A no-fault divorce for drivers and cyclists

If you’re used to advocates and engineers tossing grenades at each other from opposite trenches, you might need some time in Tasmania. Okay, I’ll admit, sweet FA ever gets done here. But let’s look on the bright side: the place and the egos are sufficiently small for good will to prevail despite philosophical differences.

I don’t believe I am saying this, but the road engineer whose hands I feel are in control of my nuts every time I take to these race-track roads in my town, and who thinks kids don’t need to be able to cycle or walk to school because their parents can take turns herding them in fluro vests, is a kinda likeable bloke. We can talk without wanting to throttle each other, despite radical philosophical differences. He lives in the machine age. I live in the post-machine age. But hey, what the heck!

There is a deep philosophical divide, right across our society, between progressives like my fine blog readers and I who want to walk, ride and meet our neighbours in public, and another sector concerned with engine capacity, the widths of their garages and meeting old friends within buildings. The amicable way forward, is the transport planning equivalent of a no-fault divorce. They should have the hilltops and outer suburbs with all those massive garages. We should have the “cosier” quarters on the flatlands and nearer to the city. They should have designated arterial roads with lanes wide enough to answer their phones on. We should have the narrow backstreets, waterways and trails to wind our way slowly by bike. But this business of trying to cohabitate… all we’re doing is upsetting the kids with our fighting!

gorge jpg

It is amazing how the tone changes when my traffic engineer buddy and I talk about bike infrastructure away from his “arterials” and “connectors”, like the one marked in red on the image above. The big dope has gone and widened the carriageway with 3.3m wide lanes and a footpath too narrow for fatties. But that’s okay. He and his network of old boys are used to it being a rat run, and I can see another place I would rather ride.

With a tiny bit of left-of-field thinking, I offered the idea of a bicycling switchback cantilevered from a tree-covered cliff face and connecting with a quiet backstreet parallel to the rat-run. Note the green line in the image above. Talk this way, and engineers start smiling like separating partners when they realise 7 nights per fortnight are theirs to do whatever they like, while the other one is minding the kids.


  1. rdrf says:

    The thing is, I need to ride my bike all over the place, not just in some places which a traffic engineer/planner has decided is suitable for me.

    I didn’t actually choose to “get married” to motorists, who have come on to the scene here in the UK not so long ago. I am prepared to peacefully co-exist with them by not threatening their lives as they get about.

    When are they going to reciprocate?

  2. I’m gonna play with the metaphor a bit.

    1) Fine, seven days apart, in splendid isolation. What happens during the other week together with the obese teenage kids who can’t cross the road to the corner shop unsupervised?

    2) Divorcing motorists like this is like moving out to the garden shed at the back, just to avoid the squatter that stayed behind way beyond his welcome after the last New Year party. Phone the cops, not the family lawyer.

    3) Have we really sincerely tried therapy yet? I mean for real. Traffic engineers could do with some empathy training.

    • Steven says:

      I didn’t know it was going to be such a good metaphor! A mediation session with a particular traffic engineer I know really could be worthwhile. If he could only hear his own circular reasoning played back, and if he actually took the time to learn (something he stopped doing some time ago) he might start acting more rationally. Then I could get a reign on my abusive tendencies. If Luke in London happens to be reading, Luke: I see a business angle here for you.

  3. paulc says:

    The Dutch do it differently, they make the motor journey more inconvenient over short distances so that choosing walking or cycling becomes a no-brainer…

  4. Paul says:

    Damn arranged marriages.

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