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 â€œoh wellâ€ 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 hadnâ€™t seen anyone come across the lines, and I donâ€™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 didnâ€™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 â€˜onlyâ€™ 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 wasnâ€™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 Iâ€™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 canâ€™t see (hence the lines), or continue behind them indefinitely at a much reduced pace (hoping I donâ€™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 canâ€™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. Iâ€™m a pretty keen cyclist also BTW, and I ride single file when riding with others. I think itâ€™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 isnâ€™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-enoughâ€“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 itâ€™s â€˜cycling worldâ€™ out there, but the rest of us thought it was a public road thatâ€™s the only way to get to popular locations in the ranges west of the city.
Obviously youâ€™d hope that no one pays such a price for a mistake (whomeverâ€™s it may be), and I wish everyone a speedy recovery from all the physical and mental trauma.
Comment by mcjimminy â€” 1 May, 2007 @ 11:31 am