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view of door zone in miller street pyrmont sydney

It is not compulsory to ride in the door zone!

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Welcome to Sydney, Australia, featured battleground in the ongoing Cars vs The Rest culture war. Sydney has many 'door zone' cycle paths, and many beginner cyclists believe they have to use them.

As with many cities, motor vehicles delay traffic imageSydney has seen a resurgence in transport cycling as other transport modes have become less efficient. A result is that the car-clogged, glass-strewn streets of Sydney became festooned with countless kilometres of 'shoulder lanes', otherwise known as 'door zone' cycle paths, the box-ticking bureaucrat’s bike path of choice.

Legions of bright-eyed beginner cyclists have taken to the roads, and many, good citizens, ride in the door zones. They do so in the belief they are legally obliged to, something no doubt cultivated by the psychopaths behind the whole idea. And who knows how many of those beginner cyclists have come to grief?

empty door zone car door blocking door zone cyclist riding clear of door zone silly cyclist riding in door zone

The bureaucrats justified the use of door zone cycle paths on the grounds that it encourages more people to cycle; the increase in numbers can then be used to justify the cost of more appropriate infrastructure (i.e. for the survivors). How's that for utilitarianism gone rampant?

Anyway, in recent years the culprits suffered a guilt attack (more likely litigation attack) and began quietly removing the offending pavement markings. This process is far from complete (how hard is it to remove?), and many good citizens are still betting their necks in car-door roulette.

At least one Sydney council, The City of Sydney, is these days advising cyclists to not ride in the shoulder lanes; it summarises the relevant law as follows:

It is not a legal requirement to use a shoulder lane – bike riders have every right to take the lane.

So, if you are a beginner cyclist, be aware that you don't have to ride in the door zone. You can – and I think you should – use the adjacent general traffic lane, and as much of it as you need. The general traffic lane is there for all vehicles, not just motor vehicles, so don't hesitate to use it.

However, if the righteous wrath of the impatient motorist brings to mind ruler-wielding nuns, consider riding 'along the line' – but only where there is sufficient clearance; otherwise stay put until there is, and then move over. If there is only a short distance between parked vehicles, keep going in a straight line – don't move over at all.