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Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance please

Tim Gavel 13 February 2019 151
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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151 Responses to Death of a cyclist: Some tolerance please
Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 6:13 pm 28 Jul 19

I can’t find the original post I was trying to answer on Facebook (although I can see it on RiotAct) by Brian McKenzie quoting the wrong rules for people cycling in the ACT. Has it been deleted? I believe he likely quoted the rules re people cycling on footpaths in NSW.

(Copied from Brian's post, "“there is a restricted age limit on cyclists on footpaths: In these states, children under 12 years of age can ride on a footpath. An adult rider who is supervising a cyclist under 12 may also ride with the young cyclist on the footpath. ALL OTHER RIDERS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON FOOTPATHS.” Ignorance of the law is no excuse")

With rules varying between states, it is an understandable mistake for those who don’t know the rules, so as I can't find the conversation, I will post the answer here that I planned to post. Only NSW and Victoria have those restricting rules. Here are extracts about those rules for other states and territories. Hopefully this will clear cycling rules up for those who don’t know the rules. Extracts found after a quick google search.

In Queensland, cyclists of any age are allowed to ride on a footpath unless prohibited by a 'NO BICYCLES' sign.

In South Australia, you can ride your bicycle on either the road or the footpath, unless a sign prohibits you from doing so.

Bicycle riders of any age may ride on a footpath in Tasmania unless such a use is prohibited (usually by signs) (rule 250(1); maximum 2 penalty units). ... On shared paths, the same etiquette as with footpaths applies – keep to the left…Dec 14, 2017

NT: When cycling on bicycle paths and footpaths: You must keep to the left of any oncoming bicycle rider. You can ride on footpaths (unless prohibited by a 'No Bicycle' sign), but you must keep left.

WA cyclists permitted to ride on footpaths. A leading West Australian cycling group has welcomed changes to the road traffic code which allow cyclists of all ages to ride on footpaths. ... Until today, only children aged under 12 were legally allowed to ride on footpaths.Apr 25, 2016

In the ACT it's legal to ride on the footpath…

Brian McKenzie Brian McKenzie 3:44 pm 28 Jul 19

Cyclists shouldn’t use footpaths either. I am sick of cyclists expecting me to walk in the mud so they can ride on the path. Now when cyclists ring their bell for me to move of the path I flatly refuse. To be clear I am only talking about footpaths not shared zones

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 4:03 pm 28 Jul 19

    Move to the left of the path; that's all that's required. Who's expecting you to walk in the mud? It's your imagination. Beside, what mud? Haven't seen any of that for awhile. I also walk on footpaths and never have a problem, but then I likely show tolerance to other users and don't unhealthily fixate on this to the point a problem which doesn't exist builds up in my mind. I also keep left; that helps. But to put this into perspective, I rarely see someone cycling on the type of path that existed (such as along suburban streets) before shared paths came into existence, such as around the lake. That type of path (such as the lake one) were purposely built for people to ride bikes on and if not for that mightn't exist. Although built for cycle riding, they have never been designated as a bike path, but rather as all paths (unless marked otherwise) in the ACT are designated, 'shared paths'.

    Brian McKenzie Brian McKenzie 4:05 pm 28 Jul 19

    Julie Macklin your experience is different to mine. Cyclists aren’t legally allowed on footpaths anyway.

    “ there is a restricted age limit on cyclists on footpaths: In these states, children under 12 years of age can ride on a footpath. An adult rider who is supervising a cyclist under 12 may also ride with the young cyclist on the footpath. ALL OTHER RIDERS ARE NOT ALLOWED ON FOOTPATHS.”

    Ignorance of the law is no excuse

Sue Arnold Sue Arnold 10:45 am 06 Jul 19

*Cyclists really need to determine if where they wish to travel, is safe logistically, before embarking on their trip. Last Sunday, we were travelling to Newcastle over Mt Sugarloaf, a particularly narrow, steep and windy road. We came across numerous cyclists, where we had to virtually stop, as we behind trailed them, because it was too dangerous pass. No shoulder, double lines, bends, straight up embankment on one side, a cliff on the other, oncoming traffic, or not being able to see if there was oncoming traffic, because of the bends. As cyclists are wont to tell us, we should be patient as we travel at 5 klms an hour behind them, while they struggle up the hill. The situation is, cars coming around a bend a normal speed having to put on their breaks suddenly to avoid hitting the slow car, or the cyclist. We were nearly rammed because of this situation, but the cyclist continued without missing a beat.

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 1:19 pm 28 Jul 19

    I had a similar experience last week driving up the road at the tree museum. The lady on the bike in front of me was not up to the task and eventually fell off. Good thing I was patient and could see what was about to happen.

WhiteRabbit WhiteRabbit 5:04 pm 27 Jun 19

Bicycles: an interesting point of division

Randy Goldberg Randy Goldberg 9:10 am 23 Feb 19

When cyclists, as other "powered" road users, need to sit exams, be licensed, registered, insured and as accountable, under the law as vehicle drivers, perhaps many of the cyclist vs vehicle incidents won't occur as frequently as they do.

I'm NOT saying that the truck driver is innocent or guilty . We wont know until this goes to court but what I am saying is that there are TOO MANY cyclists, e-scooters, and other wheeled and/or powered modes of transport with users that show a blatent disregard for road rules.

They ignore stop & give way signs. They ignore traffic lights. Their attitude seems to be, it's my road and I'm not in a car so get out of my way.

I thought there is a rule/law that said all bicycles were supposed to have a bell or other signalling device to alert pedestrians that they were behind you. This seems to be ignored or it is too much effort to warn people when a cyclist is coming up behind you. I've often been abused (verbally) for "getting in their way" on footpaths and shared paths and was given the finger by a cyclist who decided the red light he was crossing at (technically riding opposite traffic) wasn't for him and when I started to proceed, having the green light in my favour, I had to brake hard as I (wrongly?) assumed he was going to stop and give me the right of way.

Look. I appreciate that cyclists want access to the roads, etc but I really feel that they need to prove that they know and obey the road rules just like I do when driving.

If I drove the way I've seen numerous cyclists ride, I either would have killed someone by now or I would have lost my license.

Why aren't cyclists held as accountable as vehicle drivers?

    Alessandra Whiting Alessandra Whiting 10:51 am 23 Feb 19

    Randy Goldberg I’ve seen many more drivers drive badly than cyclists. In fact, they often do much worse than cyclists, presumably because they are relying on their car/air bags, etc to save them. Or maybe they just don’t care about other people.

    Driving to/from work takes me about 15 minutes each way and I see approximately 2 serious breaches of the road rules a day. Sometimes it’s enough for me to call the police and report it (if I think they will continue driving dangerously, they might be drunk, or they are in a stolen car). That’s not counting the number of cars speeding through roadworks zones (90% of them) or just speeding generally.

    Sean Fleming Sean Fleming 4:42 pm 30 Mar 19

    Much of cyclists' behaviour on the roads is driven by the attitude and driving behaviours of motorists. They jump lights because cars give them no room to pull away from lights when they are most unstable at low speeds. They ride two abreast because if you ride single file it is an invite for drivers to see how close they can get to you when overtaking. I agree that many cyclists are not considerate of pedestrians on paths. I don't condone it, but it pales to nothing compared to the bevhaviour of motorists to cyclists - a car passing too closely (normally well over the posted speed limit and the driver on the phone!) is very unnerving, even without the aggressive horn blowing and constant insults. There is no point having a bell on a bike - drivers can't hear it over their music or phone calls and most pedestrian are looking at their phones or have headphones on! Most cyclists are motorists, so are already 'qualified' road users and if you are not a cyclist and a motorist you really have no idea about the realities of trying to stay alive on your journey to work - no one should have to put up with these behaviours and in any other situation it would be threatening behaviour!

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 10:22 pm 30 Mar 19

    Sean Fleming I have rung my bell at a pedestrian to warn them I was about to overtake, only to be abused for not ringing my bell. "I rang it; take of your earphones," I shouted. I wonder if they heard that? Bells (or a horn) are a requirement on a bicycle, but car drivers are unlikely to hear it, and these days so are many headphone wearing pedestrians. If bells are a requirement; it obviously means they are meant to be heard, so perhaps it should be a requirement for pedestrians to take off their headphones so that the requirement that bells can be heard, is possible.

    William O'Sullivan William O'Sullivan 12:40 pm 28 Jul 19

    A cycle is my only mode of transport now, recently bought a new one to travel to and from work. I try and not use the roads when I can, however at times I don't have a choice. On cycle tracks pedestrians are an issue, not only the earphones but they seem to have no idea which way to move! I have been licenced (car truck and motorbike for many years) and I always though move to the left or if on the cycle track stay in the left lane for the simple bloody reason of not getting hit!

    William O'Sullivan William O'Sullivan 12:46 pm 28 Jul 19

    A cycle is a way to stay fit and healthy. Accidents are going to happen via the stupid, intolerant, ignorant and those that are fat, lazy and are clueless! Patience is a virtue, something that some motorists need to gain!

    Julie Macklin Julie Macklin 2:26 pm 28 Jul 19

    I walk, cycle and drive. When walking on the shared paths I stay left and I have never had a problem with passing people riding bikes. I strongly suspect those pedestrians that have a problem are not keeping left and/or are not looking about, including behind them when they change direction. Most are likely also car drivers and I would hope they look behind them when about to turn or do a u-turn in their car, so why is the same thing so difficult when walking on a shared path?

whoaman whoaman 11:37 pm 22 Feb 19

Maybe the focus should be on this; how and where can cyclists safely go. Too often I see cyclists not abiding by road rules or even finding ways around. I’ve personally never seen cyclists get stopped by police either.

One thing I want to point out is in other countries, not even motorcycles are allowed on the highway. They pose a risk to truck drivers also who can’t see them. Their blind spots are a lot bigger.

The main reason I think road users dislike cyclists is that we aren’t all confident and perfect drivers. We don’t want to hit someone on accident. Knowing that it’s a possibility stresses ppl out.

Rather than building lanes on the road for cyclists, I think we just need cyclist only pathways. Walk on them at your own risk. Cycling is mainly a hobby anyway and it’s good exercise. I’d be out cycling if there was a proper designated bike paths away from all kinds of traffic.

    astro2 astro2 2:24 pm 24 Feb 19

    Hi whoaman, too often I see motorists not abiding by road rules or even finding ways around. If you haven’t personally seen a cyclist stopped by police you may not have been in Sydney recently however you can check the statistics on this and will find they are stopped by police as are motorists and anyone else found to be breaking road rules. In regards to your statement that “cycling is mainly a hobby anyway…” that may be the case for you but that doesn’t mean it applies to the rest of the population. People take many non-essential private motor car trips but are not penalised for this. Roads are there to be shared but there is a problem with some people who seem to think they own the roads.

    Maya123 Maya123 7:22 pm 24 Feb 19

    whoaman wrote: “Cycling is mainly a hobby anyway”

    Not when it is a main means of transport for many, as it was for me for much of my working life. It was how I mostly got to work. Now, on the weekends I was able to indulge my hobby vehicle, my car.
    Bike was for serious commuting; the car was for recreation.

    tim_c tim_c 4:23 pm 18 Mar 19

    “The main reason I think road users dislike cyclists is that we aren’t all confident and perfect drivers. We don’t want to hit someone on accident. Knowing that it’s a possibility stresses ppl out.”

    That’s not a valid excuse!! If someone is not confident they can keep within the marked lanes, they shouldn’t be permitted to drive a car on public roads – if you might accidentally hit a cyclist on a huge shoulder on a freeway, you’re probably just as likely to hit someone waiting to cross a suburban road…

bigred 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.

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.

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