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??
In some European countries drivers are much more considerate of cyclists and their safety than here in Australia. One of the reasons would be that so many cycle. So even a non-cyclist driver is likely to know a cyclist: a relative, friend, neighbour or work colleague. This helps them learn requirements for safe cycling and identify with cyclists (would you want to hit and injure your mother's friend?). So Adelaide cyclists who ride fast on the roads with the best bikes would benefit from accepting the utility cyclist in non-lycra on a cheap bike. The more cyclists the safer for you.
I loved the utility bike I bought in Makassar - it had a 6 speed revo-shift, V brakes, mud guards, basket, carrier rack, chain guard and a light - plus it was red :-). The metal frame and soft (white) walled tyres made for a really soft and smooth ride. All for 1,230,000 Rp (A$129) which included free servicing for the first 12 months.
It was perfect for riding to the nearest Mini Market (2 km away) via the narrow back streets. I miss it a lot and look forward to riding it again in September. This type of bike is very well suited for short trips on mainly flat roads.
I even got compliments about the bike from parking attendants and people at stop lights.
One down side is that parking is fairly tightly controlled in Makassar so it was necessary to use the Parking Service Attendants immediately adjacent to large complexes. The cost was negligible though - 1,000 Rp per hour up to a maximum of 3,000 Rp ( 10 cents to 30 cents) to have the bike guarded and seat shielded from the sun with cardboard if no shade was available.
Stephen, do you live between two countries? Perhaps in September you will post a photo of your utility bike on AC?
My 'utility' bike is a Trek MTB fitted with racks for carrying items up to 32kg at a time (typical weight for touring bike). Only owned one road bike and found it unstable with loads.
Hi Heather - my short to medium term plan is to retire and spend 3 months per year in Makassar.
I'm a growing fan of the 'Utility Bike' and have just tried to convert my Norco MTB into a utility bike - changed the tyres, changed headstem, raised the handlebars, added a rear carrier and front basket and it is getting close. Might need mudguards to make it more comfortable over wet ground.
This photo link- has pictures of the bikes I've rented during trips away (the red one is my bike in Makassar). All or most are Chinese made utility bikes and all have had their own charms (and faults)
Googled to learn that Makassar in Indonesia. Do you know any of the local language?
Am we allowed to hijack your post?
Here’s my theory, which is pure conjecture but makes a lot of sense to me.....some brief thoughts you may consider.
I've read other comments and there are lots of valid points in those.
I think it’s about a culture that has developed with increased usage of motor vehicles following WW2.
I’m always amazed when they have some sort of “flashback” to the 40s, 50s and even 60s and show “knock off” time at some manufacturing company or such like. The number of people heading off home on their bikes is amazing.
Even more pronounced it seems, if you see footage of the same scenario in Britain. The bike was the working person’s transport, not just blue collar but white collar as well.
Motor vehicles were just out of the reach of most of the population due to their relatively high cost.
(thought: is the more enduring popularity of the bicycle in Europe due to the larger economic impact of WW2?)
As society grew more affluent cars became more affordable and the bicycle was seen as just a remnant of harder times. The person on the bike was looked down upon as someone of a lower class and income and probably a non-achiever.
Cycling was left in the hands of school children who couldn’t drive. I’m sure a lot of us older riders can remember our school days when just about everyone rode a bike to school.
Cycling could be a sport or a pastime for adults but certainly not a form of transport.
Now, cycling is becoming popular again, not because of economics but perhaps for its convenience, pleasure and health benefits.
Unfortunately, years of road planning based around motor vehicles and the social attitude of some is hard to change.
Lots of good points here.
Made me think of some others::
The design of the car (and truck and bus etc) separates people from their surroundings. Drivers don't feel the wind or rain, tyres and suspension isolate them from potholes and glass. Being in a big metal box gives them a sense of security and invincibility.
Getting your first car is almost a social imperative, a right of passage. NOT getting a car marginalises you. So people leave their bike in the shed the moment they get a car, and often never get it out again except to sell it or hard rubbish it.
Being a fairly large country (I was talking to someone from UK a few days ago, just over here for a few days, and he couldn't believe how long it took to drive from here to Melbourne), the cheapest convenient transport between cities has been the car. Assuming the bus or train is not as convenient…
Convenience. People I know live only minutes away from our local Foodland still drive there for a few things because it is 'convenient'. They havn't thought it through and realised that they could ride just as quickly and wouldn't have the parking problems. Human nature taking the (perceived) easy way maybe?
I had a driver enter Payneham Road from a T junction on my left cutting me off and causing me to hit the skids. I told him that by law he had to give way to me. His reply was "roads are made for cars" then he gave me the finger and drove off.
That's probably the excuse he'll give to the cops when he gets charged after killing the next cyclist he fails to give way to.
The person on the bike was looked down upon as someone of a lower class and income and probably a non-achiever.
Jeffrey, you do not prescribe to the above. Tell those who do that recent study found the average Australian cyclist is tertiary educated.
Hmmm I feel scared driving a car in Adelaide suburbs and I used to regularly drive through central London. Its scary because so many drivers here just are not paying attention or believe that everyone else on the roads is an obstacle.
If I had to commute by bike on the road for the majority of my journey...I probably wouldn't do it.
I agree that more cyclists on the road will gradually make it safer for all of us, however, at what cost?
We are a very small minority group, even if cycling becomes 50% more popular over the next 5 years, how many extra cyclists will we see on the road? Will anyone notice?
We need far more support from the legislature and the upholders of the law to change attitudes. As has been said here it was only 50 years ago that the Mini made motoring accessible to the masses, killing off many bike manufacturers and motorcycle companies in the process. Since then the car has ruled supreme. In Detroit if you are walking you are automatically assumed to be up to no good. I never saw a cyclist...you can drive in to almost any kind of service be it bank, bottle shop or grocery store.
Now even more scary as a cyclist or driver we have a generation of new drivers coming through who've never walked or cycled to school, spent most of their free time playing computer arcade games and are now behind the wheel in an extension of their totally insulated unreal world, texting, facebooking etc. while driving...sorry but it's actually going to get a lot more dangerous before it gets any better.