Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance please

Tim Gavel 13 February 2019 150
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.

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150 Responses to Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance please
BlowMeDown BlowMeDown 6:15 pm 14 Feb 19

I don’t know the facts surrounding this death and until it goes to court i doubt that anyone else does either but I assume the truck driver did not deliberately run the cyclist down. That leaves a long list of other possibilities that cyclists need to consider as risks when riding on roads. Why do cyclists need to consider these risks and not the vehicle driver? Because the cyclist is the one who is vulnerable. Governments can make drivers responsible in law but that is really just spitting into the wind. They don’t put air bags, crumple zones, seat belts, etc in cars for fun. Cars are engineered for the unexpected but inevitable because drivers are human.

Similarly, those nice wide road shoulders on the highways weren’t put there for cyclists, they are there for vehicles that need to get off the road urgently because traffic engineers know that slow vehicles are a danger to themselves and to other road users.

    BlowMeDown BlowMeDown 3:53 am 15 Feb 19

    And I just remind readers and those who claim Europe as some kind of ideal cycling environment that Amy Gillett didn’t die on an Australian road. Her highly visible group of riders was hit on a European road by a European car driven by a European.

Paul South Paul South 5:53 pm 14 Feb 19

another cyclist nearly joined him yesterday . please stop at stop lights cyclist, its not hard . you may be dead, yet I have to live with your stupidity for the rest of my life .

    Peter Shands Peter Shands 7:18 pm 14 Feb 19

    not one of your best calls Paul.

    Marc La Galle Marc La Galle 9:26 pm 14 Feb 19

    Paul South so, you saw one cyclist break the law. How many car drivers? I spent 3 hours on the road yesterday and saw no cyclists breaking the road rules, just a whole stack of car and truck drivers.

    Paul South Paul South 9:37 pm 17 Feb 19

    possibly not pete but its a reality , Its just so dumb having fast moving metal objects and slow squishy ones in the same space . we all know OHS. there is no way to mittigate the risk . yet the govt in their limited foresight made this mess that we are all bickering about . cycle paths on roads are a bad idear .

    Paul South Paul South 9:44 pm 17 Feb 19

    Marc La Galle the difference is cyclists is life or death or very seriose injury . It would breake me in two too pull someone out from under my tool trailer my fault or theirs. It makes no difference. The out come is the same for the cyclist.

    Dan Rayner Dan Rayner 12:07 am 23 Feb 19

    Paul South “you may be dead, yet I have to live with your stupidity for the rest of my life”

    Not the best place to confess to vehicular manslaughter...

    Paul South Paul South 12:09 am 23 Feb 19

    thats for the courts to decide

Tim Rowe 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.

Malcolm Parnell Malcolm Parnell 11:11 am 14 Feb 19

Sonia Naoumidis , not just on social media huh?

    Sonia Naoumidis Sonia Naoumidis 2:27 pm 14 Feb 19

    Malcolm Parnell people just lack respect... everywhere .. and most importantly on the road !

Rovin Max Murray Rovin Max Murray 9:58 am 14 Feb 19

This was the 42nd fatality on NSW roads this year. So averaging around one a day. One family torn apart, one set of grieving parents, one mate who just isn't there for the next ride/drive/party. Kids who don't understand why Mum or Dad just isn't coming home. Every single one of them a tragedy, most of them preventable. The difference with this one is that it also prompted an outpouring of hatred and a whole lot of victim blaming. In truck versus bike, the truck wins. In truck versus car, the truck wins. The difference is that when your loved one dies while doing nothing wrong in a car you don't have to face losers spouting off about how they deserved it and what they were doing was too dangerous and should be banned. Even though they died.

    Mike O'Ceirin Mike O'Ceirin 2:49 pm 22 Feb 19

    I think you meant one a week. I am not a cyclist but I think all cyclist should realise if there is a great disparity between size of vehicles it is risky. I drive a car, a smaller sedan. I have to be very wary of four-wheel drives and trucks. With a truck quite often the driver cannot see me and I have had a few narrow misses with SUVs. Motorbikes scare me much more than cyclists. I do not want to do any of them harm and do my utmost to avoid but it is very easy to not see them. Motorbikes move far more quickly and are much easier to miss. There is a very high death rate for motorcyclists I think for those reasons. A complaint I have about cyclists though is going to the dawn service having a cyclist bash with their hands on the roof of my car. Rather than use the footpath in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

    Rovin Max Murray Rovin Max Murray 11:20 pm 22 Feb 19

    Mike O'Ceirin I wish I did mean one a week. So far in 2019 there have been 65 lives lost on NSW roads, over 53 days ( So actually well over one a day. It is a tragedy that barely rates a mention in our society but destroys lives every day.

    Regarding the risk because of the great disparity in the size of vehicles, I’m pretty sure most cyclists are very well aware of that risk, that’s why they are so keen to have everyone driving responsibly, paying attention and following the rules. Of course this will also help to keep you in your smaller sedan alive too!

    I will say though that I think you might have put your second last sentence a bit badly. This morning as I rode my bike I was nearly killed by a girl looking at her mobile phone as she drove. I don’t have a complaint about car drivers because of that though (of course not, I AM a car driver!) I just have a complaint about her. Obviously having someone bash with their hands on the roof of your car is going to be annoying, but that isn’t a problem with cyclists, it’s a problem with that person. I’m sure if they’d leant out of their truck window to do it, or done it as they walked by you still would have been annoyed, and I’m sure you had no problem with all of the other people on bikes who didn’t bash on your roof. The fact that the one person who did bash on the roof happened to be on a bike doesn’t mean you have a problem with cyclists!

    Safe driving!

Dan McLachlan Dan McLachlan 7:50 pm 13 Feb 19

To be fair. The same community disappointment doesn't happen when a motorcycle rider loses their life due to the same circumstances. Not saying they're right at all. Just not wrong either.

    Rovin Max Murray Rovin Max Murray 9:38 am 14 Feb 19

    Dan McLachlan I don't really understand your comment - who are you saying isn't wrong? And I would say that there is just as much grief when a motorcyclist dies - we've all got family and friends. I think the disappointment here is because for cyclists a lot of people also express pleasure and hatred when one dies, which for the people who just lost someone they love is pretty disappointing. For motorcyclists there are still a small number of people who express hatred, but it is less (possibly because they still hate us but they know that on a motorbike we have a better chance of catching them so they are scared - my theory is that basically the people who spout hatred of cyclists are the ones who have been bullied themselves and they finally see someone who appears totally defenceless so they direct years of pent up hatred at that person, regardless of what that person does), so less disappointment. Is that what you were meaning?

Rara Boyd Rara Boyd 6:52 pm 13 Feb 19

So glad this was written x I was shocked and disgusted by people’s comments on the posts, I cannot understand how people can be so insensitive

Michele Gorman 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.

    Josh Robert Josh Robert 12:03 am 14 Feb 19

    He was an NZ Defence Force office on exchange, contributing to our national security and his, bettering his physical fitness. Anyone unsympathetic to this is a psychopath

    Michele Gorman Michele Gorman 7:18 am 14 Feb 19

    Jawsh Robert here here

Stuart Mawbey 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 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.

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 10:28 am 25 Feb 19

    To be fair, there is no logic to a lot of the pro cycling argument either.

    Contrast bikes to any other inanimate object that has the capacity to kill if used incorrectly, like firearms.

    To own a firearm, the owner needs to complete formal safety training, be specially licensed (which includes proving that they have somewhere appropriate to shoot), and have police permission before buying each firearm. Safe storage is regularly inspected by police as part of a comprehensive compliance regime. All in the name of the public interest.

    Anyone can buy a bike and hit the road when ever and pretty much where ever they like. There is no need to prove even the most basic awareness of riding competency or knowledge of the road rules, and there is very little compliance.

    In both cases, a few bad apples spoil it for the bulk of participants who do the right thing, but if the same logic applied to both bikes and firearms, cyclists would need to belong to a cycling club, undergo formal rider training and be restricted as to where and when they can ride, and what they can ride.

    All in the public interest of course!

Christopher Mawbey 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?

    Stuart Mawbey Stuart Mawbey 5:28 pm 13 Feb 19

    That makes sense

    Stuart Mawbey Stuart Mawbey 5:38 pm 13 Feb 19

    Although it is legal to ride on that stretch of highway, and he was keeping to the left by all reports. It was the truck driver that was negligent.

    Christopher Mawbey Christopher Mawbey 6:23 pm 13 Feb 19

    Stuart Mawbey .

    That may well be.

    Eliza Zekalo Eliza Zekalo 6:52 pm 13 Feb 19

    Christopher Mawbey many cyclists do use the old highway

    Marc La Galle 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.

Uté Diversi Uté 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 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.

    Rollersk8r Rollersk8r 9:29 am 14 Feb 19

    The wrong comment at the wrong time – but great job on proving the point of the article. Perhaps read the words and let them sink in.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:03 pm 18 Feb 19


    Words like this?

    “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.”

    The article is using the death of this cyclist to do the exact thing its arguing against.

    Unfortunately, pointing out logical facts is not ignorant in any sense of the word.

    I havent attacked the cyclist in question, nor even mentioned the specific incident because it hasn’t been fully investigated yet.

    Doesn’t stop me from being correct, cyclists do not belong on major roads unless they are physically separated from the roadway with specific cycling infrastructure.

    Being in the right as a cyclist doesnt help you if you’re injured or die.

    astro2 astro2 2:16 pm 24 Feb 19

    Nor does it help if you are a motorist and you’re injured or die through the results of another motorist’s negligence. However that is not a reason to ban PMVs from public roads.

    Matthew Cousins 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.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:04 pm 18 Feb 19

    The only suitable place is the massive amount of bike paths we have around the ACT.

    Without dedicated, separated bike infrastructure on major roads, they shouldn’t be there.

    astro2 astro2 7:44 pm 16 Feb 19

    By that logic fatal collisions between a private motor vehicle and a truck mean that private motor vehicles should not be on the roads that trucks drive on.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:09 pm 18 Feb 19

    No it doesnt in the slightest, did you read my comment?

    Travelling significantly different speeds from the road median is a large risk factor for accidents.

    Cars can travel the same speed as trucks, bikes cant travel the same as cars on these roads.

    Cyclists are particularly vulnerable to injury and death in an accident with a car. Cars have significant safety features and usually upwards of a tonne of metal in an accident with a truck. The risk is nowhere near comparable.

    Cyclists struggle to maintain visibility on roads, the vast majority of Cars dont due to their size and lighting.

    astro2 astro2 6:35 pm 22 Feb 19

    Chew14, yes I read your comment. You were trying to equate the speed of the vehicle with its right to be on the road. This is not in accord with road rules and for a good reason. Cars and trucks travel at different speeds and have different rules and registration processes. What many people are saying is that there appears to be an attitude amongst some road users that some other road users should not be on the road and they behave illegally on the road due to this mistaken belief. Thankfully our road use legislation is not set down by shock jocks and their bogan followers.

    chewy14 chewy14 8:44 pm 24 Feb 19

    Cars and trucks do not travel significantly different speeds.

    I’ll say this slowly again, travelling significantly different speeds than the median road speed is a major risk factor for accidents. Maximum bike speeds of ~40km/hr are nothing like the differences of cars and trucks.

    Cyclists are particularly vulnerable to injury and deaths in those accidents.

    No matter how much you want to ignore reality, those are facts

    rationalobserver rationalobserver 10:36 am 25 Feb 19

    The risks to cyclists caused by other traffic are well known and documented.
    Cyclists know this.
    Cyclists accept this risk each time they decide to ride on the road.
    Own it.
    No different to taking illegal pills at a festival.

    astro2 astro2 6:31 pm 25 Feb 19

    Sure and i’ll say slowly again – trucks and motor cars are very different vehicles – different speeds, different parking conditions, different licenses required, different registration…need I go on? These are the facts of different road vehicles both operating on the same road. If a motorist is in a small sedan and collides with a semi-trailer the driver doesn’t come out of it all that well. Therefore by this argument, neither private motor vehicles nor cycles should be on the same road as a truck. Good for the goose, good for the gander as the old saying goes…

Cary Elliot Johnson Cary Elliot Johnson 1:29 pm 13 Feb 19

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

- Sigmund Freud

Trevor Anderson 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 Julie Coker-Godson 12:16 pm 13 Feb 19

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

Bigdv8 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 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 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 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.

    PE TE PE TE 6:43 pm 13 Feb 19

    Steve Crispin why cant this point of view of common sense be universal.

    Eliza Zekalo Eliza Zekalo 6:50 pm 13 Feb 19

    Steve thank you for articulating these issues so well 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼

    Louise Morosi Louise Morosi 7:55 am 14 Feb 19

    Pete Martin because apparently common sense is not so common 😕

    John Paul De Sousa John Paul De Sousa 11:01 pm 14 Feb 19

    Understanding exits is very important !!!! "It’s more about gauging risks and how much you commit to leaving yourself limited exits should something occur."

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