It's war out there, yo. Road war. Peopled by Road Warriors.
One one side are the Pedal Powered Peeps, or the PPP (of which I am one, clearly) - putting their bodies on the line every day, weaving deftly between SUVs, trucks and buses (why does no one have a small car anymore?), scaring pedestrians*, all while saving the planet and solving the obesity crisis.
On the other side are the Miffed Melbourne Motorists, or the MMM - piloting the aforementioned SUVs, trucks and buses through the daily snarls of traffic, seeing red when cyclists squeeze past them, sail through red lights, whizz by their open doors with millimetres to spare, or slow them down by riding two abreast or single file in a narrow lane.
Things seem to have been escalating recently, with more people signing up on both sides as Melbourne's population booms. Truthfully, I think we're only a few years away from some kind of Mad Max scenario.
If you don't believe me, watch this video:
Ouch. Not a proud moment for the MMM (UK division). Don't think that it doesn't happen here, too - it's just that we don't have CCTV cameras on every street corner to capture the evidence. Closer to home, a fellow PPP swore at a driver who cut him off recently, only to have the driver chase him down, push him off and proceed to trash his bike.
You may have head about a recent clash between a PPP and a high-profile MMM. Shane Warne claimed the cyclist cut him off, abused him and hit his car. The cyclist claims that Warnie deliberately knocked him over and wrecked his expensive bike before hooning off. Naturally, the King of Spin got straight onto twitter to blast the cyclist in a drawn-out rant, rallying his followers in a public howl for cyclist blood.
I'm going to keep an uncharacteristically objective distance on this one and let you decide for yourself which side you are on - however, the I believe the evidence (one wrecked bike + one unscathed Merc + a driver who admitted leaving the scene of an accident) seems to fall in favour of the PPP.
The problem is that the PPP is a small movement that has been steadily growing in profile, while the MMM - a vast army of personal car users who are used to having everything built around their needs - are looking increasingly unsustainable.
What is the solution for bringing these two disparate sides together? Greater civility between both parties would be great, obviously - but the best way to encourage that? Bike registration, as called for by Warney and his pack, would be costly and largely pointless. Separate bike lanes are great, but controversial. Cyclist-awareness programs should definitely be a part of any driver licensing; and of course cyclists who endanger pedestrians or act unlawfully should be punished.
What many drivers don't appreciate is that the vast majority of cyclists are also car users - which means that they have an insight into the mind of their enemy, and they contribute to the cost of road infrastructure (one of the MMM's more petulant arguments being that cyclists don't pay to use the road, therefore they have no rights). Sadly, it seems that the MMM are just not ready to climb down from their SUVs, trucks and buses to experience the road on two wheels, with only a styrofoam helmet for armour.
*anti-social cyclists. Yes, there are asshole cyclists just as there are asshole drivers. It's just that the asshole drivers are more numerous and control a machine capable of killing.