Elizabeth Jane Corbett

writing her way home

Category: bike

A sobering week for Melbourne cyclists

This has been a sobering week North of the Yarra with yet another cyclist doored (allegedly), and flung in under the wheels of a passing vehicle. Unfortunately, this accident was not an isolated incidence. This 1.7 km stretch of Sydney Road has one of the highest crash rates for cyclists in Victoria.

At this point, depending on your point-of-view, it would be easy to start a rant about inconsiderate motorists, inattentive cyclists, or careless drivers. But this would be unproductive. A man is dead. For his sake, we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Obviously, the situation on Sydney Road is complex – you have a narrow road, cars, cyclists, trams, on street parking, not to mention the many traders who rely on regular through-traffic. Clearly, greater minds than mine are working towards a solution. But as someone regularly cycles that section of Sydney Road, I thought I’d throw my wishlist into the mix.

  • No parking on this section of Sydney Road. Or no bikes on this section of Sydney Road. You can’t have both. The road is too narrow. Personally, I’d ditch the parking. It would help cyclists, trams and motorists. No doubt the traders would have something to say about this.
  • Better driver education – and not simply in realtion to door opening. I almost got cleaned up at a roundabout the other night (let’s not get started on blokes in four wheel drives). If I hadn’t been taking my usual precaution of not assuming cars will obey the law, I would also be lying in the morgue. A series of TV adds maybe? To alert drivers to the rights of cyclists on the roads?
  • Compulsory bike education for cyclists. When I started riding, I did a Cyclewise training course. In addition to basic road rules, how to signal and make hook turns, I was taught to look inside parked vehicles and pass with ample clearance, not to duck in and out of the parked cars, to take my place in the car lane with confidence, to wear reflective strips at night, and to use adequate lighting. Many cyclists ride as if unaware of these basic rules.
  • New cars built with cycle awareness alarms. Remember the days before beeping cars and microwaves? When it was possible to leave the fridge open all night? What about backing into a car space without accompanying audio assistance? It is possible to build warnings into vehicles. Why not do so for cyclists? Some sort of alert before people open their doors? A side mirror camera?
  • Better lighting. The main reason I ride Sydney Road is for safety. This sounds like a oxymoron. But only two years ago, a woman was sexually assaulted and murdered off this section Sydney Road. This makes me wary of using the Upfield bike path at night. I love my night rides along Sydney Road – the lights, cool air, crowds spilling onto the streets around pubs and restaurants feel. However, there are plenty of on-road bike lanes on the back streets. I have purchased a better front head-light for this purpose.
  • Educate taxis. Look I don’t want to sound peevish. But it simply isn’t appropriate to pull over, double park and talk to your mate on Sydney Road. The only time I’ve ever slipped on a tram line was trying to negotiate a double parked taxi.

Representatives from VicRoads, Yarra Trams, Public Transport Victoria, Moreland Council and Victoria Police met with Sydney Rd traders, bicycle users and residents groups have met in the wake of the tragedy. As a result, speed limit Sydney Road will be reduced to forty kilometres per hour. Speed humps will be installed and some parking spaces removed. City of Moreland, will also proceed with its plans to upgrade the bike path. Let’s hope it will be enough. That Alberto Paulon has not died in vain. For his sake, and for his family’s, for all future cyclists, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.


The dark side of creativity

You wake before six, though somewhere in your manufacturer's instructions is a note saying you are not to be roused before eight o'clock in the morning. You cycle along the rain dark glistening Tarmac of Sydney Road, feeling renegade and daring. Only to find a whole sub-set of society at large in the early hours of the morning – waiting for trams, sweeping streets, sleeping in doorways, or hurtling down the all but empty side lanes, their tail lights bouncing off the walls of the surrounding buildings.

At the library, you are greeted with the news that the fire alarm has gone off for no particular reason. Before you even open, workmen are resetting alarms, switchboards and air conditioning systems. The fire brigade calls to report a malfunction in their access card. You check emails, sign cash sheets, and unpack crates but you can't seem settle to anything.

On desk, you have three inter-library loan requests from elderly people who were trying to get their heads around the idea of national and global online book databases, the possibility that their particular request may be out of print, the notion of joining a neighbouring library service online, and the concept of an eBook being a viable alternative. Despite your best efforts, you fall under the mesmerising spell of a woman who has made it her mission to continue the practice of paper notices on community notice boards in the face of digital advancement. You field her questions, trying to explain the situation, though you know she isn't listening. You try to reassure a young girl who is fretting about an overdue notice. You wonder at the depth of her anxiety. You explain the library's policies to her brave, blind, dignified father. You realise some young people are forced to grow up before their time.

At lunch time, one of your workmates lays a slab of chocolate on the table. 'It has been a long morning,' she says. 'We deserve this.' You think probably you do deserve it but…Thursday is a protein only day. You stand as if on the brink of a precipice. The slope below looks mighty slippery. But you didn't lose fourteen kilos by being a sissy. You walk away before you can start cramming hunks of chocolate in your mouth.

On your lunch break you realise you are tired – bone deep, dead dog, thirsty creek tried. And it has nothing to do with your six o'clock start. Or your busy desk shift. You think, perhaps, it's because you've put your manuscript in the post. After the flushed, new born, skin prickling elation of yesterday, adrenaline is leaking out of you like a sieve. You drink multiple cups of coffee. Eat bucket loads of protein. Ensure you are properly hydrated.

It doesn't help

Riding home through the evening streets, you feel rhino heavy as Melbourne tram. As freshly slaughtered as a carcass. You think perhaps you should hold onto your day job at the library. That you were a fool to ever start writing. You wonder whether it is too late to take up knitting. Or felting. Whether all your writing friends are secretly laughing. You realise this is the dark side of being creative.


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