I'm a law abiding girl. Especially when I am on my bike. I almost never ride on the footpath. I don't run red lights and I always give way to the cars on my right. Why? Well the answer is obvious. It's me against the machines. I don't need to tell you who would come off worse in a collision. But there is another more idealistic reason for my sticking to the rules.
I deserve the respect of other vehicles.
Unfortunately, this respect is sometimes lacking. I learned this, the hard way, at a back street round-about.
The drunk old man in the clapped out sedan gave every appearance of stopping. But at the last minute he lurched through the intersection. I couldn't stop. Went sailing over his car bonnet. When the ambulance arrived I was pronounced unharmed. But the paramedic took one look at my middle-aged mum face, wicker basket and red polka dot helmet and thought she'd give me some advice.
'Perhaps you should ride on the footpath.'
'No.' The other paramedic snapped back before I can answer. 'She shouldn't have to ride on the footpath.'
'It would be safer.'
'But she wasn't doing anything wrong.'
The first paramedic shrugged. 'I'm just saying…'
'I can't ride on the footpath.' I found my voice. It's against the law. When I'm on my bike I'm a vehicle. I'm governed and protected by the Australian road rules.'
So, respect. That's where am I going with this people. And the Australian road rules. Or, more specifically, the ones pertaining to Melbourne tram users.
Let me give you a brief explanation.
In Melbourne we have trams. They run on the roads. In some instances there are small platforms for commuters step onto. But mostly when a tram stops, cars stop and tram users walk across the road to the footpath. A vehicle failing to stop could kill someone.
The tram system works well. Most people know the difference between a designated platform and an 'on road' stop. The system breaks down on Royal Parade.
Royal Parade is an odd thoroughfare. Four lanes in the middle, two wide, grassed and tree'd traffic islands, and then another lane each side. The trams run in the middle lanes. Their stops are on the traffic islands. The bikes paths are in the outer lanes adjacent to the footpaths. In my understanding, tram users have right of way in the middle lanes. They step onto the road. But they are supposed to cross the outer lanes at the traffic lights. If they do, bikes and cars are obliged to stop for them.
Trouble is, the tram users don't know the rules. They spill across the outer lanes as if they have just stepped out of a tram. Never mind me, with my middle-aged mum face, wicker basket and read polka-dot helmet. It's as if I don't exist. They stride out in front of me when I'm pedalling at full speed. Mostly, I manage to stop. Let's face it, no one wants a bike accident. But, one day, I might not be able to. And I don't need to tell you who would come off worse in that situation.
So, if you are a Royal Parade tram user, be warned. If you know a Royal Parade tram user tell them I'm out there. And if you are a commuter cyclist, share, like, re-tweet this message.
We deserve respect on the roads.