We roadies do struggle to understand bicycle transit

For twenty years I did my bicycle commuting more of less as I did my racing, on the same bike, in the same clothes, on the road, pushing hard. It was a hero act to an extent: "It looks like it’s Fleming, he’s broken away. What a move! They won’t catch him from here. He takes the stage!" That’s Phil Liggett’s voice I’m hearing as the helicopter follows me over the one hill between home and my office. When asked, I would understate the time trips would take me, tell people it’s easy and to just do what I do, then secretly take pride in the fact that nobody dared. This is the roadie mentality. It is why our type should never have represented cyclists’ concerns to those designing road infrastructure.

Phil Liggett humouring Lynette Chiang from Bike Friday—Lynette, no-one believes he rides a Bike Friday 😉

My nation’s potential masses of bicycle commuters are all still driving to work, looking at that narrow door zone they would be expected to ride in, if they made the switch. They don’t care that I have the legs to take a lane when the road narrows. They’re not impressed that I can do 70km p/h in a car lane, down hill, at night, in the wet. After 20 years of riding like that, frankly, I’m not impressed either. It’s suicidal.

Me ol’ buddy Mikael, showing Americans how to turn left from the right, in Copenhagen. It’s safer, but slower.

But it has taken a long time for me to realize my road racing background does not make me an expert in mass bicycle transit. I’m still no expert, and am not sure it’s my calling to ever become one. What I would say though, is my background uniquely places me to represent the speedster’s point of view when conflicts arise between fast and slow cyclists on narrow bike paths. Loathed by drivers for not getting off the road and into the blue lane, and loathed by city dwellers for ruining Sesame Street for them and their hand puppet children, the roadie commuter (once the only commuter who cycled) is left out in the cold. He/she is most insulted in places like Copenhagen, where cyclists must use bike paths where bike paths have been provided, and must turn left using what they call a "box turn" (like the old hook turn cars made in Melbourne).

Left: Sydney cyclists poo pooing the tricycle lane. Right: Slow cyclists, come here, I wanna give you a hug. 

The speedster, let’s try to appreciate, is likely to be riding from further away. Stop them from cycling, and they will more likely fill city streets with vehicular through-traffic, than suffer the indignity of waiting for trains. The speedster should be encouraged, and of course given what some would call car space to ride on. Bike lanes are too narrow for fast riders and slow ones. That’s my little rant. 

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Slow cycling

    I agree with you Steven, that fast and slow cyclists have different needs, and, falling into the latter category, I would not like to share cycle lanes with speedster cyclists unless the cycle lanes were wide enough to have a fast and slow lane. I have seen some pretty spectacular speedsters taking off down Glebe Road from Admastown lights, well ahead of the cars. They would not need their own lane, until the next uphill perhaps, and then only for a short time.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Separate bicycle lanes.

    If the need for speed exists then there are many places that one can go, shared tracks, cycleways and Glebe road are not any of them. There are too many factors to take into consideration when you get your head down, tail up and going for broke, many people using the roads are not 100% concentrating nor 100% fit to drive or ride. You don’t have to wrap yourself in cotton wool but you do need to take care and be aware, I enjoy the next days sunrise and ride.

    • Steven says:

      Re: Separate bicycle lanes.

      Hi, thanks for making that point. To explain, I have thinking about high speed bicycle routes into and through cities, to extend the reach of urban cycle commuting. Without such routes, people living further out will just drive in and continue to clog the city with cars. Two possible ways forward: remove the cars overnight, and give fast riders and velomobile “pilots” the whole of the road; or second, build something like this http://www.velo-city.ca/ Agreed, there would be accidents if I had my way. But there are accidents now, plus poor health, plus pollution, plus the cost of running cars, plus depleting energy reserves. Which is worse?

    • Steven says:

      Re: Separate bicycle lanes.

      Hi, thanks for making that point. To explain, I have thinking about high speed bicycle routes into and through cities, to extend the reach of urban cycle commuting. Without such routes, people living further out will just drive in and continue to clog the city with cars. Two possible ways forward: remove the cars overnight, and give fast riders and velomobile “pilots” the whole of the road; or second, build something like this http://www.velo-city.ca/ Agreed, there would be accidents if I had my way. But there are accidents now, plus poor health, plus pollution, plus the cost of running cars, plus depleting energy reserves. Which is worse?

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