Drivers and cyclists: Riding the thin white line

11th January 2018 5:18 PM
LYCRA CLAD DIPLOMAT: Gympie driver and cyclist Ben Johnston said a better attitude by both cyclists and drivers, and respect for both sides will go a long way. LYCRA CLAD DIPLOMAT: Gympie driver and cyclist Ben Johnston said a better attitude by both cyclists and drivers, and respect for both sides will go a long way. Contributed

THE conflict between drivers and cyclists is heated and often splits opinions at dinner tables, but one Gympie man is trying his best to ride the thin white line between the two.

IT systems analyst Ben Johnston, 43, cycles three to four times a week, often up to 150km at a time, but he drives a car seven days a week, often back and forth to the Sunshine Coast.

The Gympie resident said he tries to be realistic when it comes to the drivers and cyclist debate.

"I try to stay out of it,” Mr Johnston said. "I'm a driver first, and a cyclist second by sheer number of kilometres travelled each week.

"Comments such as 'Just run them over', are immature to my thinking and do nothing to bring the two groups together.

"Drivers need to remember they're in control of a vehicle that can end the life of a cyclist/father/mother/child.

"Cyclists are not blame-free in this argument either.

"I see just as many ignorant riders, doing nothing to advance their cause.

"Cyclists should remember if they get into trouble, it's most likely a motorist will come to their aid.”

Johnston competes in Ultraman triathlons -A running, cycling and swimming event which runs for days at a time.

He said he has been fairly lucky in that most drivers are considerate.

"There's the odd clown who thinks it's funny to buzz a cyclist, but I see stupid behaviour from riders too,” Mr Johnston said.

"At most I've had close shaves, and this is usually due to drivers not being quite aware of how much 1-1.5m really is from their wing mirrors.

"Several friends have come off when clipped by vehicles as they pass.

"In all cases it involved an ambulance ride to hospital. Worst case being several severe fractures and an extended hospital stay.”

Mr Johnston said infrastructure, signage, training and awareness can always be improved but it's just a small part of the bigger issue.

"The big problem is the poor attitude of a small number of each group toward one another,” he said.

It doesn't take much, he said, a wave of thanks to a courteous driver, or riding single file when riding on a narrow road.

"Just because the road rules say "you can ride two abreast” doesn't mean you can't be courteous on narrow sections of road and "single up”.

"Because you have the right to do something means nothing if you're dead.”

Cycling is viewed as the biggest hope in reducing congestion on roads and improving health, but people have said Australia has an anti-cyclist mentality.

Johnston doesn't think that is the case.

"No, I don't think we have an anti-cyclist culture,” he said.

"Evidence is in the increased bike lanes and sheer number of bikes on the roads.

"There are pockets of the country where exposure to cycling is not as great as others, but this is more a geographic situation rather than "anti-cyclist”.”

"It's a healthy pursuit that everyone should be encouraged to participate in.

This week RACQ rejected calls for a bicycle registration scheme, saying it would cost more to administer than it raised and do little to improve roads or driver behaviour.

Mr Johnston said registration of bikes would just add more complications.

"It's absurd,” he said.

"My bikes causes no damage to the road, and I generally require no better road infrastructure than any normal driver would expect.

"Rather than talk of registering a bicycle, why not talk of reducing registration costs for drivers who own bikes?

"Before I hear 'but what about the cost of all the bike lanes', bike paths, lanes add to the liveability of an area, just like parks and playgrounds.”

Mr Johnston reiterated his point.

"A better attitude by both, and respect for both sides will go a long way,” he said.

"Drive by example, Ride by example.”

Gympie motorsport icon Paul Gannon agreed in a no-nonsense manner.

"The only thing I would have to say is that everyone needs to calm down and respect each other and share what has been provided for their use.”