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Sat, 24 May 2008

2008 Ride of Silence, Canberra, ACT, Australia - 17:41
Today in Canberra the first local Ride of Silence was held, the aim is

The Ride of Silence is held yearly in cities across the world. For the first time in Canberra, join other cyclists in a silent ride at a slow pace to promote safer roads for all road users. Riders are encouraged to wear armbands: black for everyone, or red for those who have been injured by motorists.

The 2008 Canberra Ride of Silence aims to:

  • remember those killed or injured whilst cycling on roads.
  • raise awareness of the need for all road users to respect one another and to use roads in a considerate manner.
  • promote the importance for cyclists and motorists to obey the road rules.
  • remind the community that cyclists are ordinary people who have a right to safety on our roads.

Along with a number of Bilbys I went along and rode with everyone else around the short loop. I think on the whole it was a positive experience, everyone riding behaved well, we had a lot of media coverage/exposure that seemed positive (though we need to wait for the articles to be published to be sure), there was a number of MLA's there speaking so it had ACT government notice.

I know a lot of the ride was to promote cross awareness between road user groups and that we should all behave well with each other. One aspect I found strange is that most of the speakers (the MLA people in particular) mentioned they were motor bike riders and that it helped them understand cyclists. Sure I understand that they are also a minority group that most motorists somehow ignore or fail to see, however I found the constant motor biking mentions during the speeches a bit jarring.

I also went along today as the ride has a special interest to me and my family, I have never explicitly mentioned on this diary previously that my father was killed while riding his bicycle to work back in 1985. I was five years old, Jane was three, obviously neither of us have good memories of him (Jane probably has none), all I can really remember are images. Things I know about Dad are mostly imparted upon me by stories other people have told me. Dad was riding to work as a teacher out at a high school in Weston creek, he was running late so rather than ride along the bike paths he was riding on the Tuggeranong parkway, as he was crossing molonglo river (there is less than a 1 foot wide verge on the bridge there) a person in a car behind him was looking in their rear view mirror and swerved into him.

So all of our family has been touched heavily by driver inattention and someone forgetting to stay fully aware while in control of a 2 tonne weapon on the roads. Anything that can help promote awareness of road rules and all road users is a good thing.

The recent crash into a bunch of cyclists in Sydney where a driver deliberately ran into the back of a cycling bunch, then overtook them and slammed his brakes on causing them to run into his car, and subsequently driving away. Is an even worse example than simple inattention, however one of the things that was raised yet again in the radio and newspaper responses to this incident is the dislike so many road users seem to have of cyclists and how little they understand the people who ride bikes.

One complaint you often hear from drivers is that cyclists should get off the roads as they are not paying road use fees and often there is even the claim they are not paying taxes. How this computes in the heads of those people making the complaints is beyond me. In a bunch of cyclists everyone (well those over 18) will pay as much tax as others, and most adults cycling also own cars and choose not to use them if they can ride instead, which means we are paying as much for the roads as anyone else and yet are creating far less wear and pollution.

I hope the ride of silence and other events in moderation can continue to raise awareness of cycling as a mode of transport, exercise or fun in Australia.

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