“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” as the aphorism goes.
An electronic road sign reading “Give Cyclists Space” was parked right smack in the middle of the bike lane in Sydney, Australia, forcing people on bikes to veer into the auto traffic lane to avoid it. Sydney bike rider Matt Howell posted the photo of the ridiculous scene to the I <3 Sydney Bike Lanes & Cycle Ways Facebook group, captioning it “Installed by the [New South Wales] Department of Irony.”
While it’s admittedly pretty hilarious (and frankly astounding), the humorous irony of the situation is somewhat overshadowed the reality it betrays: the people making the decisions about cycling are completely disconnected from the actual needs of people riding bikes.
The state of New South Wales (NSW), of which Sydney is the capital, recently implemented a series of laws aimed at making the roads safer which many critics argue unfairly target people riding bikes. While the introduction of a 3 foot passing law was praised as a positive step, many people feel that is less likely to be enforced than the anti-bike components of the legislation, such as harsh fines for not wearing a helmet or riding without a bell.
On the heels of a crackdown on people on bikes for the latter two infringements, many social media users took the opportunity of the ridiculous photo to vent their frustrations about Sydney’s anti-bike road culture.
“So bad… it would be comical if it wasn’t a question of life or death,” wrote one user. “Not wanting to over-dramatise but the level of antagonism / disrespect between motor vehicle drivers and cyclists is getting worse not better.”
“If the majority of people that drive on Australian roads regularly rode a bike like they do in Holland, then there would be understanding and respect. But no,” wrote another.
While the laws being enforced are specific to NSW, the lack of respect shown for biking and bike infrastructure could just as easily be a number of other cities around the world.
A 2011 video by NYC filmmaker Casey Neistat went viral because it touched a nerve with anyone who has ever tried to commute by bike and found their path obstructed by everything from minor inconveniences to serious danger. Entitled ‘Bike Lanes,’ the humorous film shows Neistat simply trying to ride around New York City’s bike lanes after receiving a $50 ticket for riding outside of one. Neistat rides head on into everything blocking the lane, which ranges from construction equipment to a moving truck to even a police car. “Can I have my $50 back?” he asks at the end.
On the I <3 Sydney Bike Lanes & Cycle Ways Facebook page, some social media users mused that the workers who placed the sign in the middle of the bike lane did so intentionally as a joke.
If it was a joke, well alright, good one guys, you got us. However, the well-intentioned but poorly-executed attempt to support bike riding is unfortunately all too symbolic of the wider effort going on in the state and much of the world, and that’s no laughing matter.
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