Just wanted to get this off my chest …..
I have been riding my bicycle around Adelaide, as my main mode of transport, for 2 years now – having abandoned cycling in my late teens, to rediscover it again in my mid 50s.
When on holidays in Asia I now usually rent a bicycle to get around smaller (and even larger) cities, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Chiang Rai, North Eastern Thailand etc. On my last trip to Indonesia I stayed in Makassar (South Sulawesi) for 3 weeks and bought a nice (bright red) step through utility bike (pictured) to get around.
Makassar has a population of almost 1.5 million people and is a busy, thriving and chaotic Indonesian city. I was initially quite hesitant about riding a bicycle around the crowded, often one way streets, where the traffic was dense and the road rules not immediately obvious.
I was surprised at how easy it was and by the end of my stay felt quite comfortable about negotiating the traffic. It seemed that all road users (cars, trucks, mini vans, peddle rickshaws, food vendors pushing carts, bicycles and countless motor bikes) all had an attitude of sharing the roads while expecting others to do the unexpected. The average speeds were quite slow, probably around 25 to 40 km per hr. Drivers would park and even look out the windows before opening a door. The amount of eye contact between road users was noticeably greater than here.
After getting home and starting to ride around Adelaide again I feel quite unsafe, much more so than before. It seems that some drivers behave as if they believed bicycles had no place on the road. Some cars pass unhealthily close. The road rules are known to me and there is a (superficial) sense of order in the traffic but what strikes me as sadly lacking is an attitude of sharing the available roadways with others.
A developed, prosperous city with well defined rules does not equal civilisation. What we have lost (if we ever had it) is a sense of sharing the transport resources that we all own with each other.
Is it just me??
We don't have a "classless" society, just a different method of election to the various classes.
There may be a level or two "lower" than your walkers. (E.g., a too-common dislike for urban Aboriginal people by many white poor.)
"All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." (George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945).)
Funny, I was thinking about this very issue as I cycled to work this morning, so here's my 2 cents:
In our "progressive" developed society the efficiency of the bicycle and the automobile as viable means of transportation evolved together. Unforturunately the automobile won the race for acceptance. Manufacturing techniques developed in their efficiency to make automobiles affordable to the middle classes and the availability of a seeming endless supply of fossil fuel to run the internal combustion engine became available at very low cost. This meant that over the past 100 years or so the exposure of the average road user to bicycles in the shared spaces we call roads has been minimal and as such the mentality of the average road user is only attuned to motor vehicles and not bicycles.
In less developed countries the automobile had been unaffordable to the middle classes until quite recently. The main form of transport in those countries over the last 100 years, especially in Asia has been, you guessed it, the humble bicycle. So many generations of people in developing countries have been exposed to bicycle traffic of many thousands of commuters each and every day. Many people have also progressed from bicycles to motorcycles and step through scooters which require a degree of diligence to self preservation and awareness of traffic and environmental conditions, notably similar to cycling. Lastly many of those that progress from the bicycle or motorcycle to an automobile have not forgotten the lesson they learnt about awareness of their surroundings and have inherently more respect for their fellow road users than do we westerners as some of those sharing the road on bicycles will ultimately be family, friends and associates.
Now all of the above might be debunked as total BS by a first year sociology student and I don't mind that, but they had better come up with a better theory and put their minerals on the line to post it.
I blame Henry Ford.
Having been on a 2 week cycling holiday in Vietnam about 5 years ago (starting in Hanoi and finishing in Saigon) I would say I feel safer here than I did there.
Their road toll is far higher too so I think how I felt is backed up by stats.
In Adelaide there are often options that can be taken to avoid the worst/busiest roads but in Vietnam we were sometimes sharing the main North/South highway with alot of trucks.
I'm not saying things are perfect here though. We still need a better bike lane network and more consideration on both sides.
A mate of mine who lives in the US made a comment about cyclists on FB which was fine until one of his mates called Scott decided to chip in with some enlightening comments that got me fired up.
I did a bit of research on who he worked for and thought a response to his post was necessary.
Below is the FB discussion, I just couldn't resist.
Bahahahaha . . . you owned him Mike.
Slightly off topic but just lately Ive noticed a new dangerous habit amongst Adelaide drivers.
When a driver in front indicates a turn and starts to slow down for same the driver behind carries on at the same speed until right up the ar#e of the turning vehicle and then at the last minute swerves around the vehicle and gives the driver a dirty look.
Seems that many Adelaide drivers think that its possible to do a 90degree turn into a driveway at 80km/hour without rolling the vehicle.
I know what your saying Martin, I live on Morphett Rd and the number of times I have been abused for slowing down to turn into my drive.....it's like, what do you want me to do, not slow down and try the turn at 60kph???...
Thats exactly what they expect.....how dare you dare do anything except race along in a straight line at the maximum speed you can get away with!!
Many years ago I was working as a Geologist in the desert regions of SA. I had a crew of Mudloggers who's driving skills were a bit lacking. Theyd race along the road at 80k/hr+ and then when they realised theyd just missed the turnoff to the drilling rig would immediately swing the wheel and try and execute a 180degree turn at 80k/hr. I think the record was 5 full rolls before the vehicle came to a rest on its roof.
I must admit at times I wonder if some people learned their driving culture from computer games.
Get their first
Everybody else on the road is opposition that must be beaten.
Nobody gets hurt.
Thank you for all the replies, it is always interesting to get other peoples points of view. It has certainly helped clarify things for me
I think it may (possibly) be related to the history of the location - cars are the relative newcomers to a road system that has existed for many many years and maybe this accounts for why there appears to be a greater sense of sharing the road.
Having said that, there are also attitudes of 'might is right' and 'I'm richer than you, so out of my way' obvious in the conduct of some drivers.
Interestingly enough, the richer car owners don't actually drive themselves - they have Drivers. The Drivers are often unlikely to have a car of their own as their main mode of transport. Similarly, the drivers of large trucks and taxis are more than likely to use a motor cycle as their main mode of personal transport. A significant percentage of people would use a peddle rickshaw at some stage in their working week, either for themselves or to have the younger kids picked up from school.
Could it be that a larger percentage of drivers in Makassar (and other similar destinations) are more aware of the potential impact of their vehicle on other road users as at some stage of their day, they will be using a more vulnerable form of transport (usually a motor cycle) to get themselves home?
Driving on Asian main highways is definitely not recommended. The bicycle does offer a great way to get around many places in Asia though (and other regions) and I find it helps with my orientation and expands my scope of independence far beyond what I can reach by walking. Its nice to be at ground level and to interact with people. I averaged about 10 "Hullo Misters" per day from people that I passed.
While I was away I did miss the great bike paths that we have here in Adelaide - absolutely fantastic to use. I'll continue to wear my Hi Vis vest and use the 'Cycle Instead' journey planner to maximize my use of bike paths ..... just wish I could some how force (as peacefully as possible) the errant road users on to a bicycle so that they can experience the roads from my perspective.