Sunday, 6 February 2011

Amy's Ride - Why a Metre Matters

Earlier this week I was cycling down the Southern Outlet on my way to work when I came to the section, probably a couple of hundred metres long, where there is no shoulder for cyclists and we are forced to move out into the traffic and take a lane for a while.

This can sometimes be a tricky maneuver as the road shoulder ends just around a blind corner, so you have to do plenty of checking over your shoulder to make sure that you're not about to get into, and most likely lose, an argument with a car or truck over who has right of way to that lane.

I had safely negotiated this little maneuver this morning, and was about two thirds the way through the "on road" section when a car horn suddenly blared at me from right behind my shoulder. This causes an immediate adrenalin reaction as a horn like that is saying only one thing to a cyclist: "I'm about to hit you, get out of my way".  Before I even had time to react a large dark-blue, pickup truck with personalised number plates "RADHUH" went flying past me with less than 10cm to spare.  I was doing around 50km/hr an hour, and this ute was doing at least the speed limit of 80km/hr as it tried to get past all the cars in the right hand side over taking lane which weren't going fast enough for it.

I was just a stupid cyclist who was slowing him down, and the only reason I'm alive is good luck.

Overtaking a cyclist in the same lane at that speed is plain unsafe in my book.  Doing it with 10cm to spare, whilst cutting inside other traffic is both illegal and close to murder.

This isn't an isolated case.  Just the week before as I was pulling up at the traffic lights at the end of the Southern Outlet a lady went past me in her car.  She had her mobile phone against one ear (which is illegal in Tasmania) whilst rummaging through her handbag which was on the passenger seat beside her.  She didn't even know I was there as she brushed past me with half a meter to spare.

As it turned out, I ended up just in front of her at the next lights, and I had to sit there as she hung out the window and screamed at me to get off the "effing" road and let her past.  I just shook my head as there was no way I could explain she was the reason I was taking up the full lane.

Why am I telling you this?  Well, because today was Amy's Ride, a ride whose purpose is to raise awareness of the need for safety on our roads.  Sure I could tell you about the struggles and fun I had doing the 100km, I could tell you how I managed to push myself and just scrape in with an average speed of 27.0km/hr and hence finish in just under 3hrs 30 mins (a new record for me), but the truth is today for me was about showing I'm willing to put my money where my mouth is and advocate the message that a metre really does matter.

Play safe on the roads kiddies, lives are at stake.

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