Editorial: Cyclists cannot stay at bottom of food chain

THE volatile relationship between cyclists and motorists has again been thrust into the spotlight this week following two serious incidents in our region.

The first occurred on Monday morning in Macedon when a car struck a group of cyclists from behind, leaving one man fighting for his life and two others nursing serious injuries.

Then, just hours later, a 45-year-old Bendigo cyclist was hospitalised with arm injuries after a crash involving a car on Howard Street, Jackass Flat.

These two events highlight the dangers cyclists face every single time they don the lycra and go for a ride on road networks that are not designed with their safety at heart.

It is a jungle out there on our roads, and cyclists are at the bottom of the food chain.

With nothing more than a thin layer of plastic and some polystyrene foam for protection, they fight for survival among vehicles weighing up to 50 tonnes and capable of travelling at 100km/h.

Cyclists rely on the skill and goodwill of drivers in order to make it home in one piece, but this is not a responsibility that sits well with many motorists.

They view the road as their domain and regard bike riders as merely trespassers. No quarter is given, even when it is pleaded for through ringing bells and furious hand gestures.

Cyclists make mistakes. Sometimes they fail to give way, sometimes they don’t stick to their lane, sometimes they pedal so slowly you fear falling asleep behind the wheel.

But guess what? So, too, do motorists and whatever their sins, cyclists do not deserve to pay with their lives.

The antagonism between these two groups of road users has gone on long enough.

An average of four cyclists a year are killed in Victoria each year, with dozens of more suffering serious injuries as a result of coming into contact with motor vehicles.

In order to stop the carnage, there must be acceptance from both parties that each has a place on our roads.

Like it or not, motorists need to come to terms with the fact cyclists are not going to magically disappear.

In fact, they are only going to grow in number as governments and councils incentivise bike riding over driving in a bid to reduce congestion and improve the environment.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor