‘Pushy’ road safety

We had an odd experience pedalling along the Coorung Road as we turned southward to Melbourne. We were riding into a strong head wind following the dense line of scrub running parallel with the inland sea which is trapped by distant sand dunes of the Younghusband Peninsular. As we crawled along a car slowed down to overtake and then pulled in directly ahead of us. As we passed the car, the male driver called us over and as we are both so obligingly polite, we stopped as always to chat.

The driver then delivered a lecture on his views of cycling safely. Firstly he said we were not wearing visible clothing to be able to be seen by drivers. We were surprised as we were wearing ‘day glow’ orange and green fleeces. Secondly he thought that pedalling in tandem was dangerous. This is completely contradictory to our own experience, and with common cycling practice, as riders cycling together are more visible to other road users.

He then began to tell us about himself. ‘I’ve been ill all my life. I’m disabled and take 36 pills a day just to stay alive. I used to be more active as my hobby was shooting but now I’m more into photography’. We nodded and Yasmin encouragingly said ‘Well it’s amazing you are up and about today’. He continued by ignoring her and saying ‘I’d hate to spread you out across the road not only because that would be an unnecessary loss but I wouldn’t want to damage my car either’. He could only just fit in behind his steering wheel and hadn’t taken his sunglasses off whilst delivering his safety sermon to us. His pristine white Prius, I noted, had additional perspex protectors to the front of the car’s bonnet and headlights. We suggested he might like to head up the road before us and thankfully he did leaving us behind and able to continue.

This got me thinking. What would he have done if we hadn’t stopped to talk with him?

So dismissing Mr. Prius the other road hazards are as follows:

  1. New South Wales drainage covers – these are lethal as they have slots about an inch wide that run parallel with the curb and direction of travel. Riding into one of these would be a disaster to any road cyclist.
  2. Trucks and Road Trains – as always there are good and bad drivers but the bad ones in these fast and oversized vehicles are a real menace. The better ones slow down, pull out and give us space. The others don’t and with their speed, turbulence and proximity, push us out of the road beyond the hard shoulder.
  3. Horns – this applies to almost all vehicles that choose to use them. Their drivers hoot just as they pass, which of course is too late to warn us of their speedy arrival. The loud blast invariably makes us jump and wobble.
  4. Magpies – Hitchcock would love these birds and we are learning not to. Almost every day we are attacked by these avian beast as we slowly pass their roadside nests. They fly up and then dive bomb us, squawking and occasionally trying to shit on us, with only one direct hit so far. They actually thwack us with their wings as we hastily try to accelerate when we see their looping shadows diving down behind us. This, combined with any of the difficulties of 1 to 3 above, delivers some difficult ‘pushy’ moments.

However, our riding in Australia continues to delight. People everywhere are so friendly, interested and helpful. Drivers stop to check we are alright and have enough water on remote stretches of road. We get so many ‘thumbs up’, waves and toots of encouragement from passing vehicles. We are now very fit, sun kissed, dirty and happy. The country endless keeps changing and we are always reminded of the very recent history of it’s European settlement. We are now on ride day 25 and spend nearly all our time both awake and asleep outside. We are acclimatised to this kind of travel, eat and drink a lot and sleep like babies. The tent has now become ‘home’.

6 thoughts on “‘Pushy’ road safety

  1. Busby (4 year old) and I have just re-read “Waddle Giggle Gargle!” by Pamela Allen – a family favourite children’s story in Australia (although the author is NZ). I am so sorry, William and Yasmin, but the magpies are the most ferocious wildlife you will experience in August/September and we should have thought to warn you about them. U-tube the story to share one night in the tent – the illustrations are lovely.
    I’ve visiting Rita, (Mark’s mother) tomorrow and will see if she has any advice to offer you. Up until recent times, Rita has cycled the streets of Wodonga and Albury for decades. I’m not sure she has any consolation for intolerant vehicle-drivers, but I’m sure she’s had her share of experiences with swooping magpies. Will get back to you!


  2. Fantastic. Yes, the maggies can be evil. Always have your helmet on or they will plunge their beak into your head (childhood experience).


  3. It’s interesting how the attitude to cyclists differs from country to country. I keep reading about Australian cyclists being fined for this that and the other, especially in Sydney it would seem. I guess the attitude of the state towards cyclists is simply a reflection of how society as a whole feels and in your case near misses by thoughtless overtaking drivers sound quite common. In galicia drivers are incredibly courteous when it comes to overtaking often driving on the other side of the road as they pass.

    Stay safe. Especially from those magpies!


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