Sara’s Spin: Can cycling ignorance be justified?

Olympic gold medalist Sara Carrigan dives into the recent debate for making our communities more cyclist friendly

I recently attended the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress on the Gold Coast in Queensland. This event brought together international and national delegates to share experiences and work together to develop ways to encourage more people to choose cycling as their preferred mode of transportation. So fair to say that everyone who was in attendance was in favour of cycling.

Well, almost everyone. One particular gentleman’s views about cycling were certainly not positive or complimentary. Some of his comments included, ‘It’s time to curb pedal power’ and ‘Roads are meant for cars not bikes’.

It is no secret that here in Australia the relationship between motorists and cyclists is not a rosy one. However, upon hearing these sorts of comments, it left me dumbfounded! Is this guy for real? Is he having a joke?

Nope, not at all.

After realising that he was very serious and wholeheartedly believed that bikes should be banned from all roads, it took me a few moments to gather my thoughts and control my arising anger.

We all have bias for the things we are passionate about and it just seemed downright ignorant on his part!

Was he aware of the benefits cycling can provide, such as the social, environmental, economic, traffic management and health?

I was introduced to cycling 18 years ago and have been a part of the amazing growth in cycling in Australia. However, it is over the last four years through my coaching, skills courses and educational programs that I have witnessed the true value of cycling at the grassroots level where people’s lives transform for the better and more often than not the flood gates of self-confidence swing wide open.

So, I took the opportunity with this gentleman and invited him for a ride to help open his eyes to all the good that cycling can offer and to give him an insight into the world of cycling delight.

His immediate response was, ‘Oh no thank you, I’m too scared’. I was floored and questioned how someone could hold such strong opposing views when they aren’t prepared to see something for all that it is.

Perhaps this is justified ignorance? We tend to fear what we do not understand.

Our government and city councils are encouraging cycling more and more in our local communities so they must step up to the plate and educate all generations. A car license assumes we have received education and possess the skill to use our roads. However, holding a car license is a privilege, not a right. Using our roads for any means is also a privilege, not a right. As our vehicles evolve and the infrastructure progresses, we must adapt and be open to receive continuing education to safely navigate our roads in all modes – as a pedestrian, a cyclist and a motorist.

Education will provide enlightenment, a tolerance, a change in perception, a shift in our mentality – all of which I believe are required for all modes of transport to safely co-exist on our roads in Australia.

Despite the fact that the aforementioned gentleman seemed unwilling to take up my offer of insight, there are many people who do wish to learn and many who do want the tools to safely co-exist on our roads.

There is simply no place for ignorance on our roads. To be ignorant on the road in any capacity is a major danger to us all. I have since extended my offer several times but have received no response.

So no, it’s not justified ignorance. Not at all.

Sara Carrigan OAM, a former women’s road cycling champion and an Olympic gold medalist, is a cycling coach, motivational speaker and a contributor to Cyclist. For more information please visit or on Twitter @saracarrigan