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Old 07-01-02, 01:39 AM   #1
Chris L
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Learning to ride in Werris Creek

Has anybody critically thought about the way children are taught to ride these days? When I was a kid growing up in Werris Creek we were taught that a bike is a vehicle like any other, and that one must obey the rules of the road if they want to cycle safely.

The emphasis was firmly on learning how to deal with conditions on the road riding a bike. Perhaps it was just the low traffic density there, or maybe people were just more considerate in the '80s, but we seemed to have very few cyclist/motorist clashes in Werris Creek and generally everyone got along reasonably well.

These days, the emphasis seems to be on how "dangerous" the road is. By that, I mean the powers that be seem to be sending out a message of "get out of the way of cars at all costs". Evidently I must have been sheltered at Werris Creek because it seems to have been going on for some time in the 'outside world', judging by the number of adults I see behaving in the new fashion.

What we now see is a lot of cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road, and suddenly mounting the footpath at the first sight of a car, and that's only the ones who make it onto the road to begin with. Of course, this presents it's own problems (mainly terrorising pedestrians and the fact that cars pulling out of driveways tend not to look for cyclists on the wrong side of the road), but hey, if it means they won't get "run over from behind" people seem to be happy (incidentally, being run over from behind accounts for only a very small percentage of car/bike accidents).

Inevitably, this new way leads to an increased number of bicycle accidents (is it any wonder?), and ultimately leads to children being banned from riding to school because it's "too dangerous" or bikes being banned from many public roadways because of this. Is it then any wonder that as soon as a teenager is old enough to drive, they're so keen to dump the bike altogether?

Call me old fashioned if you like. Even call me a redneck if it makes you feel any better, but I thought Werris Creek had the right idea.
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Old 07-01-02, 05:30 AM   #2
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When I was growing up in San Francisco, every bike shop used to have small booklets about traffic laws relating to cyclists. I think there should be literature of this type available again, but who would print or distribute it?
There was an organization in Chicago that did print such lierature but they went out of business a couple years ago. (Couldn't get enough industry support to continue and went bankrupt. It was a very good organization and also had a bicycle mechanics school that was as good as any, and at very reasonable prices. (But no point in crying over spilt milk.)
As Chris mentioned, the mentality now --from the politicians who write the laws, and the general public who ignore them-- the attitude is, if it doesn't have a motor and four wheels, it doesn't belong on the same street with me.
The point is: WE as Cyclists need to learn AND obey the laws, and we need to educate ourselves, our children, our grandchildren and the non-riding populace about those laws. We also need to assert the fact that we are entitled to our share of the road. (Preferably without violence.)



Chris. Glad to see you're back. I, for one have missed your comments.
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Old 07-01-02, 11:10 AM   #3
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Chris, it seems to me that learning to ride in Werris Creek, New South Wales, Australia in the 1980's is no different from learning to ride in Rockville, Maryland, United States in the 1960's. This "new way" of riding a bicycle you mention seems to me to be a total shift of thinking from safe cycling practices that have been accepted and used for decades, perhaps a century.

I guess all new ideas are not necessarily good ones. Like Mama said, "If all your friends decided it was a good idea to jump off the bridge, would you do it, too?"

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Old 07-01-02, 12:20 PM   #4
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Like Mama said, "If all your friends decided it was a good idea to jump off the bridge, would you do it, too?"
Your Mama said that, too?

I agree, when I was a kid riding everywhere that's exactly the way things were, granted it wasn't a high traffic area, not even paved streets, but the principle is still the same.

BTW, our dept. of highways does publish a booklet similar to the one mentioned, it's not very detailed, but it is available in their offices. It would be a good idea to have it in LBS's, X-mart's or anywhere else bikes are sold.

I'll add my "glad to see you back Chris!"
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Old 07-01-02, 09:25 PM   #5
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Originally posted by aerobat
BTW, our dept. of highways does publish a booklet similar to the one mentioned, it's not very detailed, but it is available in their offices.
This is essentially the problem here. How many people (cycling or non-cycling) are going to venture over to their office to find it? I think it needs to be made compulsory reading for anyone buying a bike or sitting a driving test.
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Old 07-01-02, 09:35 PM   #6
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I agree, I would love to see a state law that requires any bike sold at the retail level to include some type of documentation as described above.
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Old 07-02-02, 06:21 AM   #7
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well, i grew up in a suburban area (although older grid-based 'inner' suburb without the cul-de-sacs and new 'features') in north Dallas and learned to ride in the 70's...

it's hard to remember exactly, but i think my experience was somewhere in between what you guys describe and the 'new' car-avoidance safety way many kids are taught today:

i lived on the corner of a relatively busy residential street and until about age 5 or so i wasn't allowed to cross w/o an adult b/c of the danger from cars. Our other residential street was relatively untravelled and i think i often cycled here along this street or with my parents to the nearby park (there was no sidewalk here, so i rode in the street with cars) - then as a 2nd and 3rd grader i was allowed to ride my bicycle down the more heavily travelled street about a half-mile to my elementary school (you know i don't remember if i rode on the sidewalk or in the street), but i was not allowed to go far b/c our whole area was surrounded by large multi-lane high-speed roads (35-45mph posted, 45-65mph actual)

my parents weren't really cyclists although my mom had a classic 3-speed and my dad a 10-speed that he hardly rode and i took over as soon as i could manage to fit over the bar. so, other than the learning how to physically balance and ride which my parent's taught me, i think i pretty much taught myself how to cycle and interact with cars and pedestrains and such, sometimes riding on the street, sometimes the sidewalk - although i really enjoyed riding i know i had a few bad experiences with motorists and the aforementioned BIG roads -- this was Texas where any person not in a car must be mentally unstable

at my high school about 1 1/2 miles away we had 3 parking lots with almost 1000 capacity even though our school had about 1400 students and there was NO BIKE RACK (i guess the thinking was that our school was near the intersection of 2 of these huge multilane roads, so what sane kid or his parents would choose for any kid to ride to school?)
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Old 07-02-02, 01:42 PM   #8
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I grew up in a small market town in England where cycling was pretty normal, the cycling club was very big, and the owner of the established bike shop was a town councilor.
We were taught cycling profficiancy at school which was how to ride sensibly on the road.
From the age of 10 I used my bike for independant travel, riding to school, shops, friends, swimming pool. I rode to cub scouts every week on Tuesday evenings, summer and winter. I didnt wear a helmet, but I did use lights.
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