Monday, October 15, 2012

Cyclists in gear, but still no idea Herald Sun


Cyclists in gear, but still no idea


Cycling
CYCLISTS NEED TO RIDE MORE SAFELY. PICTURE: TREVOR PINDER HERALD SUN
IT'S official. Lycra-clad cyclists over 50 aren't just a danger to our eyes, they're also a danger to themselves.
Digital Pass - $5 weekend papers
According to latest research from the University of Sydney, the older a cyclist is, the more likely he or she is to be injured in a crash.
Cyclists in their 50s are 70 per cent more likely to be severely injured in a bike bingle than young riders, researchers found.
And if you are over 60, you have twice the chance of being severely injured on your deadly treadly.
I would have thought that younger, sillier speedster cyclists would be more at risk, but the recently published study, analysing more than 6000 Victorian bike accidents, suggests the opposite.
It's no wonder the middle-age metropolitan metrosexual male cyclist has long been a target of ridicule.
With his droopy paunch enclosed in form-fitting lycra, expensive logo-emblazoned accessories and titanium bike worth more than the average four-door sedan, it's easy to see why.
But it's more than that. We finally have proof of what we've long suspected - that although these men have the best gear and flashiest bikes, some are not very good cyclists. Don't get me wrong. Anyone who gets up at the crack of dawn at weekends, shaves their legs and rides 250km uphill for a coffee should be admired.
The research, undertaken by Dr Soufiane Boufous using VicRoads data, also finds a quarter of cyclists who have accidents aren't wearing helmets, which makes them much more likely to be seriously injured.
Luckily, our cycling septuagenarians are obsessed with being mistaken for Lance Armstrong (pity about the drugs,) and are usually smart enough to wear a helmet.
Indeed, helmet-less cyclists are more likely to be urban hipsters. They're the ones in skinny jeans and hand-knitted jumpers on bikes with fixed wheels and funky nanna-style cane baskets.
With a studied, ironic, too-cool-for-school air, they ride between classes at Melbourne Uni and lectures at The Wheeler Centre, weaving dangerously in and out of city traffic. With latte in one hand, headphones on and no helmet, they are a significant road hazard, not to mention a threat to good taste as well.
Serious bike accidents are also more likely to occur on busier roads with higher speed limits, the researchers found. But it's not just the speed limit, but the speed of the cyclist as well. How many times do you see men aged 50-plus in packs tearing down suburban streets at unsafe speeds? It's almost like they are in a race with old age and determined to show they can go faster than anyone.
It's why so many people find the Australian cycling culture a big turn-off.
I use my bike for pleasure, usually with kids, dogs and hubby along for the ride. We don't go too fast, we favour bike tracks over roads and we ride to relax rather than show off. We're often abused by these pseudo-Olympians because our three-year-old doesn't know how to "keep left" on bike paths.
I wish Australians had a more European approach to cycling. Rather than jumping in the car, people hop on their bikes.
But it doesn't happen as much here and I wonder if people are put off by the hyper-masculine bike culture and the kid-hating riders.
The Sydney Uni researchers conclude we need more helmet programs and environmental modifications such as speed reductions on roads frequented by cyclists.
Clearly, something like this needs to be done.
Yes, we do need more separate bike paths, bike lanes and lower speed limits on roads often used by cyclists. But we also need cyclists to ditch the attitude (along with the lycra) and ride more safely.

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