Is road rage worse in the Hunter region?

There has been a series of articles in our local paper over the past few days about a “war” that is going on between cars and bikes in the region. You can read them here and here and here and here. They provoked a lot of online debate, more than is usual for this publication. Unfortunately, a lot of the debate is anti-cyclists and the online poll conducted at the same time also indicated that most respondents thought that cyclists were to blame for this supposed “war”.

However, it is impossible to know how much of the debate was vetted by the paper with its comments moderation. My comments were published but another local blogger’s comment was not and this may have been the case for many comments made on the articles. It is also impossible at this stage to know whether the publication of these articles and the ensuing comments will ultimately be damaging for cyclists or if it will help our cause to get better cycling infrastructure. I noticed that many of the anti-cycling commenters called for better infrastructure too, if only to get the pesky cyclists out of their way on the roads, or in the context of telling them to get back into the bike lane, which often does not exist around here.

The really worrisome part of the online discussion for me is that some of the commenters are just commenters – they comment on anything and everything online and do not necessarily have an informed view on those matters they are vociferously commenting about, and the more informed comments can be lost in the sea of those who just want to enter into any debate.

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13 Responses to Is road rage worse in the Hunter region?

  1. Hi Vicki, first thanks for alerting me to The Herald’s article. I wouldn’t wrap my chips in the rag, so would never have known they had stooped to car v bike war stories to sell a paper. But then every tabloid in every city in the western world has published the very same run of war stories and sparked the very same comments. If I had the time, I would check to see how many comments were copied over from the Telegraph or the Mirror.

    • Vicki says:

      I agree it is a real pity that they ran the article with the focus that they did Steven. I haven’t actually seen this same story run in other papers, but then I rarely read the Telegraph or the Mirror. Maybe some good will come from it for cyclists, let’s hope so.

  2. Leigh says:

    I use to get very angry at the way some motorists treated me, and my fellow cyclists.
    But a few years back I stated thinking … one it was ‘hurting me and my ride’ and two ‘I am the ambassador for cyclists’ {I mean we all are]…
    So now I try to wave at insults and avoid main roads wherever possible. I like touring so this is not always possible but I do my best.
    Keep smiling and waving.

    • Vicki says:

      Leigh, I agree about being an ambassador for all cyclists and am polite and wave all the time too, it is going to get a better response everytime, and while not all motorists respond in like manner, most do.

  3. Wayne Martin says:

    It”s all about selling newspapers and they will never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

    • Vicki says:

      Yes Wayne, there is a lot of truth in your statement. The story could have been written in a way that called for better infrastructure (which is at the heart of this matter) without attempting to pitch two groups of road users against one another. But that would not have attracted the online debate that took place.

  4. Jess says:

    I reckon that many people driving in the city traffic (“traffic” used loosely for our town, as its really not much of a complaint)are already in a heightened state of assertiveness/aggression, as they are not really out to drive for enjoyment, but to complete a chore of some sort or commute for work, unless they are of the Thursday night joyride driver ilk, in which case it’s possibly heightened something else. My point is, take someone in a metal chunk of a forcefield who isn’t really enjoying themselves and ask them to share a road, or watch someone else scoot past while they sit in a queue, and of course they will be cranky. They get caught in traffic, we get caught in the rain… that being said, cities have been planned for car travel for many decades now and we probably do need a catalyst for change. Is that catalyst to be journalism with sensationalist headlining and no real fodder? I doubt it, but from what I’ve been reading, there are some great bicycle activists working online and on road to change this city. Keep up the good work:)

    • Vicki says:

      I also think that the way traffic is managed in Newcastle creates frustration Jess, I often find myself waiting at lights and there is noone going through the intersection as lights are not synchronised and this can be frustrating whether on foot, car or bike. Whether it is simply a Newcastle thing or is more widespread we are not to know. I found my years of driving in traffic in Sydney to be not as frustrating even though trips would take much longer due to the volume of traffic there and drivers are much more courteous to each other there too.

  5. BB says:

    It’s a local rag perennial that raises it’s head periodically and, unfortunately, I think always will. The story and the slant of the comments is very predictable. What would be interesting is for a journalist to have enough ‘get up and go’ to actually find a new slant on reporting the interaction between road users.

    • Vicki says:

      Every few months our rag does a bicycle spread, each time with a slightly different slant, BB. I really did not think that there was so much anti-cyclist sentiment out there as the comments seem to indicate. The Herald wants lots of online commenting happening but lets hope it does not use cyclists as the pawns in their game.

  6. Stuart says:

    I found it an interesting contrast reading a story from the age, on the same day these stories came out, about dropping speed limits in Melbourne to encourage cycling ( Reading the comments on the herald the differential in speeds between automobiles and bicycles is a key factor in the conflict between them. One easy way of solving this is not allowing the motorists to speed up in the first place. See for a good analysis.

    • Vicki says:

      Thanks for these links Stuart. The article and discussion on Crikey is a much more rational and informed one than the one which happened here, if the initial journalism is more informed then the discussion follows suit it seems. I would love to see a bike share program here but it is a way off yet, and hearing how the one in Melbourne has not succeeded as well as it might have is not encouraging.

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