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
Raynie McNee Raynie McNee 7:31 am 13 Feb 19

Well said Tim. The second tragedy I’m seeing in this awful situation is the escalating lack of empathy and tolerance in many Australians.

Stuart Carling Stuart Carling 7:33 am 13 Feb 19

I don’t bother to read the comments on articles published on social media when the article is reporting on cycling or the death of a cyclist. The comments made by simply bigoted , ignorant people are deeply distressing to the cycling community and the families of the deceased. some of the comments expressed are pure hatred and simply inhumane. The vile comments really needs to stop.

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 9:48 am 13 Feb 19

    I agree Stuart especially when it gets personal or you get called names for expressing an opinion that is not offensive to anyone....see the response to one of my earlier posts on the forum... In fact my husband hates social media for this exact reason.

    James Jordan James Jordan 11:10 am 13 Feb 19

    Stuart Carling even more to this when you look into the driving behaviour shown by most of these people in their Facebook history (at least the ones that aren't just trolls with no posts) they in general exhibit and support truly awful behaviour. Examples of burnouts, damage to property, speeding all show up

Darryl John Helmers Darryl John Helmers 7:34 am 13 Feb 19

On average road deaths in Australia each year are around 1300 , 38 are cyclists , those cyclists are mainly killed by cars , to me the major problem is cars and drivers attitudes

Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 7:35 am 13 Feb 19

To read the negative & cold comments about the death of this person who was DOING NOTHING WRONG is appalling and quite frankly sickening! I'm disgusted at the reaction of many in our community to blame this person. Makes me shudder to think there are people out there who have such hatred in their heads & scares me to think they're on our roads

    Noelle Waugh Noelle Waugh 8:15 am 13 Feb 19

    Jane Farrugia agree! The attitude towards cyclists has to stop!!

    Peter Signorini Peter Signorini 10:17 am 13 Feb 19

    Yep! Horrendous bigotry which would be universally condemned and deleted IF it was about women, black people, the disabled or any other minority group.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 12:18 pm 13 Feb 19

    Peter Signorini Sadly, no. I've just come off a page reading some of the ugliest things being said about a beautiful young woman who married a prince. The hatred is mind boggling and very worrying. People should really think before they type. My condolences to the family and loved ones of this poor cyclist.

    Peter Signorini Peter Signorini 12:25 pm 13 Feb 19

    Julie Coker-Godson hmm... that’s really terrible. But you will not see such things remain on our mass media newspapers or TV/radio websites for very long at all, but bike-hate is entirely an OK thing.

    Nari Strange Nari Strange 5:45 pm 14 Feb 19

    Cyclists are allowed on the major roads and it appears the truck driver is to blame. Why, may never be known.

Scott Deakes Scott Deakes 7:35 am 13 Feb 19

I drove past a car yesterday on a freeway in NSW. It was doing 90kph in a 110kph zone. Does this mean all cars should be banned from the roads? Of course not.

Roads pre-exist cars. All road users, including horse drawn vehicles, are legal on roads and we need to take care. The way people abuse cyclists scares me.

I'm not a cyclist.

    Mel Albert Mel Albert 11:45 am 13 Feb 19

    There are drivers out there that honestly believe it's illegal to drive below the speed limit and not pull over as soon as a car approaches from behind.

    Marc La Galle Marc La Galle 9:28 pm 14 Feb 19

    Scott Deakes bicycles predate cars, and here's the odd thing, I'm old enough to know that this abusive attitude has only really cropped up in the past 10-15 years. Before that, no agro.

    Scott Deakes Scott Deakes 9:50 pm 14 Feb 19

    Marc La Galle the world is so time poor now. Everyone demands so much of our time, that any time that is slowed makes us angry. It is so sad.

    Marc La Galle Marc La Galle 9:53 pm 14 Feb 19

    Scott Deakes meh, yet people have time to Facebook. Nope, intolerance is being fostered.

Melissa Pearce Melissa Pearce 7:41 am 13 Feb 19

The comments made were truly appalling, no regard at all for the fact the riders family and loved ones may well read those comments. Beyond being disrespectful, just cruel and hateful. A whole extra layer of trauma and sadness for his family to comprehend.

    Marilyn Ballard Marilyn Ballard 9:38 am 13 Feb 19

    Melissa I feel your pain as you read these comments. These ignorant people want to pray they never go where you have been. Big love to you❤️❤️❤️

Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 7:41 am 13 Feb 19

BTW I made a comment expressing my shock about this accident on one of the FB reports & I copped a barrage of insulting comments back, to the point that I deleted the post altogether! It's pathetic. My husband & I believe that before people get their licences they should have to spend time riding a bike on a busy road to see what it feels like to be a cyclist on the road in Canberra.

    Jenny Gordon Avery Jenny Gordon Avery 8:05 am 13 Feb 19

    Jane Farrugia that would interesting for those of us in wheelchairs....

    Penny Gordon Penny Gordon 8:11 am 13 Feb 19

    Jenny Gordon Avery or those who for whatever reason can't ride a bike.

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 8:17 am 13 Feb 19

    My point is....if people put themselves in cyclists shoes, they might develop a better understanding of how it feels to be on the road. It’s simply a matter of making new drivers more aware.

    Sarah Emmerson Sarah Emmerson 7:01 am 14 Feb 19

    Jenny Gordon Avery Jane Farrugias comment was valid. maybe you can't ride a bike if your in a wheelchair but I'm pretty sure if you wanted to try using your wheelchair on the road in the bike lane and see how the car drivers threaten maybe you it would have the same experience.

Kate Carey Kate Carey 7:43 am 13 Feb 19

Is it a matter of a certain type of unhappy people feeling empowered by the social media cloak to attack others and thereby feel better about themselves? Or are people in general just giving zero care to others?

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 7:55 am 13 Feb 19

    Kate Carey maybe both? I agree, though, there is anonymity on social media. Confront them face to face & they may not feel so brave!

    Joanne McRae Joanne McRae 7:56 am 13 Feb 19

    Kate Carey, both I'd say. And a total lack of empathy and sympathy to the plight of others.

Fi Bracks Fi Bracks 7:53 am 13 Feb 19

Whether you like or loathe cyclists is irrelevant here. We are talking about another human being

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 7:57 am 13 Feb 19

    Fi Bracks exactly. Problem is, it becomes about whether or not you like cyclists & the real story of a person dying becomes lost. It's tragic.

    Fi Bracks Fi Bracks 7:57 am 13 Feb 19

    Jane Farrugia exactly

    Karen Cassell Karen Cassell 4:53 pm 13 Feb 19

    Fi Bracks 💯

Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 7:54 am 13 Feb 19

I honestly do not understand the agro towards cyclists. Whenever I drive past them mostly I just think of how fit you would have to be to go that fast and how great it is to have a fun fitness regime. There are a lot of people on our roads who weaponise their cars, and they seem to want to target anything/anyone one on the road that does not fit what they deem to be correct.

    Chloe Middleton Chloe Middleton 8:26 am 13 Feb 19

    Kriso I sympathise with this persons family and friends. I do not wish anyone hurt. And like motorists the majority of cyclists obey the road rules. However I get frustrated when cyclists DON’T, like riding 2/3 aside into the car lane and not falling in behind when cars are coming. Or just not using the bike lane and using the car one. They actually make it dangerous for people to pass when they do this and then wonder why people get agro.

    Kriso Hadskini Kriso Hadskini 8:31 am 13 Feb 19

    Chloe Middleton I never come across that behaviour and I drive all around the ACT and NSW. Even if that is happening it is no excuse to hurt or endanger anyone.

    Chloe Middleton Chloe Middleton 9:41 am 13 Feb 19

    Kriso lucky you, I see it all the time.

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 9:48 am 13 Feb 19

    Riding two abreast is legal, as is riding on the road. Three abreast is legal when overtaking.

    There is no such thing as a ‘car lane’; it’s just the road.

    Vivienne Flanagan Vivienne Flanagan 10:05 am 13 Feb 19

    Riding abreast is not only legal it is safer as it provides more "bulk" for other motorists to see.

    Just treat riders in a small group the same way you would treat an elderly person in a tiny car.

    Peter Signorini Peter Signorini 10:36 am 13 Feb 19

    BTW "the majority of cyclists obey the road rules.... when cyclists DON’T"

    People riding bicycles break road rules no more than people driving motor vehicles, in fact by many *police* measures, rather a good bit less so.

    "riding 2/3 aside into the car lane and not falling in behind when cars are coming. Or just not using the bike lane and using the car one."

    NONE of the above listed 'law-breaking' is actually illegal. (three-abreast can be legal if a rider is overtaking two others)

Maree Commens Maree Commens 7:57 am 13 Feb 19

Scares me that cyclists and vehicles share our roads full stop. I don’t believe cyclists and vehicles belong in the same place and there will be more deaths as a result. I ride a bike too but never ever on the road

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 8:00 am 13 Feb 19

    Maree Commens there doesn't need to be more deaths though does there?? If drivers are aware there shouldn't be a problem.

    Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 8:21 am 13 Feb 19

    Maree Commens Agree. I stopped riding my bike on the road because I value my health. No matter how hard everyone tries a simple mistake and your seriously injured. It is, for example, so much more dangerous then getting in a car and not using your seat belt. Just not worth the risk.

    Steve Crispin Steve Crispin 3:34 pm 13 Feb 19

    Cyclists who use the roads understand the risks. If you don’t want to accept the risk, that’s your prerogative. Others have different agendas. No one wants their enjoyment taken away because of risk. That’s not living life to its fullest. If all road users do the right thing and are patient and tolerant, the risks are greatly reduced.

Em Ma Em Ma 8:01 am 13 Feb 19

Well put Tim.

Susan Westwood Susan Westwood 8:13 am 13 Feb 19

I feel sad that this cyclist lost his life on the road.

I would like to know what specific road rules now apply both to cyclists and cars on the road. In the city and on country roads.

    Shayne Borger Shayne Borger 8:34 am 13 Feb 19

    Susan Westwood reread the road handbook or the traffic act it’s very clear

    Susan Westwood Susan Westwood 10:35 am 13 Feb 19

    David Riddel I am aware of the rules but I have been told there are new rules now!

    Susan Westwood Susan Westwood 10:37 am 13 Feb 19

    David Riddel is the Legislation current and what is the Link?

    Mel Albert Mel Albert 11:41 am 13 Feb 19

    Susan Westwood. The road rules are linked below. Some of the more basic rules include:

    15b) A bicycle is a vehicle. Therefore has the same rights as any other vehicle. No such thing as car lanes, they are vehicle lanes with bicycles allowed to use any lane.

    151) Bicycles and motorcycles are allowed to ride two abreast (3 if one is overtaking)

    164b) Care are to leave 1m when overtaking on roads of 60km/h and below or 1.5m when speed limit is above 60km/h

    164c) Drivers can cross solid lines to overtake a cyclist

    Happy to assist further if you have specific questions.

    David Riddel David Riddel 4:34 pm 13 Feb 19

    Susan Westwood Google “ ACT Road Rules Legislation”.

    Chris Abell Chris Abell 5:25 pm 14 Feb 19

    Mel Albert wow, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t risk getting booked by riding two abreast on a motorbike (despite it being law). It’s not what is taught. Thanks for the link, it’ll be good to refresh.

    Boweavil Kat Boweavil Kat 9:29 am 17 Feb 19

    Susan Westwood the same road rules as before, just helps Olof drivers got of their phone, paid attention and stopped marking up their own rules

Julia Graczyk Julia Graczyk 8:20 am 13 Feb 19

Sadly, the hostility to cyclists is just yet another divide in our society. I was surprised to encounter a very hostile attitude to my riding a bike to work from a colleague recently. And this was regardless of my saying that most of my commute is on a cycle (mixed use) path.

My wish is that people like this acknowledge a cyclist is a parent, child, sister, brother, wife, husband, partner, someones loved one, and see beyond their blind hostility.

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 9:40 am 13 Feb 19

    I agree Julia. I've encountered similar responses from friends. I ride both road & cycle path but it seems that the attitude extends to cyclists on cycle paths as well.

    Julia Graczyk Julia Graczyk 9:43 am 13 Feb 19

    Yes Jane, the colleague also expressed hostility in no uncertain terms to people riding on cycle (mixed use) paths.

    Andrew Remely Andrew Remely 10:41 am 13 Feb 19

    The thing I dislike most about FaceBook is it give voice to a-holes. Don't have problem with different views being discussed etc. But (ab)users think the normal social conventions don’t apply. Say some of things people say on FaceBook in person and soon or later you'll get a punch in the face. Which would be deserved.

Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 8:24 am 13 Feb 19

I feel sorry for the truck driver. He has to live with this mistake for his life. Everyone has made a foolish mistake or two in their life. This one ended badly for everone.

    Russell Pearce Russell Pearce 9:14 am 13 Feb 19

    Tim, and what about the cyclist family who have lost a loved family member ?

    Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 9:42 am 13 Feb 19

    Russell Pearce one persons suffering does not reduce the suffering of another. The loss to the family has been well covered.

    Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 12:14 pm 13 Feb 19

    John Hawkins I have driven more then a million km in my life with only 1 significant accident with nobody injured. I am aware that in that time I have made errors and tried to learn from them. I hope everyone does that. Even so, any number of those errors could have ended differently. If they did maybe I would be the villain of a story. I note that you appear to be considering this as more then a simple error gone bad. I have not read that. It would change the picture completely.

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 1:23 pm 13 Feb 19

    Tim Thornley it’s hard to know. We know that the accident occurred when the truck hit the cyclist after veering out of the lane in which it had been travelling and into the breakdown lane in which the cyclist was travelling. We know that that part of the road is well-surfaced and basically straight. The cyclist should have been visible for at least half a kilometre before the accident.

    It’s hard to see an explanation of that that doesn’t lead to some culpability on the part of the driver. It’s unlikely there was some catastrophic steering or other mechanical failure given the speed with which charges were brought. Maybe he fell asleep at the wheel. Personally I’d put my money on mobile phone distraction.

    Tim Thornley Tim Thornley 1:30 pm 13 Feb 19

    Paul Casimir I think the phone is less likely for a truck driver but possible and would be stupid it is good not to be the one that made whatever error the truck driver appears to have made. If I were him I would be feeling very bad now as he should since he is the one that made that error. He has my sympathy.

    Steve Crispin Steve Crispin 3:40 pm 13 Feb 19

    Tim Thornley he would not have 2 charges against him with a mechanical issue. This is either distraction or fatigue. There are not any other explanations. I feel sorry for him too, but more that he has to live with the consequences of his mistake and/or actions. You’re right, though. No one wins. It’s just that one person was the actual victim.

    Garry James Garry James 5:35 pm 13 Feb 19

    Tim Thornley truck driver really he caused it , no sympathy for him , hope he rots in jail

Graham Baxter Graham Baxter 8:27 am 13 Feb 19

I drove from Gungahlin to Sutton this morning with 6 cyclists at different points on this very narrow & frankly dangerous road; I don’t understand why cyclists would put themselves in danger by riding on such roads

    Debbie Thomsen Debbie Thomsen 9:36 am 13 Feb 19

    The cyclists are only "in danger" if other road users don't understand that everyone is allowed on the roads. Why do you drive on this road if you know it's dangerous? Aren't you putting yourself "in danger" by using this road too? Just learn to share - how hard is that??

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 9:45 am 13 Feb 19

    I drive on that road most days. It’s not dangerous at the right speed, but I see a lot of people belting along there oblivious to the risks. I think it should be an 80 kph road because of the kangaroos alone.

    Jane Farrugia Jane Farrugia 9:47 am 13 Feb 19

    If you know cyclists use that road, slow down, be aware.

    Peter Signorini Peter Signorini 10:20 am 13 Feb 19

    The road that the cyclist was killed on is a two-lane each way divided highway *with* wide breakdown lanes. WTF are you bleating on about??

    Mel Albert Mel Albert 11:48 am 13 Feb 19

    I've never seen a dangerous road. I know of roads that are made dangerous due to the way that vehicles travel on the road. Too many people see the speed limit as a target, rather than the maximum speed under good conditions.

    Bill Mulger Bill Mulger 9:35 pm 13 Feb 19




Ed N Joanne Towner Ed N Joanne Towner 8:31 am 13 Feb 19

The downside to social media is the ability of people to be deliberately hurtful and or insymphatetic. RIP to the cyclist involved

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.

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.

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

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