10 July 2018

Deaths drive cyclists to promote road rules to address confusion and ease frustration

| Ian Campbell
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Hardly a 1.5 metre gap - it's the law. Cycling in the Bega Valley. Photo: Kate Smith.

Hardly a 1.5-metre gap – it’s the law. Photo: Kate Smith.

Cyclists in the Canberra region have been shaken by two recent road incidents, including one that resulted in the death of a 72-year-old man.

Police are still investigating the circumstances surrounding the South Coast man’s death, and are appealing to the public for dashcam vision and any information.

About 10:50 am on Saturday 23 June, emergency services were called to Mt Darragh Road at Lochiel, about 20 kilometres north of Eden.

The cyclist had suffered serious injuries and was taken to Canberra Hospital in a critical condition, where he died earlier last week.

Initial inquiries suggest a 37-year-old man stopped his Nissan utility to speak with the cyclist prior to the crash.

Meantime on Thursday (5 July) just after 8:00 pm, emergency services were called to the intersection of Tumut Plains Road and East Street in Tumut after a cyclist was struck by a Toyota Hilux.

The rider, a 50-year-old man, was treated at the scene by NSW Ambulance paramedics before being taken to Tumut Hospital. He was later airlifted to Canberra Hospital with head injuries.

The driver of the Toyota, a 19-year-old man, was uninjured and taken to Tumut Hospital for mandatory blood and urine testing.

These two events follow the death of a 55-year-old female cyclist on Tarago Road at Bungendore in early June, after which a 37-year-old man was charged with dangerous and negligent driving occasioning death.

Merimbula’s Kate Smith has been riding weekly for the last five years and recently contacted The RiotACT on the back of these incidents, keen to promote changed road rules and encourage a culture of sharing local roads.

“The cycling community in the Bega Valley is a very close bunch and we are feeling this loss very deeply,” Ms Smith says.

The informal group of around 25 cyclists Ms Smith rides with, gets together four times a week either riding towards Eden or Wyndham or closer to home around Merimbula and Pambula.

“You won’t ever find us all together at the one time, we are all spread out depending on our ability. I am generally at the back, but I do a couple of hundred kilometres each week,” Ms Smith says.

“It’s a fantastic thing to be doing, that is growing in popularity.

“And when you are riding with a bunch of people you form a great bond, it’s something that turns you from friends into family.”

Motorists can cross double white lines when safe in order to pass a cyclist and give them the space they need. Photo: Kate Smith.

Motorists can cross double white lines when safe in order to pass a cyclist and give them the space they need. Photo: Kate Smith.

Doug Reckord, from the Bega Tathra Safe Ride committee, sends his condolences to the family and friends of the rider killed and regrets the impact bad news has on peoples’ interest in cycling.

“We know that there is a high number of people who would ride more if they had a safe place to do it,” he says.

Construction of stage one of the Bega Tathra shared pathway is proposed to start in October linking Tathra and Kalaru and separating bicycles, cars, and trucks for roughly 4km.

“This project complements the Bega Valley Bike Plan and that idea of saying – we want you to ride, we want you to ride safely, we want you to get home,” Mr Reckord says.

Like Ms Smith, Mr Reckord says he is mostly comfortable on local roads, but both accept that some cyclists will always want to go ‘beyond a path’, which calls for cooperation and clear heads from all road users.

“The overwhelming majority of the motorists that I encounter between Bega and Tathra are good drivers, they slow down at the crests and the curves, they give you plenty of room,” he says.

Ms Smith says, “We’ll do a ride of 120 kilometres and we accept that cycling is inherently a risky activity, but so is walking out your front door.

“Everything has a degree of risk and we do what we can to minimise that.

“Most car drivers negotiate us without incident. It’s not our intention to obstruct traffic or hinder anyone; we just want to share the road safely.”

Having better-informed road users on two and four wheels is important to both cyclists and the community they ride with.

Mr Reckord says there are a few things you can do that make yourself safer as a rider.

“If you are a bike rider you are vulnerable, you should bear that in mind: hi-viz clothing, lighting on the bike, avoid the peak times if you can as they are not necessarily the best time to be on the road, you might need to go earlier or later,” he says.

“And if you are not confident, look for those safer places to ride.”

Ms Smith believes a lot of people aren’t aware of the road rules.

“About a year and a half ago, road rules changed to allow car drivers to overtake cyclists on double white lines where it is safe to do so,” she says.

“It’s never really been promoted and it often causes frustration.”

On top of that, in NSW and the ACT, drivers who pass a bicycle rider must allow a distance of at least one metre when the speed limit is 60 km/h or less and 1.5 metres when the speed limit is more than 60 km/h.

Cyclists are permitted to ride two abreast on both sides of the border, however, when riding two abreast, riders must travel within 1.5 metres of the other rider. This means that riders should ride as close together as is safe to do so.

There are rules too for bicycle riders. Cyclists must stop at red lights or stop signs, give way as indicated by signage, and give hand signals when changing direction. Under both ACT and NSW road rules, a bicycle is considered a vehicle, which means the same road rules apply.

Ms Smith says attitude and aggression between road users is very frightening.

“We are lucky around here that the roads as so quiet, most of the time we don’t have problems, but when we do it’s really distressing, it makes you feel sick in the guts,” she says.

Police are keen to hear from witnesses to the recent incidents at Lochiel and Tumut or anyone with dashcam vision.

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Marko Lehikoinen, making unsubstantiated assertions about what happened in the Tumut crash won’t get you anywhere. From the article, the only fact you got right was that the accident happened at night (8pm). If you have any evidence to back up the rest of your claims you should cite it. Otherwise it’s just more of the same tiresome anti-cyclist ranting.

wildturkeycanoe5:53 am 17 Jul 18

Astro2, the poor fellow’s parents live next door to my parents, my sister talks regularly with his brother….if these sources aren’t reliable then who can believe anything the media says. Yes I am anti-cyclist when circumstances are justified, but in this situation the cycle lobby is sensationalizing the story to suit themselves.

I doubt whether neighbourhood gossip would be admissible in this situation though. Have the police released a statement supporting what you are claiming?

Hi chewy14, since you have asked me to clarify the meaning of my post I shall do so. I was referring to an attitude amongst a minority of motor car drivers (only a minority thankfully) that the road is exclusively for them. This gives rise to comments such as ‘cyclists should only ride on dedicated bike paths.’ If anything happens to a cyclist riding in a cycle lane on a road they then blame the cyclist, no matter how much at fault the driver of the car was. It’s a particularly Australian attitude unfortunately but as I said, only a minority. By the way, if I see any horses and carts would certainly give way to them. However, cannot say I’ve seen any recently, (unlike cycles, which have been around before cars and are still around and increasing.)

The point being made is that for safety reasons, bicycles should only be permitted to ride on dedicated bike infrastructure rather than roads (at least major ones) which should be dedicated for cars.

No one is blaming cyclists if they get hit by a car, simply recognising the fact that placing 1.5+ tonnes of metal travelling at 60-80km/hr+ next to unprotected cyclists travelling much slower is inherently unsafe.

No amount of “education” in this area will stop accidents and incidents from occurring and the smartest way to prevent them is by removing cyclists from the road.

It’s hard to argue you were in the right if you’re dead.

By the same logic cars should not be allowed on roads where there are large trucks operating. For safety reasons of course.

“By the same logic cars should not be allowed on roads where there are large trucks operating. For safety reasons of course.”

Not even slightly comparable level of risk.

The main danger risk and difference between cars and cyclists is the speed differential, visibility of cyclists and unprotectedness of them.

In relation to large trucks, there is little to no speed differential, cars are far easier seen and car occupants are surrounded by massive amounts of safety technology to keep them safe from the risk.

But you do make a good point that trucks are not allowed on certain streets or town/city areas. You’re clearly supportive of the same logic being applied to cyclists then.

Well, bicycles were around before cars so that means you’ll just have to remove your private motor vehicles from the road and wait around for some “dedicated infrastructure” to be built. Enjoy your cycle, bus or light rail trip in the meantime.

What does this even mean?

Horse and Cart was around before bicycles so you’ll just have to take your bicycle off the road and get a chariot.

Our roads were specifically built for cars and that’s where the majority of the benefit of having roads comes from, the use of a private motor vehicle.

The mayhem in the ACT is likely to continue as it has for the recent past until government gets serious and enshrines vulnerable road user protections into the law and backs them up with vigorous prosecutions. By vulnerable road user protections I mean well thought out infrastructure implemented progressively in a staged manner, proper speed limits in neighbourhoods, a police force that takes complaints from cyclists and pedestrians seriously and decent legislation that includes a reverse onus of proof should a school mum mow down a cyclist or pedestrian.

ah yes, let’s forget one of the fundamental principles of our legal system because cyclists don’t like it.

The “mayhem” in the ACT won’t stop until the government recognises the fact that cyclists and cars cannot ever safely coexist on roads and that cyclists must be separated on dedicated bike infrastructure where feasible.

Reverse onus of proof? You are actually calling for people to be declared guilty until they can prove themselves innocent – this would be a very dangerous shift in our legal system. Perhaps you don’t understand the benefits of being innocent unless someone can actually prove you are guilty – changing this means anyone could potentially accuse you of something and you are automatically guilty of that offence unless you can prove you didn’t do it. Whatever you hope to gain by such a significant change is not worth the risk.

I congratulate you on understanding the thrust of my suggestion. However, my suggestion covers cars being squashed by trucks, cyclists creamed by SUVs and pedestrians creamed by trucks and cars. Also includes motorcycles splattered by cars, trucks and buses.

I reckon if you are in charge of a vehicle and you are considering taking a risk, the potential of criminal conviction should be part of your decision making. It is simple really, just think about the other person’s well being!

I understand the benefit of not being run down by someone who is not cognisant of the risks their demeanour creates.

“I reckon if you are in charge of a vehicle and you are considering taking a risk, the potential of criminal conviction should be part of your decision making”

There are already significant penalties for dangerous and negligent driving.

It’s still a ridiculous proposition to consider changing a fundamental tenet of our legal system such that you would be guilty until proven innocent. It would even be deliberately in opposition to the UN charter for human rights.

Renea Hazel wrote, “That’s all fine with the 1m rule but those roads where it isn’t practical for drivers to give the 1m cyclists probably shouldn’t be on.”

I have never found such a road when out driving. It’s a matter of patience and being considerate to all road users. I am not more ‘special and deserving’ than another road user. I wait a little while and then an opportunity to pass will come up. I observed this on European roads being done as the natural thing to do and brought this attitude back when I returned to Australia. It was an eye opener; the difference between here and there.

So, if anyone thinks such roads exist where “it isn’t practical for drivers to give the 1m cyclists probably shouldn’t be on”, then I would suggest your driving attitude and skill level is not up to driving on these roads and you should not; not that the person on the bike should not.

The very narrow (single lane), rough dirt tracks where there might genuinely not be enough room, it would be extremely rare to find people cycling on. The few occasions that I have, and it was few, (say a mountain road) it has been people on mountain bikes and we have negotiated each other without problem. Besides, it wasn’t the sort of road/track one would drive fast on, attempting to miss as much as possible, the holes, mud patches, etc. And the person on the bike was not going fast either.

If you can’t see a cyclist, no matter what they’re wearing, you can’t see a child, pedestrian or kangaroo either.

What I see is a lot of distracted drivers on their phone- not when I’m on my bike as I use cycleways, but when I’m in the car- huge amounts of people are not paying attention to the road.

What are you saying? That cyclists should be able to ride at night, wearing dark clothing, disregarding their legal obligation to have a front and rear light that are clearly visible from a distance at least 200m, and expect people to see them? And that bumping into a cyclist is only as serious as bumping into a kangaroo?!

I think actcyclist’s point is that a lot of motorists aren’t paying attention when they’re driving. There could be a number of factors behind this, one of which is that cars are so sealed off from the conditions around them these days that their drivers seem to be in their own little metal carapace world, oblivious to the world around them. Unfortunately, some motor vehicle advertising (remember “Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!”?) encourages this behaviour. Then when things go wrong there’s a finger-wagging at the cyclist who wasn’t at fault in the collision in the first place.

When Ken said +1.

I ride on the road most days – but there are all sorts of roads in Canberra that it makes no sense to ride on at all! If there’s a cycle path adjacent to a skinny road – then use the path! My no.1 example would be William Slim Drive all the way through to Gundaroo Drive.

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