A prominent Bendigonian has issued a call to arms among cyclists after road safety measures sparked online outrage this week.
La Trobe University Bendigo head of campus Rob Stephenson reacted strongly to discussions on social media following the Greens’ proposed one-metre overtaking rule and council’s upgrade of roundabouts for the safety of cyclists.
The avid cyclist said growing animosity between bike riders and motorists threatened to spill into the life and death theatre of the road.
“There’s been a fair bit of aggro across a lot of platforms,” Mr Stephenson said.
“I think it’s a lot of noise made by a few people, which makes the problem look worse than it is.
“But all that sound and fury does make the situation worse because, the louder it gets, the more people buy into it. And there are some people out there, unfortunately, who for whatever reason have decided they hate cyclists, don’t think they should be on the road and seem to delight in close calls.”
The Strathfieldsaye man said a cycle to work day might help raise awareness about sharing the road, but also floated a more unorthodox idea.
“You could have a drive to work day, where all those people who cycle to work get in their cars,” he said. “It might convince motorists of the value of cyclists when, instead of half a dozen cars at the Townsend roundabout, they’ve got to wait behind another six cars and instead of a dozen bikes parked in the CBD there’s a dozen more cars in parking bays.”
Some of the online outrage was sparked after the City of Greater Bendigo said it would upgrade a roundabout to make them safer for cyclists.
Council said it would undertake works at the Williamson/Mollison Street roundabout and create a new roundabout on St Aidans Road which complied with the new VicRoads guidelines for cyclist safety.
The Williamson/Mollison Street upgrade will cost $28,000 while the other new roundabout and associated upgrades will cost $435,000 – both are fully funded by the federal government’s Black Spot program.
City engineering and public space manager Brett Martini said the work at Williamson/Mollison Street included the removal of the roundabout’s existing bicycle lane, an extension of the kerbing and an enlargement of the central island to reduce traffic speeds.
“Latest research has shown that it is safer for cyclists to merge with traffic at the roundabouts and to ‘take the lane’ rather than have a separate bike lane,” Mr Martini said.
“While roundabouts have traditionally been good for traffic flow and have reduced traffic accidents, they can be a risk for cyclists to use.
“Based on the research the traditional bike lanes will be removed and the roundabout island made bigger which will slow down the traffic to help make it safer for the cyclists to use.
“Cyclists will ride in the same lane as motorists to make them more visible.”
The work on the Williamson/Mollison roundabout will commence in mid-June and is expected to take three weeks to complete. The St Aidans Road project is expected to be complete by the end of the month.
Mr Stephenson said that, despite the furor online, most Bendigo cyclists and motorists were respectful of one another on the road.
“My experience is that most vehicles give you reasonable space and, in fact, coming over hills I frequently have vehicles slow down and wait to get to the top to see that it is clear before they overtake,” he said.
“Of course there are bad cyclists, there are bad drivers too, what’s needed is a bit of tolerance and respect on both sides.”