well it is actually quite explicable, just a tad uninteresting, I had left my bike in the city on the way home from work so had to catch the tram back in to meet my bike and my friends. Well, my bike at least.

Catching the tram in the evening can be a very surreal experience, especially when one is not used to bright lights, loud talking, fresh faced kids ready to party, and homeless dudes. I was lucky enough to have a pair of fresh faced kids ready to party come and sit next to me. I thought I was pretty cool, sitting there, holding my bike helmet staring off into the not too distant future, when these two cool kids came and sat next to me. It became apparent that one was way cooler than the other, and it took great strength to not just obviously listen in on their conversation. So I continued my vague stare into space, while my ears were trained on their very interesting dialogue. It went a little something like this….

Cooler Kid: So Jonno is going to cull the guestlist at *some club*… do you think I will get kicked off it?
Not As Cool Kid: How would I know?
Cooler Kid: Well, I don’t go there very often, but when I do I always bring a crowd with me.
Not As Cool Kid: I guess you’ll be OK then.
Cooler Kid: Yeah.

guypants

And it went on like this for a long time. It seems that the cooler guy is on the guestlist at every cool club in town, and is probably the coolest guy in Melbourne, if not Australia. The other guy was going along with it, but was bummed about not going out on a date with some girl he met. Perhaps this isn’t very interesting, but during the journey I realised that I had left my bike lights at home by accident. How annoying. Now, cycling at night with no lights in not one of my favorite things to do, but I can usually manage if required to. This is where the bike ‘Blitz’ comes back into it. There were police on every corner. I went to collect my bike, and police on horseback rode by. I met my friends and we went to ride to get a coffee, and there were dozens of police out there policing. It was incredible. It may have a little to do with late-night-alcohol-fuelled-violence but this was unprecedented.

After a few hours square dancing, it was time to call it a night. I collected my bicycle and prepared to ride home, lightless in the early hours of the morning, but there were still cops everywhere! They probably had other things on their minds, like violent assaults and vomiting teenagers, but I decided not to risk it and walked a few blocks on the footpath. Soon enough there were no longer any police around, so I jumped on my bike and rode on into the night, dodging drunkards on the street hailing cabs as they puked.