"Are you mad?!" This answer is probably the most common response when I tell people I commute to and from work by bicycle. But I follow the rules and generally I don't have a problem... but lately things have been turning south. Not to get too much in to it, but Sydney is losing its cycleways, from college st in Sydney to the little back roads we use on the weekend. I turn up to every protest in hopes of making a change but nothing seems to be working.
Then I had a commute from hell that threw me into a very low point in cycling and then, 45mins later the true reality of commuting in Sydney.
So I start this story while i'm still at work, I have a traffic manager being a designer and home time came around and I was keen to get going. But still being a newbie I asked if there was any more work left to be done, and yes, there was, a 15min job. So I sat back down, did my work and finished a bit late.
Then I jump on my bike homeward bound along Clarence street.
This road is a true cyclists nightmare. Buses enter the 3 lane road on the left and need to get over to the right. I was following behind a car when a bus decided to start merging into me (im assuming not seeing me), so I had to speed up to try and get out of his blind spot or at least in front of him. So focused was I on the bus to my left that I didn’t see the car in front stop at the green light because the traffic ahead had stopped. THUMP. I ride into the back of the car and get thrown infront of the bus. Thankfully this all happened at about 15km/hr and so I wasn’t hurt and the car wasn’t damaged. The driver got out and checked that I was okay which made me feel so much better.
Shaken but not stirred I continued my ride home… little steam vents coming out of my ears. I should have been thankful I was still alive but instead I was angry, I was annoyed that this fight with buses happens everyday, that Sydney traffic is so cut throat and that if I were to ride on the safety of the path I would cop a huge fine (however I have now decided that fine is much much cheaper than my life). Most of all I was angry that all the advocacy and protests do nothing in this city. I was lucky, and luck shouldn’t play a part in getting home safely.
So I rode on in anger, now half an hour later than usual, listening to my podcast and ignoring a battered shoulder. I listen to podcasts as i ride as a form of reward, some tell great stories and some teach you new things! Its kind of like listening to the radio in your car. Unknown to me the one I was listening to that night was rather sad, it was about someone dying of cancer. This only annoyed me more, the universe had decided that being thrown off my bike wasn’t enough. I did feel bad for this person in my podcast, at least the bus would be quick I suppose (yeah I was having a pity party). Then I saw the flashing lights.
The cycleway turned red and blue and I noticed that Epping rd was more of a carpark than usual. Then I saw people and police blocking the cycleway, cars, ambulances, police vehicles and fire engines all piled on the road. I slowed down… and saw it.
A car was on its side, right across the cycleway with the emergency services working to free someone. Statements were being taken and I estimated that the whole accident had probably only happened 30/45 minutes ago (here’s some footage I found later from 7 news https://www.facebook.com/7newssydney/videos/1059673980723401/?pnref=story).
Here I was, alive, sore but alive and running 30mins late home.
Im not saying that had I left on time and not had my own accident I would have been in this much larger and worse accident but the thought crossed my mind.
What I did realise is yeah… commuting in Sydney on a bike is crazy, but you’re no safer in a car.
As terry prachett famously said “no one is actually dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away…” so it looks like its time to make some waves!
I jumped on a favourite cycle forum and reached out to other commuters, what was the reason they rode and I got some amazing responses. From beautiful views to beating the traffic there were so many positive stories told of fun encounters. So Ill leave you with the positive, commuting is an amazing way to see the city, you just gotta be careful and have luck on your side!