My name is Scott Collie, and I’m a cyclist. Not a newbie, nor a reluctant one like Alborz.
I’m a card-carrying member of the two-wheeled fraternity, and proud of it.
There are a few cycling tropes that need to be tackled before this goes any further.
First up, my bike isn’t quite Tour de France spec, but it wasn’t cheap – it’s gloss red and made of carbon, with carbon wheels, and digital Shimano gears.
In the car world it equates to something like a Porsche 911. Not as expensive as a proper super bike, but it’s still quick and more usable, affordable, and tasteful than the alternative.
Secondly, there’s a bit of lycra in my cupboard. I don’t wear it for fun, but having some padding in your pants when you’re riding a long way on a skimpy saddle isn’t a nicety, it’s a necessity.
Finally, I don’t pay registration for my bike, but I ride on the road. The arguments for cyclist registration are flimsy at best, even ignoring the logistical nightmare that would be maintaining an effective bike database.
Arguing cyclists should pay like motorised vehicles to use the road is ridiculous when you consider their relative impact on that infrastructure, the environment, and traffic flow.
And before the bike path brigade gets up in arms, my local shared bike trails are narrow and lined with pedestrians.
The speed differential between a cyclist flying along a path at north of 35km/h and a distracted mum ambling with a pram is often greater than the differential between cars and pushbikes on the 50km/h and 60km/h roads urban cyclists frequent, and there’s less space for when things go wrong.
I digress. It recently came to my attention that some people are going around advising new cyclists to be all the time assertive, and take up as much space as possible to force drivers around. That’s bad advice.
No clever cyclist will deliberately slow traffic, nor will they take up space unnecessarily, which is why most sit in the left lane and mind their own business unless circumstances demand.
But anyone who’s ridden on the road will know there are times where being small doesn’t work, because when you give some motorists an inch they take a mile.
If there’s an aggressive driver behind me and only just enough space for them to scrape past, it’s safer for everyone if I hold my ground. Slightly slowing traffic to save yourself from being sideswiped is not something to be ashamed of.
You’re less likely to get smeared across the tarmac by a dual-cab ute, that ute is less likely to squeeze up against a car running alongside it in the next lane, and the trail of texting, snoozing, distracted drivers behind the ute are less likely to try and follow suit.
I’m 25, and have been riding on the road for about 10 years. In that entire time on quiet country roads, busy city streets, and regular suburban avenues the longest a car has been forced to sit behind me wouldn’t be more than about 20 seconds.
I don’t care who you are, you can afford 20 seconds when the alternative is putting someone’s life at risk. To any new cyclist feeling guilty about making a motorist’s journey infinitesimally longer, the simple advice is don’t. Your life is worth more than that.
Regardless, in peak hour the bikes usually scythe past pushy tailgaters at the traffic lights, and it’s rare the same car overtakes you again. Traffic is far worse for them than it is for you, after all.
The upshot of all this? Being a good cyclist makes you a better driver.
Being able to identify situations where it’s sensible to put your ego aside and shrink into the background is a valuable skill on the roads, and it’s one we often forget ensconced in our giant suits of automotive armour.
By the same token, being able to move decisively to prevent a dangerous situation – even if it means the aggressive driver behind you needs to wait 15 seconds – is useful on two wheels or four.
Having the awareness to properly know what’s happening around you is never a bad thing, either. I’m always more attuned to what’s happening in the car after a ride, because my mindset is one of vulnerability.
We could all be a bit more aware of our mortality on the roads sometimes.
There’s also the fact you’re part of a community on the bike. Sounds like some hippy rubbish, but everyone is welcome on two wheels.
COVID-19 means there are a lot of new cyclists on the road at the moment. They’re the ones on creaky bikes with the saddles set too low, sitting in strange parts of their lane and labouring up hills.
To be honest, they’re a bit annoying. Losing your rhythm after being cut off by a middle-aged banker who’s decided he’s a cyclist because the local golf club is closed… well, it’s a pain in the arse.
But in my experience, there’s been no aggression towards these newbies. I have, however, seen seasoned riders offering friendly advice at traffic lights, and watched fit regulars tow hapless, panting beginners through howling headwinds.
You would have to be insane to argue becoming part of a welcoming, friendly community is worthy of shame.
The pandemic peleton will start noticing the practical benefits soon.
Once you arrive at your destination, there’s no need to worry about finding a parking spot (let alone paying for that space) on a bike.
I won’t lock my bike up on a lamp post, but plenty of people do – and I’ve never been to an office that doesn’t have space for my two-wheeled baby.
Just wait until your partner notices your pumped-up calves and rapidly-shrinking waistline, too. Men and women might be very different, but both love someone who looks after themselves. Don’t let the dad bod squad tell you otherwise.
None of this is to say cyclists are above reproach. Aggressive behaviour and running lights isn’t welcome on the roads, whether it’s from someone on two wheels or four.
I know the road rules. My blood boils when inconsiderate cyclists ride four-wide along Beach Rd in Melbourne, spilling into the right-hand lane.
There’s no place for road rage, either. I’m not here to be the arbiter or right and wrong, but regardless of who started it the occasional videos of cyclists whacking mirrors or abusing drivers are a bad look.
But in the same way I know the motorist who almost hit you doesn’t represent all drivers, those people don’t represent the wider cycling community.
You can complain about the inconsiderate riders out there all you want, but make sure your glasshouse walls are reinforced before you start slinging stones.
I guess you can consider this an invitation. Welcome to the club.
If you need some lycra check out Pedla. It’s Australian, and there’s a strong community of cyclists on the brand’s social media channels who’ll welcome you with open, sweaty arms. It isn’t cheap, but I bet a you a garage full of supercars at least one new cyclist can afford it.
Lose the ego and cycling will make you a fitter, happier, more conscientious driver. Where’s the shame in that?