Whenever a petition shows up seeking new changes to existing legislation, it’s inevitable there’ll be resistance. A really good example was the excruciatingly drawn out debate regarding same sex marriage. At the time, there were some very strong views regarding the proposed changes, but ultimately the wishes of the majority won out. And that’s a good thing. It’s how democracy works.
Which brings us to the issue of cyclists who keep riding two abreast (or wider) on our road system. It’s an issue which can best be summarised as follows…
Increasingly, motorists are asking the question; if we supposedly still live in a democracy, why is the majority no longer being listened to? When did that change? At it’s core, that seems to be the issue. The majority of people want cyclists to stop riding two abreast. But they’re not being listened to.
Of course, there would still be many of you out there who haven't yet seen the Petition for Compulsory Single File.
Perhaps there is no better example of the giant divide between cyclists and motorists than this image sent to Single File Please on a Saturday morning by a Perth resident named Lee Eilliott.
For many people this one image crystallised the issue like no other. Within an hour of it being posted it was shared on Facebook at least 15,000 times. And people went red hot with anger.
To the left of shot are two cyclists, in racing kit, riding on a shared path. And then, at the same time, a large bunch is seen spewing out from a 3m wide bike lane into a main traffic lane, preventing other road users from getting past.
Among tens of thousands of comments and shares and likes, nobody once complained about the two cyclists on the shared path. To the contrary, the thing that sent people into palpable displays of anger was the contrast those two cyclists provided when they were compared to the much larger bunch which inexplicably couldn’t confine themselves to an unusually wide bike lane.
There can be no denying the exasperation this image elicited is real and genuine. But cyclists found a way to deny it nonetheless. At first there were claims the photo was fake; that it was an elaborate forgery designed to incite anger towards cyclists when none should exist.
After that came an even greater denial. When cyclists realised our Petition for Compulsory Single File was getting bigger and bigger, that was when they started claiming the signatures on the Petition were fake too; that they were bought and paid for through Chinese software robots.
Cyclists are rather good at disinformation. Lies can figure and figures can lie, as the old saying goes. The problem cyclists face is this - nobody is listening except fellow cyclists.
Recently, a particularly high profile cycling lobbyist named Anne Savage, (the chief executive for Bicycle Queensland) said her organisation had received evidence to suggest most of the names on the Change.org petition were false.
“There are automated systems, web-bots, that can sign these types of petitions,” she said.
“Change.org has been contacted and made aware of our concerns regarding false names signing the petition. They have been contacted numerous times over the past six weeks.”
It turns out the only thing false about the Petition for Compulsory Single File are the claims being made by cyclists and nobody else.
Change.org, quite correctly, didn’t like being accused of manipulation by Chinese software robots, so they immediately conducted an investigation into the matter.
A Change.org spokesman responded to the false allegations with a statement which said its engineering team had “not seen any unusual activity” relating to the petition.
“Our team puts significant effort into ensuring the legitimacy of signatures on Change.org,” he said. “For example, our spam systems automatically detect patterns, such as multiple signatures coming in from the same IP address and any signatures that prove to be fake are removed between 28-48 hours.
“While these systems are automatic, we double-checked this particular petition with our engineering team and they confirmed that they have not seen any unusual activity.”
So why then do they do it? Why do cyclists constantly deny there's a problem? Specifically, why do they deny the number one problem is when they ride two abreast?
Well, the answer can be found in the old adage “the first step to fix a problem is to admit that there IS a problem.” Clearly, if you know your behaviour is the core issue, and they do, the easiest way to avoid a problem is to simply deny there IS one.
And that’s where it seems we, as a society, have arrived regarding the ongoing cycling problem.
Australia currently adds roughly 400,000 more cars to our road system each year. In the UK it’s over 550,000 a year. In amongst that is an explosion of middle aged cyclists riding around in large messy groups. Some people believe it started with Cadel Evan’s win in the Tour de France in 2011, others suggest it goes back to when Lance Armstrong became uber famous in the early 2000’s.
What can’t be denied is this ongoing friction is not going to go away if the current status quo is allowed to persist. Given that 99% of all cycling takes place in an urban environment, it should be abundantly clear the friction between cars and bikes is only going to worsen unless the status quo is changed.