Nutting out the nuttiness of bike-car relations

: the age – excerpt

Cyclists and motorists are like the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq – they share the same territory but just can’t get on. However, the schism twixt Australian cyclists and motorists is more baffling, because many of them are one and the same. Most cyclists also drive cars, many motorists also ride bikes, so just what happens mentally when a cycling motorist spits the dummy over a motoring cyclist is a challenge for any psychiatric conference…

Cyclists and motorists are like the Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq – they share the same territory but just can’t get on. However, the schism twixt Australian cyclists and motorists is more baffling, because many of them are one and the same. Most cyclists also drive cars, many motorists also ride bikes, so just what happens mentally when a cycling motorist spits the dummy over a motoring cyclist is a challenge for any psychiatric conference.

Our psychiatric conference might examine the grudge factor at play here – cyclists and motorists share the same territory, yet cyclists pay no registration fees and they carry no visible ID like a car registration plate, so the errant cyclist can pedal off with impunity. This disparity is accentuated when the motorist is sitting in a traffic jam – say, in Alexandra Parade, waiting eternally for the East-West Link to be built – and sees cyclists breezily pedalling past. Grrr. Shades of someone elbowing in to a queue ahead of you. At times like these the more educated of these log-jammed petrol-heads might mutter unkindly about Karl Drais, the 19th-century German baron who, with his chief game-keeper Otto Shillinger, is credited with inventing the first two-wheeler, a device nicknamed the dandy-horse and patented in January 1818. This was at least 70 years before first car appeared, so the baron would never have envisaged the 21st-century conflict between horsepower and dandy-horse.

Back to our conference. While nutting out the nuttiness of bike-car relations, the shrinks should surely take note of the strange configurations that road authorities provide for the warring tribes…

Fact is, any collection of shrinks would go nuts trying to fathom the leapfrogging mindsets as pedestrian switches to motorist to cyclist to pedestrian again. I twigged to the inherent paradox of bicycle safety in the 1980s, after interviewing cycling legend Sir Hubert Opperman at his home in Wantirna. I recall his wife, Lady Oppy, showing me the indoor cycle machine she had bought the knight after becoming concerned at his safety on the increasingly congested roads. A few years after we published that interview I read that Oppy had died. At 92, he had a heart attack while pedalling on his indoor cycling machine… (more)

This Aussie put the bike v car conundrum rather well.

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