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Eye witness account of the cycling accident.

By johnboy - 1 May 2007 33

mcjimminy has posted an eyewitness account of the accident on the Cotter Road on the weekend which I thought was worthy of wider exposure and consideration:

Well, I was unfortunate enough to be an eye-witness, as I was stuck near the front of the conga-line of civilian Cotter goers. So, I have some facts as well speculation and opinions.

Facts first (well, my recollection of what I saw). We came across the race just as the group was taking off from near Duffy. There were many signs and marshals, and from what I remember, two lead cars to warn oncoming traffic, and two chase cars just behind the main group. As the only alternate route to the Cotter from there would have been via Tuggeranong, we just sighed “oh well” and joined the slow queue to the Cotter. We were doing around 20km/h on the flat stuff past Mt Stromlo, and then maybe touching around 60km/h on a descent before slowing back down to maybe 30km/h as it flattened out. I remember thinking that they were doing well to stay on the left, as I hadn’t seen anyone come across the lines, and I don’t recall having seen any traffic coming the other way at all. I then saw one rider swerve right, far out onto the wrong side of the road, I may have seen another come just a little way out. The rider that was way out was looking backwards over her left shoulder, I thought it was an overtaking maneuver, but touching wheels would also explain it. She was now still a long way out, obviously in control of the bike and riding straight ahead, but still looking backwards over her left shoulder. I then heard the squeal tyres and saw the oncoming vehicle. He was totally locked up and slowing very rapidly. At the same time, I saw the rider look forwards, and then jink left desperately to try and avoid the vehicle. She didn’t quite make it, and took a big impact from the right front of the vehicle. She had moved left enough with the last-second jink to be thrown back and left (rather than directly back or under the vehicle) and into the rest of the pack, bringing them down hard. My view of the road on the other side of the centre line was clear, my view of the main pack directly ahead was not. I saw no riders down until the rider on the wrong side of the road was hit and thrown into the pack. I saw no other rider impact the car.

Some speculation and opinions. It looked to me like the driver of the vehicle was already moving at a much reduced speed (probably because he had already come past the lead cars and front runners), as it was a big heavy vehicle and it still seemed to pull up quickly. As someone else pointed out, riding into a wall at ‘only’ 20km/h is still going to mess you up. The driver was totally hung out to dry: from his direction it was a blind right hander, and he had nowhere to go. His quick reflexes, and heavy brake foot (a locked up car slows quickest, and there was really no room to swerve around), and the belated left jink of the cyclist probably saved her life. The 4WD in question appeared to be a working vehicle (perhaps from a rural property), it wasn’t a shiny school-running prado/lexus/volvo/bmw/whatever, though of course even it was, they would still have every right in the world to be driving in a reasonable fashion on their side of the road. From what I could see, the poor driver was also the quickest out of a car and on the phone calling for assistance.

I understand that crossing a double unbroken line with your vehicle is a traffic violation. I also believe that when on the road, a bicycle must adhere to the road rules. On many occasions I’ve come across cyclists riding two or more abreast who seem to think it would be better for me to cross a double unbroken line on a bend around which I can’t see (hence the lines), or continue behind them indefinitely at a much reduced pace (hoping I don’t get rear-ended due to massive speed differentials), than for them to move over to the left to let me go past safely. I can’t understand the dangerous, selfish, inconsideration of the moving road-blockers. Of course as with anything, there are the majority who do the right thing, and the few who bring the rest into disrepute, but there you go. I’m a pretty keen cyclist also BTW, and I ride single file when riding with others. I think it’s not only for the consideration of other road users (though I rate that highly), but a personal safety issue. If the nature of a race event on an open road means that it cannot be guaranteed (or even be likely) that riders will (willingly or otherwise) stay on their own side of the road at all times, then such a race isn’t viable.

And some more opinions. Road closures would have made the event a reasonable proposition from a cyclists safety point of view, but would not provide a fair go for the rest of the population. If the location means that a reasonable alternate route can be provided, then fair-enough–for example, when they close the road around Lake Burley Griffin for the triathlons you can detour through Yarralumla without much hassle. But removing access to the Cotter Reserve and the Brindabellas on a weekend?!? Maybe Sard thinks it’s ‘cycling world’ out there, but the rest of us thought it was a public road that’s the only way to get to popular locations in the ranges west of the city.

Obviously you’d hope that no one pays such a price for a mistake (whomever’s it may be), and I wish everyone a speedy recovery from all the physical and mental trauma.

Comment by mcjimminy — 1 May, 2007 @ 11:31 am

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33 Responses to
Eye witness account of the cycling accident.
OpenYourMind 7:56 pm 01 May 07

Well, Cranky, you don’t need that much of a shift in things to change that. My workplace has a roughly 25% level of participation (120 staff). I’ve been to places in Europe (cold places too) where cycling is embraced.
Here’s another very strong argument. Australias oil supply is in decline. We are now using 800k barrels a day and only producing 600k. America was a net oil exporter and now only produces 5mil barrels a day and consumes 21mbd. That 16mil difference has to be made up. (Reference BP Oil Report- see previous link). Consumption increasing and production declining is not a good situation.
There are alternatives, but none compete with oil for one reason or another. We don’t need to get that many people on to bikes to make a difference.
The incentive of promoting cycling really isn’t costly, Cranky, the alternative is.
In terms of danger, cars are the shocker. As I’ve said in previous posts, the costs of motor vehicle road trauma exceed all the fees/taxes and rego that you pay on your motor vehicle.

cranky 7:35 pm 01 May 07

This has to be a ‘Chicken and Egg’ arguement.

Or a ‘Build it and They Will Come’

When pushbikes reach plague proportions, perhaps we can open the coffers to pander for this breed of citizen. However, should we be funding a very small proportion of the population to fulfill their idealistic goals?

Push bike riding will only ever be attractive to the few. Providing Rolls Royce facilities/road conditions is unlikely to attract a quantum leap in useage. For heavens sake, it is a bloody dangerous pastime for a start! And that’s just on health grounds, without mixing it with motorists.

So should we be providing the (costly) incentive to attract people to push bike riding, or, as in every other aspect of Government, reacting to a need?

Pandy 7:15 pm 01 May 07

Conservation Council is calling for no registration of bikes as it would mean less people would take-up cycling. Also crashes from bikes are not that serious:

OpenYourMind 6:45 pm 01 May 07

Commuting to the new suburb sounds logical for a cycling lane. In fact all new roads should include a cycling lane. It costs very little extra and is of huge benefit to the community – same as footpaths. But retrofitting to the cotter for recreational cycling doesn’t make sense to me (and I am a regular recreational rider of the Cotter area).

It’s strongly in the interest of the Govt to aim for maximum takeup of commuter cycling for all the obvious reasons – less smog, less road wear and tear, less traffic & parking hassles, less CO2 emissions, healthier population etc. etc.

Aeek 6:36 pm 01 May 07

For riding to Stromlo Park and commuting to the new suburb, not relevant to racing. Accurate as any other news report!

The long course on Sunday also went out through the Cotter, through Tharwa, to Honeysuckle Creek. Hard to close all of it.

captainwhorebags 6:34 pm 01 May 07

I applaud the ACT Cycling group for their call and wish them well in their efforts in raising the necessary funds to widen the road and add a cycling path.

johnboy 6:29 pm 01 May 07

That’s going to be some real money.

Pandy 6:19 pm 01 May 07

The ACT Cycling group has now called for the Cotter Road to be widened and a bike lane placed along it to cater for the racing cycling community. Saw it on WIn just now.

ellingly 5:48 pm 01 May 07

mcjimminy – it’s a common mistake, but locking up your wheels bleeds off less kinetic energy than disappating it through the brakes (which is what happens when your wheels aren’t locked).

If you got the most efficient transfer of kinetic energy to other energy (which is what slows you down) then doing a burnout would be the fastest way to take off. Which it isn’t.

Maximum grip by a tyre is given by about 5% slip, the problem is, 5% slip when braking tends to start it locking up, which unless you do proper threshold braking, will persist with locked brakes.

ABS lets you steer around obstacles, yes, it also doesn’t defeat the laws of physics. On a dry road, it’s about as efficient as someone well trained in how to emergency brake. On a gravel road, it sometimes isn’t the most efficient, but we’re talking 1-2m extra, at 80km/h, which is offset by the extra ability to swerve (significantly harder without ABS on gravel than most people realise!).

The secret to stopping hard is to get you extra traction on the front, using weight transfer. You start off braking hard, and you just keep on laying on the pedal. You’d be surprised just how much extra braking effort you can put in. If you lock up the wheels, not only do you have less traction cause the tyres are sliding, but you also have less force pressing down, providing you less traction.

I don’t have any online references for this, but it’s in numerous advanced driving manuals… which I’ll cite when I’ve moved house.

mcjimminy 3:58 pm 01 May 07

Got the ABS comment in the old thread too. My response is:

I’m not sure that you’re right. I thought ABS was designed primarily to allow the driver to steer around the obstacle to avoid a collision, as locked up wheels can’t steer–a matter of control (and even tyre wear). Absolute stopping distance is a different issue. I may well be wrong, and it would definitely depend on conditions (wet, dry, gravel etc). Google doesn’t turn up much regarding absolute stopping distance on a dry road. I’m interested to know though, and happy to learn more from a reference to a study or something–not that I can turn the ABS off, or would want to. I do remember reading somewhere also that often people don’t press hard enough on the brakes in an emergency situation, which is why manufacturers are starting to put in sensors to detect emergency braking and automatically engage the brakes as hard as possible (though in conjunction with ABS). Anyway, that’ll learn me, even though that bit was with the speculation/opinion.

Regarding alternate routes. It was my impression that the route did include the Uriarra road as well–providing a loop back to the starting point. If this course was closed, then the only way to access the Cotter and Tidbinbilla would be south via Point Hut Crossing (which you may well only discover after you get near Duffy, making for more than a 48km backtrack and detour if you were off to the Cotter), and you’d be pretty much screwed if you’d planned on heading anywhere up the Brindabella road like to Mt Franklin, Mt Coree, Blundell’s Flat, the Brindabella Valley etc.

Colin_Vine 2:42 pm 01 May 07

For what its worth, a reasonable detour to the Cotter would be via Uriarra Crossing. Not ideal, but much quicker than the Tuggeranong route mentioned by the author.

Actually, from what other people said, it is my understanding that the racing went along Brindabella Road, which would mean that there would be no access from Uriarra Crossing to Cotter. The only sealed road access to Cotter would be from the South, via Point Hut Crossing (since there is no bridge at Tharwa…)

ash 2:35 pm 01 May 07

I just wanted to clarify that I was pointing out a factual error, and not trying to lay any blame for skidding to the driver.

If you drive on the parkway in the morning on a regular basis, it’s clear that when in an emergency braking situation most people lock up thier tires.

ash 2:30 pm 01 May 07

“and heavy brake foot (a locked up car slows quickest, “

A locked up car does NOT slow quickest!!! This is why ABS stops a car more quickly by allowing the wheels to maintain traction near the brink of skidding.

fnaah 2:29 pm 01 May 07

Thanks for that, mcjimminy. Nice to read an account that isn’t soured by emotive language and finger-pointing.

Sammy 2:20 pm 01 May 07

For what its worth, a reasonable detour to the Cotter would be via Uriarra Crossing. Not ideal, but much quicker than the Tuggeranong route mentioned by the author.

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