Collins Street incident incites ‘us’ and ‘them’ arguments

Last Tuesday, a commuting cyclist captured a collision she had with a car door, opened by three businessmen, onto the narrow bike lane on Collins Street in Melbourne’s CBD.  As the cyclist was unable to obtain details from the person who had opened the car door, she posted the video on Youtube.

A storm of controversy followed.  The video below shows commercial news coverage of the incident, including interviews with the cyclist and Taxi passenger, the Lord Mayor of Melbourne (John Doyle) and representatives of Bicycle Network and Victoria Police.

The newspapers had a field day, with a mix of anti-cyclist, anti-motorist and more balanced articles.

The Australian’s Friday Editorial The menace of urban cyclists was possibly the most incendiary (no journalist by-line was given).  The same day, Ross Taylor, journalist with The Age also commented.  Despite the charged headline Why cyclists and drivers hate each other so much this article emphasised the need for both motorists and cyclists to be better educated in road rules and their responsibility to other road users.  The sub-heading in the hard copy newspaper reads: Instead of an us-versus-them attitude, drivers and cyclists need to be better educated. 

I am prompted to make a couple of comments.  We know that taxis often stop in traffic and passengers alight into traffic – whether such behaviour is legal or not.  In this instance, there was no attempt to pull into the kerb (it’s a no standing area anyway), the taxi just stopped and allowed motor traffic to bank up behind.  The taxi driver could have warned his passengers – he had a wing mirror and should have seen the approaching cyclist.  The Youtube video compilation of news coverage shows the large number of cyclists on Collins Street.  They are the norm, not a novel sight.

The Crikey website posted advice for cyclists on how to avoid being ‘doored’.  Crikey also reblogged the Australian editorial.

We all share the road.  Cycling Geelong aims to increase participation of the community in cycling and to improve public acceptance of cycling as a legitimate and desirable means of transport.

When an incident or collision occurs, it is easy to blame one side or the other.  There may be a clear case of error.  However, often a lack of infrastructure, or a clear understanding of road rules, has contributed.  Ross Taylor sums this up with ‘at present many drivers do not see cyclists as their equals on the road, merely as impediments.’  This belief that a motorised vehicle has somehow more legitimacy than a human-powered one needs challenging.

Every time we use our bikes for transport, there is one less car on the road, or one seat freed on our over-stretched public transport system.

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