According to the Herald Sun two-wheeled missiles are hitting our bicycle paths:

Dozens of cyclists have been caught doing more than double the recommended speed limit on a busy shared path with pedestrians.

The Herald Sun clocked 170 bike riders with a calibrated radar gun at Southbank last week, with 73 caught doing more than 20km in the 10km zone.

The worst speedster was nabbed doing 34km/h along the river.

Only 14 riders were doing 10km/h or less.

Dozens, hey? Well let's take some comfort in the downward trend from the hundreds reported in a nearly identical bullshit story back in 2006.

We've been here before and we know that the Herald Sun recycles anti-cycling news. It's a pretty easy routine too: just step outside the HWT building in Southbank with a radar gun and a photographer and "nab" them.

There's only one problem:

VicRoads said the speed limit was an advisory only and not enforced.

And let's pay a bit of attention to what Dr Marilyn Johnson from the Amy Gillett Foundation said:

"Really it is about riding to the conditions. You do need to watch your speed when you are in a shared space.''

And likewise, Garry Brennan of BNV:

"Where pedestrians are dense and there is a risk of collision, bikes should not be doing 30km/h.

True Southbank Promenade can get very busy on the weekends and in the evenings, which makes it not a fun place to ride. On a busy weekend afternoon there is about zero chance of getting a bike up to anything more than walking pace, let alone anywhere near 20 or 34km/h.

But the Herald Sun didn't take its measurements on a busy weekend afternoon. In fact, it didn't do it on weekend at all. It was done before 9am on a Friday morning, not that you'll find that information in the body of the article.

Take a look at the photo with the caption Speeding cyclists have been clocked riding at speeds over the legal limit in Southbank. Is that a picture of two reckless cyclists speeding along "a busy shared path with pedestrians" and ploughing heedlessly through a "hectic shared area"? Or is that a picture of two cyclists rolling along an otherwise deserted path?

Have a look at the length of shadows in that photo: it's hardly the middle of the day. From this one published photo, presumably the one that best supports the Herald Sun's story, can we see anything that suggests that there is a density of pedestrians or any risk of collision?

The photo's metadata shows that this shot was taken at 8:40am on 27 September, which was a Friday. And if before 9am on a weekday morning is peak pedestrian traffic time on Southbank Promenade, I'll eat my saddle. My guess is what you get on Southbank at that time on a weekday is mostly experienced and responsible commuter cyclists riding at a pace and with a level of caution suitable to prevailing conditions. Given that the width of Southbank Promenade allows for plenty of passing space, then 20km/h is a perfectly reasonable speed for a bike when pedestrian traffic is thin or non-existent.

What a mischievous and unoriginal piece. Here's how it works:

  1. measure cyclists supposedly "speeding" at a time when the Promenade is basically deserted, but
  2. don't mention this little fact in the article, instead
  3. use a little bit of hinting in the article (e.g. "hectic", "busy") to suggest that it was otherwise, and
  4. rely on the knowledge that most Melburnians experience Southbank as a crowded and bustling cafe strip, then
  5. leave it to the readers to make the connection for themselves.

There is no story here, and never has been. No matter how many times the Herald Sun recycles it, bullshit is still bullshit.