Serial sleazeball and Internet troll Harley "Durianrider" Johnstone has just made the news here in Australia, and for all the wrong reasons.
After a motorist came a bit too close for the vegan troll's liking on what appears to be Norton Summit Road in the Adelaide Hills on Sunday, Johnstone completely lost whatever tiny shred of sanity he had left and went into a bogan meltdown. The cracker is that Johnstone, money-grubbing attention-whore that he is, thought it would be a great idea to post footage of his outburst on YouTube. He evidently wasn't planning on Channel Seven also sharing the footage on their top-rating current affairs show Today Tonight. Unlike Johnstone's gullible YouTube followers, Today Tonight's demographic aren't so forgiving of obnoxious loudmouths. After watching the footage of Johnstone screaming "kill me, f**king kill me!" at the motorist, Today Tonight's Facebook page lit up with dozens of folks eagerly volunteering to do just that.
Here he is ladies and gentlemen, the world's most loathsome vegan, in all his feral glory:
For the record, I absolutely despise car drivers who drive dangerously close to cyclists, especially when the neighbouring lane is completely empty. But I'm not convinced this driver's actions warrant the histrionic carry on displayed by Johnstone. I've had drivers come a lot closer to me whilst riding than this guy did to Johnstone. Furthermore, the BMW driver appeared to have crossed the double white lines while passing (you're allowed to do this if passing a cyclist) - hardly the kind of accommodating behaviour you'd expect from a member of the pigheaded "Cyclists Should Get Off the Road!" crowd.
It's also important to note there was a cyclist approaching from the other direction, which meant the BMW driver had to be careful about pulling out too far to the right.
And last but not least, the driver seemed pretty calm and rational about the whole thing, and wasn't yelling the usual "You @#%s shouldn't be on the @#$%&# road!" stupidity that so many other feeble-minded motorists mindlessly recite. If this guy was out to "kill" cyclists, he wasn't very enthusiastic about his mission.
Methinks the Doucherider, grandmaster of overeaction and tantrum-throwing that he is, chose the wrong motorist to try and make an example of. And while he no doubt figured posting the exchange online would garner a boatload more hits for his monetised YouTube channel, the whole charade seems to have blown up in his ugly face.
If Johnstone and his British-accented buddy really believed their lives had just been jeopardized, and that the driver was trying to "kill" them, why didn't they just ride straight to the nearest police station and show the cops the footage? As history clearly shows, the Doucherider has no qualms about running like a little sook to SAPOL and accusing people of causing him harm, so why the reluctance in this case? Oh wait, in this case he actually had footage of the incident, and it pretty much showed his claims to be nonsense. So instead of going to the cops, Johnstone and his clueless mates posted the footage on YouTube, thinking his loyal followers would automatically side with him. Like I said, he clearly wasn't planning on the mainstream media picking up on the story.
There are several important lessons to be learned from this video.
Lesson #1: Bad Diets and Bad People are a Really Bad Mix
Vegan diets are not good for one's mental health. Studies have repeatedly found vegetarians suffer a higher incidence of B12 deficiency than omnivores, with vegans showing the highest incidence of all (thanks to their complete avoidance of animal foods).
Why is this pertinent to the current conversation?
Because vitamin B12 is absolutely crucial to mental health.
The Oxford Vegetarian Study found death from mental and neurological diseases was a whopping (and statistically significant) 2.46 times higher among vegetarians. While I normally couldn't care less about the farcical science of nutritional epidemiology, an RR of 2.46 is far more robust than the usual anemic and confounder-prone RRs cited for suppoosedly evil (but perfectly healthy) foods like red meat. Furthermore, this statistical association between meatless diets and neurological/mental dysfunction has a very plausible explanation, given that B12 is crucial for healthy cognitive and neural function.
And the OVS was hardly the only study to indicate negative psychiatric consequences from meatless diets. Studies in Germany, Austria and Australia show a higher rate of mental health problems among vegetarians[3-5]. Here in 'Straya (that's bogan for Australia, mate!), a study of over 9,000 women found vegetarians and 'semi-vegetarians' were far more likely to have been diagnosed with iron deficiency, anaemia, depression and anxiety disorder. Vegetarians and semi-vegetarians also reported more menstrual symptoms (irregularity, premenstrual tension and severe period pain) than non-vegetarian women, had a higher incidence of constipation and other bowel problems, were more likely to be depressed, have difficulty sleeping, and to experience panic attacks or palpitations. Most alarmingly, they were far more likely to have engaged in deliberate self-harm than non-vegetarians.
Yeah, go vegan. If you want to be a miserable, constipated sod.
Lesson #2: Get off the Drugs, Australia.
The second key issue this video raises is the potential mental impairment caused by illicit drug use. Johnstone has admitted to taking steroids and methamphetamines. He claims he no longer uses them, but given his long and well-documented history of blatant lying, and the behaviour he displays in the above video, I'm simply not prepared to take his word for it. Standing in the middle of a public roadway, incoherently yelling, screaming and begging for a stranger to kill you, is textbook classic meth-head behaviour.
I personally have little issue with healthy, grown adults taking judicious doses of well-studied anabolics like testosterone enanthate in short cycles (this does not mean I use them myself, and anyone who claims otherwise is more than welcome to put their money where their libelous mouth is and pay for me - and themselves - to get tested). Having said that, I have a pretty poor regard for the risky polypharmacy so prevalent these days, where people of highly questionable intellect self-administer large doses of multiple anabolics, along with a host of associated pharmaceuticals in an often questionable mission to minimize the side effects of the former. Given Johnstone's extremist tendencies and the video footage of him bragging about the large amount of steroids stashed at his bogan batcave, I'm guessing his steroidal endeavours involve a lot more than just short, judicious cycles of enanthate.
As for non-anabolic drugs, I cannot even begin to condone using toxic garbage like cocaine and methamphetamines, both of which Johnstone has also admitted to using. As someone who has never even smoked a cigarette, I just don't get illicit recreational drugs, I really don't. Despite their well-documented decades' long history of screwing people's lives up, millions of people around the world continue to experiment with them, and then act surprised when their lives fall apart and their health turns to sh!t.
"Hmmm, this junk ruins livers, kidneys and brains, causes people to act psychotic, makes them look like crap, destroys lives and families, and often kills people ... Yep, I think I'll start taking it!"
And nowhere is this bizarre process of deduction more prevalent than in Australia. The United Nation’s World Drug Report 2014 found Australia had the highest proportion of recreational drug users in the world. Given that, at last count, there were some 188 sovereign countries in the world, that's an absolute disgrace.
The shameful statistics confirmed Australians as the world's most prolific users of ecstasy, third for methamphetamine, and seventh for cannabis. Australia ranked second only to the US for addiction to opioids such as codeine and morphine, the use of which was disproportionately high among Australian women.
And the real cracker is that, despite living on an island with a very large pool of water separating us from South America, Australians are the world's fourth biggest users of cocaine. Maybe border security should worry less about about Johnny Depp's dogs and Bodybuilding.com packages, and more about containers full of "furniture" from Colombia. Or even better, maybe Australians should just stop snorting toxic junk up their nose.
You know, just a thought.
Lesson #3: Lift Your Driving Game, Australia
The third thing I'd like to address is the truly appalling behaviour of a sadly large proportion of Australian motorists.
To listen to a lot of Australian car drivers, you'd think cyclists are the biggest menace that ever blighted Australian roads.
[SCENARIO: TWO COPS AT THE SCENE OF A DEVASTATING ROAD ACCIDENT]:
COP 1: "So what happened here, Junior Constable Peachfuzz?"
COP 2: "Well, Senior Sargeant Beergut, according to witnesses, this guy on a lightweight racing bicycle ran a red light and hit a semi-trailer. The force of being hit by a 60kg lycra-clad bloke on a 7kg carbon-fiber bicycle caused the 50-tonne truck to fly into the air, overturn, and land upside down on a school bus. This caused both the truck and the bus to explode, causing all buildings within a 75-metre radius to catch fire and burn to the ground. So far we've counted 144 bodies, but we expect there to be more. Also, one of the cyclist's water bottles dislodged and hit a koala."
COP 1: "F**king cyclists! If they were forced to pay rego fees like us angelic car drivers, none of this would've ever happened!"
Yep, there's a reason why no-one ever accused this country of being an epicentre of intellectual brilliance. It seems the same mentality that could do no better than the terribly lame "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie! Oi, Oi, Oi!" as our international sporting chant also shaped much of the motoring public's view of cyclists.
The reality is that while hundreds of cyclists have been killed by motor vehicles in Australia, the number of car drivers killed after their vehicles were hit by bicycles amounts to a big fat ...
The indisputable fact is that the most common cause of accidents, injury and death to Australian motorists is THEMSELVES and OTHER MOTORISTS.
I repeat: The biggest danger to Australian motorists is THEMSELVES and OTHER MOTORISTS.
To all you Australian drivers: Every time someone leaves their car at home and rides their bike instead, be it for work, shopping or leisure purposes, that is one less missile on the road with the potential to kill YOU, YOUR FAMILY, and YOUR FRIENDS.
Think about it.
Research by the Adelaide and Monash Universities (the latter involving actual camera footage rather than the speculative hogwash that the MUARC unit is so adept at) shows that around 75% of accidents and near-misses between cyclists and drivers are the fault of drivers. Analysis of accidents involving cyclists and motor vehicles in the mainland US and Hawaii have shown similar results, while a study in London found two-thirds of motorists were to blame.
It's not rocket science, folks. Cyclists are far less likely to act in a manner that could initiate accidents with cars because they have far more to lose. A car driver has the luxury of being encased in a 1,500kg shell comprised of metal, rubber and plastic. A cyclist has no such luxury, and when 70-90kg or so of rider + bike collides with a 1,500 kg+ missile commandeered by some idiot busy sending SMS messages, it's not hard to work out who will come off second best.
While Johnstone is clearly deranged and seems to have a death wish, most of the Australian cycling public does not. It's high time Australian drivers learned a modicum of respect and patience. Not just for cyclists, but for other motorists as well. I've always thought poorly of the standard of driving here in Australia, but after riding in Spain, I find the Australian attitude towards other road users and especially cyclists to be nothing if not appalling. While our clueless, revenue-raising cops hide at the bottom of steep hills, engaged in the patently sleazy activity of booking motorists exceeding our arbitrary and non-evidence-based speed limits by a few KMHs, no-one seems to be doing jack to address the feral, territorial and highly aggressive attitude that is so commonplace among Australian drivers.
Little surprise that while Australian speeding fine revenue continues to reach new highs, the road toll in most Australian states is increasing.
I challenge anyone who is not institutionalized in a psychiatric facility to watch videos like the following, and then repeat with a straight face how it is cyclists who pose the biggest danger on Australian roads:
Folks, give cyclists room. It's not that hard. If Spanish bus drivers were able to safely commandeer massive coaches around me on narrow and incredibly windy roads like the epic ascent out of Sa Calobra (over 20 hairpin turns!), then there's simply no excuse for you not to do the same in a nimble sedan on wider and straighter stretches of road.
And if you can't safely pass a cyclist without allowing a safe gap, then here's a suggestion. It's pretty revolutionary, so you may want to sit down for this:
WAIT UNTIL IT'S SAFE BEFORE YOU PASS.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, thank you!
No really, thank you!
Aw, c'mon, you're too kind!
In all seriousness, the seemingly simple and commonsense idea of slowing down for a few hundredths of a second to allow a cyclist to get past an obstruction like a parked car is just beyond the reality of many Australian motorists. Instead, as if possessed, they'll either hold steady or even stomp on the accelerator and squeeze past you, placing your life in very real danger lest you wobble a few inches off course from the resultant shock.
As for expecting these reckless, impatient grumps to hold back a bit in the hills until it's safe to pass ... fuggetaboutit. Wherever they're going - the pub? home to watch the cricket? - is so important, so urgent, that they'll even dive into blind corners to get past you. This actually happened to me yesterday - some loon raced past me in his approach to a corner, only to be greeted by a car coming the other way. Thankfully said loon swerved back into the left lane lane in time and nothing came of it, but the irony is that the actual corner itself contained an asphalt shoulder that would have allowed me to pull to the side and let the kamikaze in question past without incident.
But nope, a lot of Australian drivers just can't friggin' wait. They just have to get past you, and they have to get past you NOW, damnit!
After a month in Mediterranean Spain, I came to realize something about Australia:
It's a highly strung country.
Australians still like to view themselves as a happy-go-lucky bunch, but a few days on Melbourne roads will quickly dismiss that stereotype. Far from being a carefree people, we live in a stressful, consumerist culture where everyone seems to be trapped on the debt treadmill. Everything is expensive, including our utilities and real estate, which currently rank among the most costly in the world. We live in an over-governed nanny-state, ruled by a bunch of pork-barrelling sleazeballs with the temerity to tell us the "age of entitlement is over", while they continue to do everything from using helicopters for short trips that could have easily been completed by car, to enjoying lifelong salaries after they leave office - all at the public's expense.
Last year I read about a recent survey that ranked Australia the eighth happiest nation in the world (the Danes, apparently, were the cheeriest of all). As soon as I read that, two words entered my mind:
"Seriously, just f**k off."
We've got the highest rate of illicit recreational drug use in the world, the world's third highest rate of antidpressant use, we have twice the suicide rate of countries like Italy and Spain, we had to introduce special laws to deal with a plague of random king hit attacks, and our capital cities are now home to the kind of psychotic driving and road rage that years ago most Australians would've only ever seen in a Hollywood action movie. But we're in the top ten cheeriest nations?
Yeah, no worries.
Either that survey was put together by the same jokers responsible for the polls predicting "NO" to a Brexit and a runaway Hillary Clinton win, or most of the Australian respondents were stoned when they filled in the questionnaire.
Lesson #4: If You Can Afford it, Educate Your Kids Overseas
One of the common arguments cited by the anti-cycling brainiacs is that "cyclists do not belong on the road".
Remember my comment about no-one ever accusing this country of being a hotbed of intellectual brilliance? That's due to a couple of factors:
1. Australia does not have a learning culture. A regrettably large number of Australians would rather watch cricket or get drunk than read a book. That's not entirely their fault, for reasons to be discussed in factor #2:
2. The Australian education system sucks. A recent international comparison of education standards shows Australia is getting creamed, not only by Asian countries like Singapore, Japan, Chinese Taipei, Korea and Hong Kong, but even Kazakhstan — the Central Asian country satirised in that horsesh!t Sacha Baron Cohen film Borat.
Anyone who can retain the natural curiosity and inquisitiveness characteristic of children after surviving 10 or more years of the substandard, stultifying Australian education system is a special individual. Heck, anyone who emerges with decent reading and grammar skills is pretty unique. Employers frequently complain that even university graduates can't spell or structure sentences properly, and a 2008 survey found 47% - almost half - of Australians were functionally illiterate!
"That means they can't read the instructions on a medicine bottle, they can't read a map, they can't read a recipe," laments Jan Richards, manager of Central West Libraries in NSW.
If Australians struggle to read a recipe or the instruction label on their bottle of antidepressants, don't expect them to read the road rules for their respective state. If they did, they'd learn that the right of cyclists to ride on the roads is enshrined in law. To illustrate this point, let's take a look at the laws in South Australia, where the Doucherider vs BMW Alpina incident occurred.
Australian states either incorporate the Australian Road Rules or feature their own partially modified variant. Here's S14 and S15A from the ARR as reprinted in the SA regulations, which define what a "road user" and a "vehicle" are:
South Australian legislation, and the ARR upon which it rests, clearly state a rider is a road user, and that a bicycle is a vehicle. So too is a horse and cart and a motorized wheelchair. Speaking of horse and cart, another common retort by the anti-cycling geniuses is that roads were made for cars, not bicycles. Actually, they were originally made for horses. As for bicycles, they were invented before motor vehicles. If modern roads are not adequately designed for cyclists, that's hardly the fault of cyclists - it's the fault of road designers and the governments who steal so much of our money in the form of taxes, fees, fines, levies etc, etc, and then give us such a terribly deficient road system in return.
So when Australian motorists claim cyclists do not belong on the road, they are not expressing the law but their own personal ignorance and bigotry. Imagine if they tried applying this logic in other areas:
JUDGE: "Why did you stab the victim when he was minding his own business and posing absolutely no threat to you, Mr Shiftycock?"
DEFENDANT: "Because he was wearing a One Direction t-shirt, Your Honour."
DEFENDANT: "He was wearing a One Direction t-shirt."
JUDGE: "That hardly constitutes grounds for fatally wounding someone, Mr Shiftycock."
DEFENDANT: "Oh yes it does, Your Honour! I don't like One Direction, and therefore people who wear One Direction t-shirts shouldn't be on the footpath!"
Australia, The Clever Country.
Lesson #5: Some Cyclists are Idiots Too.
Before I kick this section off, I want to point out something that would be bleedingly obvious in a country where half the people weren't semi-literate:
Cyclists are only human.
This means that, just like motorists who make earnest mistakes on the road, cyclists sometimes make earnest mistakes too. Sometimes they misjudge the speed of an oncoming vehicle, sometimes they don't even see that vehicle until it's too late. As with motorists who make honest mistakes, this falls under the categories of human error and incompetence, not malice arising from an evil two-wheeled conspiracy to take over the country's road system.
Let he who has not sinned ...
Now that we've got that out the way, it's time to acknowledge a disappointing reality: More than a few cyclists act like idiots on the road, too.
In Victoria and South Australia, cyclists are legally allowed to ride two abreast. But sadly, the same education system that produces PhDs with crap English skills and dipshit drivers who think a lightweight Colnago is more dangerous than a supercharged Monaro with P-plates, also produces a not insignificant number of cyclists who can't count.
If there's one thing that pisses motorists off, it's driving along, only to be slowed to a crawl by a group of cyclists unnecessarily riding 3 or more abreast. A sin, I know for a fact, that Johnstone and his selfish riding buddies are 100% guilty of.
And let's be honest - while riding two abreast might be legal, there are circumstances where it's just not a good idea. You know, like in the middle of corners on narrow, windy roads. On a recent trip to Adelaide during the Tour Down Under, I decided to go for a ride along scenic Gorge Road to Gumeracha. On the way back, I came into a bend and couldn't believe what I was seeing up ahead: Two female riders riding two abreast, with one in the middle of the lane and the other sitting on the dividing white lines and at one point actually crossing over them into the oncoming lane (note to the PC crowd: Testosterone is not a prerequisite for foolhardy behaviour).
This was in the middle of a corner, for chrissakes! I ended up passing them on the inside, because passing them on the outside would have meant riding in the centre of the oncoming lane! There was simply no excuse for them not to be sitting to the left of the road, and if a car had approached at speed in either direction, things could've gotten real ugly, real quick.
It's people like this who help worsen the already struggling public image of cyclists. While the rest of us do the right thing, stick to the left, use hand signals to indicate our intentions to motorists, and give a friendly wave or thumbs up when motorists do the right thing, you idiots are out there stubbornly undoing all our good work.
Fair's fair, folks. You want respect on the roads? Then you unrepresentative numbskulls should wise up, show some respect yourself, and stop making things worse for the rest of us.
As for Harley Johnstone, that Today Tonight story, while alerting thousands of people to what a complete jack@ss you are, is now threatening to set back cyclist-motorist relations in this country a millennium or so. While Australian cyclists have reacted to that video by almost unanimously rejecting you as an unrepresentative disgrace, and while a lot of the comments on the Today Tonight Facebook page are by people wise to your sociopathy, those comments also contain a frighteningly large number of nutters expressing some pretty disturbing anti-cycling sentiment.
Before I sign off, it would be remiss of me not to give credit where credit is due. I want to say a humongous Thank You! to all the decent Australian motorists who are abiding by the new laws, and giving us cyclists a safe berth when they pass. Believe me, your courtesy is deeply appreciated. Please, please keep it up. Please ignore all those moron motorists whose diatribes about cyclists would see them charged with hate speech if they were talking about other minority groups. And, please, don't ever even begin to think that a puerile waste of space like Harley Johnstone is representative of Australian cyclists.
Ride and drive safe people, we're all in this together,
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