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Go bikes!

Love riding a bike. Don’t like falling off it. Or being knocked off it…sydney traffic ain’t bike friendly. But I ride anyway. And with a 4 year old on the back I am mostly on back streets, foot-paths and through parks.  I notice in the papers lately (Sydney Morning Herald March 16th) we in Sydney are described as one of the most cycle-unfriendly cities in the world. I’m inclined to believe it. Cycling in America is fun compared to here. And you don’t need to look far to find things wrong with the United States…but I enjoy being there and find people friendly INCLUDING towards people on bikes . And they can’t hear I have an alluring aussie accent when they drive past so it cannot be my irrestible antipodean…ness, that is warming people to me.

John Pucher from Rutgers University in New Jersey reckons we need to get rid of the laws about wearing helmets and start to develop a culture of safety and where cycling is less about flash bikes and drop handle bars and more about ordinary people just getting about. Sounds good I reckon.

I have lived in Copenhagen, Ie cycle heaven. It would be a rare Dane who would not look before opening a car door to get out. Here in Sydney, people throw a huge slab of metal in front of you without a thought. And that’s it isn’t it? We are not taught to ‘THINK BIKE’…which is what we should be doing with our children and young people at school. I suspect not all Danes (though most probably) love bikes…but I also suspect they still look before opening a car door. Laws about wearing helmets seem NOT the way to go…promoting cycling does.

It would not be hard to start this stuff early. And if I had any say in the matter, I would like young people driving at an early an age as possible. Not getting licences.  That we can still do in the teens (or better still, late thirties!!). But we know it is hours on the road that protect young and new drivers. Being able to handle skids and what to do when you hit an oil slick, and really, how many times has that happened in my decades of driving? Yes I know it does happen, but not nearly as much as driving down an ordinary street with cars on it and pedestrians who might just jump out at you. I suggest lots of hours behind the wheel starting as young as possible so that when we arrive at teenagerdom, driving might not have quite the status, excitement and death-defying attraction that it does now. We have this great system in Australia where we manage to coincide leaving school, getting a driving licence and being allowed to legally drink all at about the same age. Now that was a neat piece of planning wasn’t it?

So: bikes good. Teaching our children and young people about bikes is good. Combinging this with time driving would also be good. Gee…drivers who can drive AND who look out for cyclists (in a good way)? What a dream.

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