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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122 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

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?

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

Taru Morton 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.

    James Jordan James Jordan 11:19 am 13 Feb 19

    Taru Morton the reason is that we use terms like Hwy and freeway in vastly different ways to Europe. There are also problems in Australia with inconsistent naming conventions between states and federally that have also changed over time as a result of attempts to establish a national standard. Take for instance the federal Hwy, in Europe this would not meet the standard for a motorway but would more likely be labled an A road and as such cyclists and pedestrians would be free to use it.

    Basam Tabet Basam Tabet 6:06 am 14 Feb 19

    Also cycling infrastructure across Europe is about a million times better than Australia, often separated paths for hundreds of kilometers

Sean Minney Sean Minney 8:53 am 13 Feb 19

There is a significant difference in the grades, curves, directness & maintenance of shared paths & roads. To suggest it is “mildly easier” suggests the knowledge & experience of both is limited.

If you can’t drive with the awareness that roads have users other than you - you are the problem. Whether it’s a cyclist or livestock or fallen branch, the incapacity to avoid them suggests you lack the skills to be a competent road user.

Bec McArdle Bec McArdle 8:32 am 13 Feb 19

I’m absolutely appalled by the ignorance, criticism and downright hatred I’ve seen directed at cyclists on social media. Where does this come from? Would these people have the same attitudes if someone they loved died in these circumstances? This bloke was someone’s son, husband, father, uncle, colleague and friend. He lived out his days serving others and probably expected to come home to live a much longer life with his family and friends. This is an unimaginable loss for the people who knew and loved him.

It is also a tragedy that could have been completely avoided if the driver used the level of observation and care that’s expected of all road users.

Sure, there are some cyclists out there that do the wrong thing. But, there’s proportionately fewer of them than other road users.

Our society desperately needs an attitude adjustment on many issues; sharing the road is a good start.

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