Tim Pallas doesn’t hate cyclists. Not really.

‘”Cycling is becoming a legitimate form of transport,” Mr Pallas said.’

Well, thanks Tim Pallas for alerting us to this salient point.  The Age reports on the Victorian Government’s latest scapegoating of cyclists for the dangerous state of roads occupied in the main by overlarge, unnecessary and dangerously driven motor vehicles.

Tim Pallas is the minister that refused to contemplate installing Copenhagen lanes on St Kilda Rd. to keep cyclists safer than they had been along this busy stretch. He also regularly rails against and promotes research about the supposed heinous practices of bunch rides in the suburbs, and anything resembling a disturbance to the motoring ‘law ‘n’ order’ that he has inherited from previous incumbents. He seems to be a hangover from the Kennett years of virtually no funding for cycling, having to be shoehorned into the mindset by his leader and other members of his party.

It seems we, as cyclists, are to be hit with a big stick if we are seen to do something wrong, even if the likelihood of this is low. Cyclists kill or seriously injure very few people by colliding with them, with the exception of two recent well publicised incidents referred to in the present article. Many more cyclists are killed by motor vehicles, (including this harrowing tale) yet the penalties issued are usually nowhere near the maximum the law allows for this.  The ramping up of penalties for cyclists, including that of:

“$284 or seven days’ prison if property is damaged by a cyclist and the rider does not immediately stop and offer assistance”

could be re-interpreted by  motorists as something to use as a legal weapon against bike riders.

Consider this scenario:

A cyclist collides with a car, the blame for the collision is unclear. A verbal exchange of frustration and vituperation ensues. The rider picks up their bike, straightens the handlebars, and rides off. The car has a small dent in the bodywork. The motorist follows the cyclist, finds out where they go, and establishes their identity. They issue legal proceedings against the cyclist. The cyclist is a student, with no money and very little legal recourse. They could go to jail.

The ‘car culture’ that many transport commentators decry: the one that generates obesity and the health problems therefrom, death by impact and death by climate change and respiratory illness, is directly opposed to the idea that ‘pack’ riding by cyclists is a legitimate use of the roads. Which it is, according to Victorian Road Law. It is epitomised by Pallas’ statement regarding Copenhagen Lanes along St Kilda Rd., that :

‘”People have a right to drive their cars, and they have a right to do it without being impeded upon … for the purposes of looking after 2000 cyclists,” Pallas said . . . referring to the number of cyclists who use St Kilda Road daily’.

Do people have a right to drive their cars? It seems that The Minister for Cars, sorry, Transport thinks so. If that’s so, I have a right to ride my bike next to someone, taking up a whole lane of traffic at whatever speed I like, up to the speed limit. If it is dangerous, and here comes the controversial bit, to conform to road infrastructure designed for the control of motor traffic, and safer in my estimation to ignore it in any given single instance whilst on my bike, then I will. I do not believe in roads being designed for the sole convenience of motor traffic, as it is such an inadequate method of moving people and things around. ‘Auto Uber Alles’ should not be law, not even in this creeping form. On the water the rule ‘Steam Gives Way to Sail’ is still extant, and so it should be on land, with all intersections giving preference to pedestrians and cyclists. Then fewer people will die, from direct and indirect causes. And that’s what we all want, except for the directors (on behalf of shareholders) of automotive-related corporations, who just want it to be easy for people to make the decision to drive their shitful products. Even when they make stuff that no-one wants to buy, and they go broke.

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