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Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance please

By Tim Gavel 13 February 2019 101
Blurry of Cyclists ride through lighted city.Background.

Why has the death of a cyclist prompted hatred and not awareness?

News that a cyclist had died after being hit by a truck on the Federal Highway sent a shudder through the cycling community once again. My thoughts are with the rider’s family and friends as they cope with this sudden loss of someone they loved.

The ride to Lake George and back is something we in the cycling community regard as reasonably safe even though cars, trucks and buses, at times, feel as though they are no more than centimetres away. It is a very popular cycle trip. The views are lovely, particularly around Lake George, and the road offers a good, even surface.

It is, after all, a dual carriageway with plenty of room for both cyclists and vehicles to co-exist.

There has been an outpouring of grief and sorrow among cyclists and many others in the community when the devastating news broke. I was shocked then, to discover via social media that responses to the death of the cyclist were not universally sympathetic.

A number of social media responders used this tragedy as a platform to attack the existence of cyclists on the roads.

Why does the death of a cyclist prompt such hatred towards one of the most vulnerable of road users?

Some of them are simply outright ignorant.

The assumption underpinning many social media contributors to this tragic incident is that roads have been built for one purpose: to get from one place to another, in a car, bus, motorbike or truck, in the fastest legal manner.

One social media respondent suggested cyclists should not be on the road because they don’t go the same speed as cars and present a hazard because they travel 20 kilometres under the speed limit. There was one post, which advocated for cyclists to be banned on roads unless they are travelling at 60 kilometres an hour.

There was further ignorance when another suggested that cyclists should be confined to bike paths. Another said cyclists should ride at velodromes instead of roads.

Not all cyclists do the right thing. Some don’t abide by the road rules. But does it justify the hostility displayed in these social media posts?

These posts, I have no doubt, reflect the views of a section of road users who despise the very existence of cyclists.

So instead of the death of a cyclist raising awareness of the need to look out for all road users, the anti-cycling community are using it to promote hatred towards cyclists.

Perhaps, disappointingly, it’s a reflection upon our society. Tolerance on our roadways towards all users might help us realise that getting to our destination a couple of minutes earlier doesn’t really make any difference at all.

What’s Your opinion?

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66 Responses to
Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance please
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bigred 7:38 am 15 Feb 19

A good well-considered piece by Tim that I hope people read and have regard to.
In Australia we generally admire people who are having a go and increasing their physical well being unless they are riding a bicycle. The intense dislike of bicycles in the ACT is something of legendary status. On my first visit to the ACT on the Australia Day weekend in 1980 I unloaded my trusty bicycle from the train after a few days in the Snowy Mountains and was squeezed towards the gutter on Wentworth Avenue by some greying middle aged male driving his near new Kingswood station wagon who then proceeded to provide an abusive dialogue about why bicycles should not be on the road. When I returned to live in Canberra a few years later I discovered this antipathy is actually a deep seated cultural issue I doubt I will ever understand. I used to report the more serious altercations to the police until I realised that was an exercise in futility.

Surely it is not that hard to just ease of the right pedal a bit when around a cyclist and just admire the effort they are putting in.

Tim Rowe 11:48 am 14 Feb 19

We already have existing laws that cover the penalties for encouraging or threatening violence or harm against others.

The big question that needs to be answered is why these incidents are never investigated.

If a person were to post suggesting that people should attack a woman because of the clothes she was wearing, imagine the outrage. But suggest others run in to a cyclist for merely riding on a road? Nothing. Crickets.

The laws are already there. We already have laws that cover this very thing, clearly, explicitly, without question.

And they’re not being enforced.

Nicole Olsson 9:34 am 14 Feb 19

This is a discussion that has to take place and it's just awful there's been a man who has lost his life to get it done. Not forgetting about the other cyclists that have lost their lives on the roads in Australia, this was an avoidable accident, plenty of room on the federal to stay away from cyclists! I don't have any problems with cyclists on a road with a good shoulder but I don't think it's a good idea to ride on the narrow roads that don't have any shoulder. As I drive throughout this area I have been frightened by cyclists on roads that I won't even stand on the side of or rescue lizards off any more because of the traffic speeds! Macsreef is the worst, Norton and Bungendore Rd are bad too. Obviously in a perfect world people would be obeying the speed limit or even a bit slower than to have room to slow or stop for cyclists on those dangerous roads I am constantly getting hassled by tailgaters for doing the speed limit, I don't go over unless I overtake and try to stay slightly under on the bad roads. It really comes down to how a person is taught to drive, the social attitude in their peer group and intelligence.

Michele Gorman 6:30 pm 13 Feb 19

What got me was that 99.99% of the comments were peoples evil comments and they don't know what happened, they weren't there.

Stuart Mawbey 5:37 pm 13 Feb 19

I stopped riding cycles, which I enjoyed, because of the abuse, close calls and things thrown at me. It's a shame because its a very healthy form of transport. It doesn't matter if you obey the road rules, some people think cycles have no place on any road, and express indefensible road rage. That this hatred comes from the depths of some very dark and disturbed minds online as well. I feel for the family of the cyclist, for their loss and offer my condolences. Stay cool and level headed on the road and be aware of your situational context.

Maya123 5:30 pm 13 Feb 19

There is no logic to haters hate, except they don’t want bikes to exist in any sense, on roads, on bike paths, nowhere. They say bikes should not be on roads, then say no money should be ‘wasted’ on paths.

I have had a car driver shout at me to get off the road. I was on a bike path at the time some distance from the road. With that logic, I conclude there are some very sick mentally ill people out there, and worryingly, they are allowed to drive cars.

Christopher Mawbey 4:40 pm 13 Feb 19

All my simpathy goes to the cyclists family and friends, a genuine tradgedy. I have always wondered why Any other vehicle traveling 20 km or more below the posted 110km hr limit, for example a tractor or backhoe would have to have an escort vehicle. I don't understand why cycles are aloud on such a high speed road. Why not use the old highway as much as posible?

    Christopher Mawbey 6:23 pm 13 Feb 19

    Stuart Mawbey .

    That may well be.

    Eliza Zekalo 6:52 pm 13 Feb 19

    Christopher Mawbey many cyclists do use the old highway

    Marc La Galle 9:21 pm 14 Feb 19

    Christopher Mawbey because whereas a tractor or a backhoe is wide enough that they would not fit into the breakdown lane. Cyclists do. And that should make riding on a major highway a safer experience than riding in a suburban street where cars reverse out in front of you, car doors are opened on parked cars and you literally share the roadway with vehicles. The highway virtually gives cyclists their own lane.

Ute Diversi 4:15 pm 13 Feb 19

Having grown up in Europe where everyone was expected to own and ride a bike, I honestly can't understand the hatred and speed entitlement. I feel really sorry for the family and his friends. We also need to remember that there are not just cyclists we share the roads with. There are also pedestrians and others... if they haven't been scared out of their running shoes yet.

chewy14 3:02 pm 13 Feb 19

Yes, roads are fundamentally about getting people from A to B in the fastest manner possible.

Road users travelling significantly different speeds from the mean traffic speed, create significant risk of accident for themselves and other road users.

Cyclists are particularly vulnerable in an accident to injury and death.

All of this leads to only one conclusion, Cyclists should not be allowed on the road, at least not any significant road that has a speed limit significantly higher than can be achieved by most cyclists.

These accidents are a predictable and forseeable outcome of not dealing with reality.

    Matthew Cousins 3:48 pm 15 Feb 19

    Out of interest, where do you think bike riders should ride? Most Canberra roads are between 60-80km/h which is significantly higher than can be achieved by most cyclists.

Cary Elliot Johnson 1:29 pm 13 Feb 19

The first indication of stupidity is a complete lack of shame.

- Sigmund Freud

Trevor Anderson 12:28 pm 13 Feb 19

I used to ride in Canberra but would try to avoid roads where I could for reasons of safety. I’ve since moved to a country town and the antagonism directed at cyclists here is over the top. There are few “safe” areas to ride and where there are cycle lanes they disappear at crucial times., so I don’t ride anymore.

For all you bicycle haters out there, consider this. I just met a guy who was involved in a serious accident a while ago where the person that ran into him died. He and his son are both traumatised and receive psychological counselling to deal with ongoing trauma. Maybe empathy isn’t your strong suit but try to imagine getting out of your two tonnes of steel and glass after you’ve hit a person on a bike. You will deal with what will be seared into your consciousness for the rest of your life and it won’t be good!

Julie Coker-Godson 12:16 pm 13 Feb 19

Sadly, there is a lot of intolerance on the internet.

Bigdv8 12:13 pm 13 Feb 19

Thinking that cyclists are too vulnerable on high speed roads does not indicate that drivers ‘despise’ riders and shows empathy for road death victims. Transferring liability to drivers to maintain 1 meter and painted lines don’t stop accidents when cyclists are travelling so slowly, so hard to see and so vulnerable. That’s before we get to the cyclists who disobey road laws and deliberately put themselves in harm’s way. As a motorbike rider I know how hard it is for cars to see me despite being able to maintain their speed, lights on, much larger vehicle and protective clothing we are still disproportionateley KILLED on the roads.. it’s often about empathy, not hate, at seeing people killed on the roads.. Transferring liability onto cars is irritating many drivers, and has given some riders a licence to play chicken. No other pursuit has it’s liability transferred to others like this activity, holding drivers accountable for hard to see cyclists does seem unfair.

Pamela Tomlinson 12:10 pm 13 Feb 19

Small minded keyboard warriors will always exist. I just hope the family were not hurt by those comments.

Rollersk8r 11:20 am 13 Feb 19

Well said Tim. This accident restarted the same argument I always have with my non-cycling friends, who say bikes shouldn’t be on the road, especially not on the highway. I have ridden that section of the highway hundreds of times – and I’m far more comfortable on wide shoulder (and on the old Federal Highway) than I am on Northbourne Avenue or Adelaide Avenue bike lanes.

I accept that riding a bike comes with the risk of being hit by a car. And I will not ride on thin suburban roads like Heydon Drive, William Slim Drive and Ellenborough Street. I don’t even like riding in the Cotter/Uriarra area alone. However I will keep riding on the highway because you should be a lot more visible out there than in traffic; and there are no traffic lights, intersections, driveways or side streets out there for cars to suddenly change their mind over.

On a separate tangent – we seem to have evolved to a point where it is no longer acceptable to insult anyone over their race, gender or sexuality; but it’s still ok to universally hate anyone who chooses to use a bike. I have lost count of the number of times I’ve been abused over the years from passing cars; many of these when I wasn’t even on the road…

Steve Crispin 10:44 am 13 Feb 19

A few things from a training cyclists point of view. No cyclist uses the roads assuming there’s no risk. Of course there is. But if all road users do the right thing, the risks are reduced. This incident is getting air time because the cyclist was such a victim. The truck driver completely screwed up and the accident was entirely avoidable. The cyclist was a significant distance away from the road on a very wide shoulder doing everything in his power to be safe. If the truck driver hadn’t screwed up, we wouldn’t be having a conversation. Secondly, it is not in a cyclists interest to ride recklessly. There are a few idiots, but generally, most cyclists have the self awareness to realise our vulnerability and ride safely. Thirdly, if you think it’s too dangerous for cyclists to use the roads you should probably consider that all road users are required to use the roads according to conditions. If you’re driving in a manner where you don’t have time to react to a cyclist on the road because you didn’t expect them to be there, you aren’t driving responsibly. It could be anything on the road. A tree, an animal, a broken down car or an accident. If you drive with this in your mind, you can significantly reduce risks. I’m not saying drive slower than the limit. It’s more about gauging risks and how much you commit to leaving yourself limited exits should something occur. Finally, cyclists use the roads for numerous reasons, including convenience on commutes, recreational use and serious training. The path network is completely innapropriate for serious training on account of the roughness, maintenance, tightness of curves and the fact they’re shared paths. They can be innapropriate for commuting as they add on extra distance that can make commuting less of an option. All cyclists would rather use a safe option, and the road network, by and large, is very safe. I log over 20,000kms every year in training and commuting, and generally encounter only a handful of dangerous situations per year. This is because I ride to lower risks, and most drivers drive responsibly. You’ll never negate the risks entirely, but if everyone does the right thing and are patient and tolerant, the incidences of rider accidents and deaths will be few and far between.

Adrian Jacobs 10:28 am 13 Feb 19

I'm sorry for the ignorance of some of these people. To think it's okay to cause harm or death to someone who rides a bike is incredibly hard to understand. To hate something so much you think it's funny when a cyclist is hurt because they were on the road is disgusting. I'm a cyclist and a driver and I see poor behaviour by both. At the end of the day no deserves to die being a road user.

Anthony Hag 10:07 am 13 Feb 19

It’s not a matter of cyclist or driver rights. It’s about risk. Cyclist versus vehicle will only have one outcome. No point being ‘right’ and dead

Calis Nai-son 9:36 am 13 Feb 19

Really? Shocked? Its typical social media. Easy outlet for keyboard cowards

Taru Morton 9:24 am 13 Feb 19

Very sad about the loss of life. Cycling is a great way to keep fit and it is risky to ride on our roads. Interestingly you do not see cyclists on motorways in Europe.

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