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Single-file vs Double-file and the Curious Case of DFROC

The people who run Australian media outlets love stories that can be framed as “drivers vs cyclists”, and a real beauty has just dropped in their laps. It’s an online petition calling for double-file cycling to be outlawed. This is currently legal, despite many people believing otherwise.

The Project on DFROC
One of the better treatments of the issue was from The Project. Click to watch their segment.

The cycling social media world is up in arms and some are even trying to shut the petition down on the grounds that it’s “endangering lives” or even that it’s hate speech.

Where you stand on this issue depends on one question – is it safe for drivers to overtake people on bikes in the same lane? The answer to that essentially comes down to how wide things are. Can a bike, a car, a 1 metre gap between them, and some margin for error all round fit within a lane

How wide are these things? Let’s start from the left of the lane, and move right:

0.5 mWhen riding a bike you need a buffer from edge of road/left lane in case of debris, potholes, or just to give room for a slight wobble.
0.6 mWidth of my bike
1.0 mMinumum mandatory passing distance been driver and bike (it’s 1.5 m for roads with a speed limit over 60kmh
0.5 mDrivers need a margin for error to ensure they maintain the minimum 1 m gap (which is not quite wide enough anyway)
1.9 mWidth of 2018 Holden Commodore. Some cars are narrower, but then buses and trucks are much wider.
4.5 mTotal

And guess what? The standard urban lane width in Australia is 3.5 metres. It’s often narrower, particularly in inner-Sydney where I live, and particularly on main arterials where widths of 2.7 – 2.9 metres are common.

The upshot is that drivers need to change lanes to overtake people on bikes, whether single- or double-file. But single-file riders are roughly double the overtaking distance of double-file riders. Be careful what you wish for DFROC.

Single-file vs Double-file

Like so much of the “popular” reaction to cycling issues in Australia, this petition isn’t based on practicality. It simply an attack by one group against another they perceive to be less powerful than them.

The curious case of DFROC

The petition appears to originate from a Facebook page called “Drivers for Registration of Cyclists”, which until about a year ago was a satire page filled with cleverly faked news articles showing moronic motorists becoming bewildered as they were faced with the negative implications of their own demand for registering cyclists.

And then about a year ago the page abruptly did a 180, and became filled with cleverly faked photos showing cyclists doing supposedly “wrong things”, mixed with strident demands for “single file please”. It was hard to understand. Were we all being subjected to an elaborate, but obscure experiment in manipulating our assumptions and our emotions? The Photoshop fakery style before the switch was identical to that after the switch, suggesting that if it wasn’t the same author it was somebody who had closely studied their style and had the skills to copy it exactly.

An example of the "new" DFROC
The “new” DFROC showing their competent Photoshop skills, cutting and pasting riders from one part of the road into another.

It was weird. After a few weeks of it I unsubscribed, dumping it in the “unsolved mysteries” department in my mind.

The petition has brought the mystery of “Drivers for Registration of Cyclists” (or DFROC as they’re known by cyclists) into the limelight. The general consensus is that it is the work of an Australian sports cyclist named Ivan Vetsich, but some believe it is connected to a man named Ivan who lives in Ireland. Are there two Ivans? Did Australian Ivan move to Ireland and become Irish Ivan? If he did, why is he still banging on about Australian cyclists and trying to get the Australian law changed?


Update: August 8, 2018

Cycling Tips has gone deep into the rabbit hole with this piece on DFROC: Finding Mr X; The story of an anti-cycling hate page (and the cyclist behind it).

Welcome to the first post of my new blog

If you squint hard at the bottom of this blog’s header image you can just make out my home. The photo was taken during construction of the Kings Cross tunnel in the late 60s/early 70s. The tunnel destroyed a major swathe of the Cross, which is Sydney’s traditional red-light/bohemian/drug/crime district.

Kings Cross used to be here
Kings Cross used to be here

Today the Cross is largely gentrified. The actual drugs and crime have been replaced by council-sanctioned memorials to drugs and crime, which have been embedded in the stone used in the Kings Cross footpaths. It’s the same grey stone being installed in all the “nice” areas of Sydney.

Kings Cross Footpath Plaque
A plaque to remind you of what’s no longer there
It's a long and bleak walk across that footbridge, and always sad to imagine what was lost to build this massive road.
Google Street View shows the long and bleak walk across that footbridge. It’s always sad to imagine what was lost in order to build this massive road.
A new tunnel required a few more lanes to be squeezed in alongside the old lanes.
In the 2000s the “Cross-City Tunnel” was added alongside the old Kings Cross Tunnel. At the tunnel’s exit the new lanes were somehow squeezed in alongside the old lanes. My home is now 150 metres from 10 lanes of traffic.

Well, that’s my first blog post, just in time for the end of the blogging era 🙂 I’ve started with something small and close-to-home, but I have a handful of broader topics I’m ready to roll with. So read on.