Any public conversation about on-road cycling in Australia seems to have only one metaphor for the relationship between drivers and cyclists: equal reciprocity.
An utterance like “Drivers must respect cyclists’ space on the road” must inevitably be followed by something like “For their part, cyclists must ride responsibly and obey the road rules.”
For instance, the campaign promoting a new road safety law in New South Wales tells us:
Drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians all need to Go Together safely. We should all respect each other’s space and ensure that everyone stays safe.
Most cyclists hardly need to be reminded to respect the space of a two-tonne vehicle travelling at 80km/h just centimetres from their elbow. Yet the wording, as well as the fines imposed, suggests cyclists have as much power to disrespect drivers’ space as vice versa.
The idea that the space someone’s car occupies on the road is personal space, where the car is treated as a proxy body with its own right not to be molested, shows just how far this notion of reciprocity has gone.
Further reading: Here’s why the recent changes to NSW cycling laws may be a good move. https://theconversation.com/amp/cars-bicycles-and-the-fatal-myth-of-equal-reciprocity-81034