Monthly Archives: August 2013

A cyclist’s lament part 2: Red light runners

As Family Guy’s Peter Griffin might say, it really grinds my gears. No, I’m not talking about road grime in my bike chain. I’m talking about cyclists who ride through red lights. I don’t understand why some bike riders believe that road rules don’t apply to them. We’re on the road, we want to be respected by car drivers, so we have to abide by the rules. Simple. I can’t believe that cyclists can be in such a hurry to get somewhere that they can’t stop for a minute or so at a red light. Why wouldn’t you? Use the time for a rest, have a look around at your surroundings, fiddle with your brake levers, relax for a moment from concentrating on the road and have a daydream. It’s not that hard.

I used to run the occasional red light. But I don’t anymore after getting knocked off my bike in Sydney by a car when going through one. While it sounds bad, I actually count myself extremely lucky as it was a small car that hit me and it wasn’t going very fast. I escaped with just a scratch on my ankle. In fact I did more damage to the car than it did to me. But the accident was my fault and I had to pay for the damage. It was an expensive lesson.

Ever since then I’ve always stopped at red lights when out riding. Even when it’s obvious there’s no traffic around. While obeying road rules may not convince every driver that cyclists have a right to be on the roads, at least by doing so it gives them less opportunity to whinge about us. And that’s what makes me cross when another cyclist peddles past me at a red light. They’re giving drivers a reason to complain and to tar us all as irresponsible road users who shouldn’t be allowed on the road.

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Sherbrooke Forest

I’m slowly ticking off walks in the Dandenong Ranges. Fringing Melbourne’s outer eastern suburbs, the Dandenongs are a nice range of forested hills dotted with pretty towns and criss-crossed by a network of trails.

The other weekend I went for a look at the Sherbrooke area. It’s a little patch of tall forest, creeks and gullies filled with tree ferns. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the scenery other than it’s just a nice place to be out and about in.

It’s a very family friendly spot. The car park area is at Grants Picnic Ground where there’s a café and gift shop and a feeding area for parrots and cockatoos. It’s extremely popular with tourists and kids. And the cockatoos seem to appreciate the free feed.

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Anyway, this day I decided on doing a loop walk that was a reasonably easy two hour wander, linking up a number of tracks. The tracks went from being narrow and muddy to broad and gravelled. One of the most impressive things about the walk are the Mountain Ash trees that are high and grow perfectly straight. They’re as if ships’ masts have been stuck in the ground. And for that reason they were cut down by early settlers for masts, railways, piers and bridges.

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A ferny gully

A ferny gully

I did a loop walk that started with the Lyrebird Walk, then Hall Track, Foden Track, Paddy Track, Welch Track, and finally Coles Ridge Track back to the car and carpark. That’s a lot of tracks for not much distance. Paddy Track is interesting in that, in the direction I took it, is a long, steep descent into a gully. The climb up out wasn’t too bad. Not as steep.

Anyway, there’s not really a lot more to say about this walk, other than it was a nice couple of hours out. I drove home a less direct way and passed a café that looked quite cute and that I’m looking forward to trying the next time I’m in the area.

A cyclist’s lament part one: car doors

I nearly got doored the other day. It’s probably the closest I’ve come to being knocked off my bike by a careless car driver throwing open their door since I moved to Melbourne nearly three years ago.

There I was, happily pedalling my merry way home on Friday afternoon, thankful for the end of another working week. The next moment my heart was pounding at the close call and I was left seething at the selfishness of drivers who don’t check for cyclists before opening their doors.

This particular Friday I had decided to change my usual route home for something different. I also wanted to see if I could find a café that had been getting some good reviews with the wishful thought that I might try it out some time. (Wishful because in Melbourne, as soon as a café or restaurant gets a good review in the local papers, you’ve got bugger all chance of getting in because everyone else decides to go. But that’s a rant for another post.)

Anyway, I was pedalling along, not particularly fast, looking at the park on my left, thinking of the café I was looking for when suddenly, when I was alongside a car parked on the side of the road, its driver’s door was suddenly flung open. It was the only car parked along this stretch of the road in front of the Alfred Hospital. I got such a shock I only had time to gasp and breathe “ffffuuuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkkkk”. Thankfully I was far enough away from the car that it didn’t get me.

I only caught a glimpse of the driver as I passed. She looked shocked. Obviously she didn’t look behind her before opening her door. All I could do was look back at her and shake my head.

I’m usually hyper-aware when I’m riding my bike in the city. If I’m passing a line of parked cars I always slow down and look inside the cars ahead of me to check if there’s a driver inside who might open their door. But this afternoon I just didn’t notice this one car parked outside the hospital.

But really, just as riders should be careful riding in traffic, drivers should also be aware of bike riders and always check behind them before opening their door. I’m a car driver and I do. It only takes a second. And if it means they avoid knocking over a bike rider, it saves the cyclist, and themselves, from all sorts of grief.

This will be the first in a potentially long series of rants about the treatment of bike riders on the roads.