The success of the Kiwi team at the World Track Cycling Championships this week has been remarkable, but this success is also over shadowed by yet another death of a cyclist.
Dr Johann Edge was killed on Thursday night riding home from work through Pakuranga, Auckland. Known as Han's to his friends, he was best-man at my good friends Joy and Vini's wedding. Han's was 36, and left behind 3 young children – the youngest only 4-months. Han's is another unfortunate statistic that did not need to happen.
Cycling is not dangerous, and neither is driving. But unskilful cycling and unskilful driving is. We can sit back and moan, and wait for ourselves, our children or our friends to become a statistic or we can take positive action to change the culture of sharing the road. So how do we do this?
* Be visible by doing your best to dress up like a Christmas tree, unfashionably out of season. One light is not enough – just in case the batteries run out, always have two, and wear bright clothing. Riding with others also helps visibly and presence on the road.
* Educate every person you know at work, and within your circle of family and friends about how to safely share the road driving, and cycling. The more people that know how to, and know the consequences of 2-seconds of impatience, the safer our roads will be. Take, and make every opportunity to educate.
* Have presence by avoiding riding in the gutter. It is safer to ride 1-metre out as cars can seen you and have to drive around you. If they come close, you then have 1-metre leeway to move to the left. If you are in the gutter, and they side swipe you, you have nowhere to go.
* Take action if someone does something inappropriate. Be it another cyclist or a driver, and educate them. Likewise, if any roads are particularly unsafe contact your local council and help come up with solutions. Be a part of the solution, and don't sit back and expect solutions to happen of out inaction. If you are driving in your car be mindful of cyclists, and if you see someone driving unsafely around cyclists take their number plate details and report it. As a driver, advocate for cyclists.
* Learn how to ride by taking cycling classes. There are techniques you can learn to make cycling with others and in traffic safer for you and for cars.
* Do not react with anger if a driver is throwing their fist at you. Think of the next cyclist they will encounter and the consequences of your actions. Instead of reacting, smile, because if they are throwing their fist at you, this means they have seen you! If their actions were dangerous take their number plate and lodge a complaint.
* Stick to the road rules and do not deviate from them. It is all too easy to skip a red light, or be influenced by others doing so. But think of those watching. You never know if a child is watching you do this from a car or from the side of the road. Likewise what if you are riding in a bunch that does this, and you reinforce it, while a 13-year old rider is also on that bunch, and then does it while riding alone, and gets hit. Think of what you are implicitly teaching those around you. I was guilty of doing this until I was driving on Auckland's Remuera road and on automatic pilot I stopped at a red light, looked to see if anything was coming and then continued through the red light in the trance of habit. Halfway across the intersection I woke up and realised I was not on my bike, but in my car! We have road rules for a reason. Don't make deviations from them otherwise it instils unsafe habits. I am damn lucky nothing happened and I was given another chance to change my habit.
We cannot blame unskilful drivers and completely put all responsibility on them to make the road safer. We also need to take responsibility to create the environment that is safe for us by taking positive action.
"The idea that you're too small or too powerless to create change is the biggest reason for inaction. And it's probably the weakest excuse ever."
- Jonathan Mead
You may not believe it is possible to change the culture of sharing the road, nor that you can do anything to make a difference, but you can. Think of Nelson Mandala, or Martin Luther King. One person can make an enormous difference. Each day, do something to make cycling safer for yourself, your friends, and your family, and slowly the culture of sharing the road will improve: one day at a time.