5 September 2023

Injured cyclist's wife calls for changes which 'would have saved my husband a catastrophic injury'

| Travis Radford
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Jo Pybus

Pedal Power member Jo Pybus is one of more than 1200 signatories of Pedal Power’s petition calling for better cycling infrastructure. Photo: Travis Radford.

Canberra dad, husband and Pedal Power member Paul O’Dwyer was left with life-threatening injuries after being hit by a car while cycling to work on a painted bike lane on Northbourne Avenue.

Paul’s wife and Pedal Power member Jo Pybus addressed about 20 other members and Greens MLAs Jo Clay and Johnathan Davis outside the ACT Legislative Assembly on Monday (4 September).

“Implementation of the Active Travel Plan by the ACT Government … would have solved a problem that would have saved my husband a catastrophic injury,” Ms Pybus said.

“No more draft plans. No more proposed plans. No more future plans. Let’s actually implement the plan and stop people getting injured on these major thoroughfares.”

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One of the “key actions” in the ACT Government’s 2022 draft Active Travel Plan was progressively converting on-road cycle lanes on priority routes to “safe, separated cycleways”.

A Pedal Power petition with more than 1200 signatures handed to ACT Minister for Roads and Active Travel Chris Steel on Monday also lists conversion of cycle lanes as one of five key demands.

Ms Pybus said she believes this change would have prevented her husband’s accident and the injuries he was still recovering from a year afterwards, including a significant break to his spine.

“I drove to the hospital that day with no one telling me whether he was alive, so I had every reason to believe he was dead,” she said.

“He’s still unsure whether he will ever fully recover.”

Pedal Power members gathered with signs

About 20 Pedal Power members gathered outside the ACT Legislative Assembly on Monday before handing their petition to Minister Steel. Photo: Travis Radford.

Pedal Power executive director Simon Copland said the cycling group launched the petition due to a lack of government action.

“The [Active Travel] Plan had some good broad goals associated with it [but] it didn’t have any implementation plan and it had no money attached to it,” he said.

“What we’re seeing now is the [ACT] government is investing in active travel in an ad hoc manner and we’re seeing a really slow rollout of new infrastructure.

“To reduce emissions, to increase the health of our community and to reduce congestion on our roads, we need to have a transition to active travel.”

The petition has been signed by the Australasian College of Road Safety, the ACT Council of Social Service, the Conservation Council and a dozen other community, business and social groups.

It calls for a “connected, safe and convenient cycle and active travel network” with immediate improvements made in consultation with Pedal Power and other local pedestrian and cycling groups.

Aside from converting cycling lanes, these improvements included identifying and constructing missing links, including to and from all schools, health facilities, town centres and major public transport stops.

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Other demands included a target that at least 90 per cent of cycle lanes and paths be maintained in good condition and are compliant with anti-discrimination law, raised pedestrian crossings on non-traffic light-protected crossings along major routes, making busy town-centre intersections more compatible with active travel and installing secure, covered travel device parking facilities in all town and groups centres.

Mr Steel welcomed the petition and said he looked forward to working with stakeholders like Pedal Power to implement the Active Travel Plan.

“At every budget, our government will make investments in active travel to progressively implement the actions under the new plan,” he said.

“The Labor Government made an additional investment of more than $26 million into walking and cycling infrastructure, including funding to build the new Garden City Cycle Route and funding for a protected cycleway in Kingston and the design of new paths in Gungahlin.

“This is in addition to the existing pipeline of active travel infrastructure, like the Sulwood Drive shared path in Kambah, the William Hovell shared path and the recently completed Belconnen Bikeway.”

Mr Steel said a final version of the Active Travel Plan would be released at the end of 2023 following community consultation.

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Linda Seaniger2:53 am 08 Sep 23

I’m against more expenditure on dedicated on road cycle paths when own a select few make use of them. It’s an expense being dictated by selected minority, when all we really need is decent public transport. Why should we be paying exorbitantly for someone to exercise foley.

Yeah, I know the argument, it has some points.

The key counter argument is, yes maybe there’s only 3 cyclists for every 100 1.5 tonne metal vehicle users.
But the upkeep of those cycle paths only costs 3/100ths the cost of road maintenance, installation and maybe opportunity cost of 1.5m x 1500m does matter – but overhead it still remains; Cyclists just don’t have the mass to degrade the infrastructure, once it’s in it’s in for the next 100 yrs. Cheap at the price.

Been awhile since I’ve ridden it but Northbourne is flat and straight as an arrow, bar a few hours in the day it’s one of the safest routes imho. So long as people don’t night ride without lights.

If you want nominations for really dangerous in the ACT, Hindmarsh is my #1 pick – that one needs to be ripped up/have its paint scrubbed/never used ever.

Because you ride it once, the start looks like a cycle path, but then it terminates and you’re left on an unsighted bend, on the road, 100km/h zone, with sheer rock face – absolutely nowhere to ditch.

You ride it once, and never again, because it is a death trap. Northbourne is fine.

Tk Semianon, Hindmarsh Drive could have a bike path up the middle, where the grass is. Would need some replanning at the top though. Otherwise it’s a ride up Brereton St, over the dirt saddle to Mugga Way. That dirt track there needs to be sealed, and the dry creek (which isn’t always dry) on the north side, a bridge over it.

James-T-Kirk4:51 pm 07 Sep 23

Please, please, use the infrastructure that is already there. Your lycra doesn’t act as an effective crash barrier in the event of an on-road collision.

Currently, there are offroad routes north-south parallel with Northbourne, but cyclists continue to put themselves in harm’s way. There has to be a level of responsibility put on cyclists to be responsible for their own wellbeing.

I think Northbourne needs to have its “cycle lanes” removed, and cycling banned on that road, as it is quite dangerous and there is an alternative route. There are regular footpaths that can be cycled on each side of Northbourne Avenue. What can the ACT government do to help? Make the footpaths into extra wide offroad cycle paths similar to what has been done on the GDE.

I didn’t sign the petition because whenever the ACT Government touches something, they typically make it worse. The cycle lanes around the town centres are just one example: confining cyclists into narrow slots with unmountable kerbs on both sides – too bad if there’s any obstacle, or a pedestrian steps into the lane – no chance of a cyclist going around anything. The lanes direct cyclists up the wrong side of the road (except in the City where they installed a lane on each side of the roadway), and those little traffic islands will do little (if anything) to stop a car being driven off course. They are a big waste of money providing virtually no benefit to anyone – installed on low-speed roads (which *used* to have plenty of space for cyclists and motorists to share), and looping uselessly around the malls where there were already shared paths.

The money would be better spent on maintaining the existing infrastructure, and enforcing dog leash laws. Then if they could just keep the contractors from driving heavy vehicles on cycleways built only for light traffic, the cycleways might have a chance of lasting the 50-year maintenance cycle!

I feel for the man injured & his family, traumatic road injuries affect way more than just the victim.

What I do not understand is, the amount of money spent on cycling in Canberra, over the last 50 years, by Federal & Territory governments. It is in the many 10’s of millions of dollars, from the dedicated cycleway network that was built, then largely ignored, special cycle lanes added to main roads, and more recently, dedicated, separate lanes with mini-islands. I do not know of any other specific interest group that has had so much money spent on them or, with so much apparent political power.

I’m not against cyclists, I am against their constant demands for infrastructure, at the expense of other road user groups. Spending the money on dedicated education, would prove greatly beneficial for all road users.

Canberra has no “dedicated cycleway network that was built”. They are shared paths.

There is a group that gets unimaginably more govt support than cyclists: car drivers. And in return car drivers (including drivers of electric cars)contribute way more than their share to destroying our quality of life – and the planet

I know of at least one group that has far more power and on whom far more is sent.

Never mind tens of millions spent over years. Compared to the tens of billions of dollars spent EACH YEAR on roadways, with practically no effort at all from the motoring lobby, it’s barely chicken feed.

if motorists need a special education program to lean that running over cyclists is bad then we have real problems.

By the way, Canberra does not have a dedicated cycleway network. It has a network of shared use paths which, as the name implies, can be used by anyone.

If they were genuinely useful for cyclists then more cyclists might use them, don’t you think?

Thats because the law was changed to make all pathways shared for cyclists and pedestrians.

Reading this story brought tears to my eyes. Believe me folks, it is a jungle out there.

I wouldn’t recommend being a cyclist on Canberra’s roads to anyone. It is like being a red rag to a bull. Every flaming motorist taking their frustrations out on a cyclist for some perceived injustice caused to them by a rider many months or years before.

Believe me folks, Canberra motorists are a special species. They have long memories and never forget anything.

Your life as a cyclist is in their hands!

what about the cyclist who pulled out in front of me last Friday evening near the CSIRO, completely ignoring a give way sign? it works both ways – cyclists and motorists need to adhere to the road rules.

goggles13, Most people do, regardless of the transport, adhere to the road rules, but some people just have to bring up a cycling example, ignoring all the car examples. The difference is, is that a car is far more likely to injure or kill than a bike, or write someone’s car off, as happened to my car when it was tail ended. If this had been a bike my car mightn’t have even been damaged. But if it had been a bike, some people would have chosen to use it as an example. Good and bad drivers and cyclists, and they might be one and the same.

Well goggles13 my near death experiences with some selfish, bike cyclist hating ACT motorists is why my bike is sitting in the garage collecting dust. I am now one more motorist clogging up our roads!

Most car drivers (not all) stop for red lights. Years of observation suggests the inverse for cyclists… yet the same red-light-running cyclists still (hypocritically) cry foul if someone passes them “too close”. What’s the matter… afraid they won’t be able to get going again if they have to stop? Or just too full of their self-importance? Sharing is a two-way ‘street’.

That’s only the voice of confirmation bias speaking. I rarely see cyclists running red lights; far fewer than the numbers of trucks and buses that run them (especially right turn arrows). If cyclists really ran red lights in the numbers you claim then there’d be a lot more dead cyclists.

And then there’s the motorists who believe that a yellow light means ‘drop a gear and go’ rather than what the law actually requires.

Thank you for your wise counsel Bill!

I will remember this the next time a 4-wheel drive or an irate and law abiding Canberra citizen accidentally or on purpose drives across in front of me should I ever decide to take to my bike again!

Thank you again Bill!!!

I rarely see a person cycling go straight ahead through a red light on a main road. Some might go across the crossing though beside the road with the people walking. If this worries you don’t visit Paris, as now people on bikes can legally go through many red lights. After a trial, they found there weren’t dead bodies everywhere, so have introduced this. San Francisco I think is considering this too. Traffic lights were introduced to regular the flow of motorised traffic, not bikes. Most people aren’t suicidal.

Who’s got the confirmation bias? I challenge you to sit beside the traffic lights (try Kent/Novar Streets or Athllon Dr/Beasley St) – count the cars, trucks, buses, etc. that run the red, and those that stop. Then count the cyclists that run the red, and those that stop and actually wait for a green light (instead of sneaking across when they deem it safe). Let me know your results. I maintain that the proportion of cyclists running red lights is far higher than the proportion of motorists running red lights.
And Maya, if that’s what the law says in France, that’s a different matter – if you want: get the law changed here too, but now it is illegal, and it’s hypocritical to complain about someone illegally passing “too close” if you’re going to illegally cross against the red.

Let me state clearly at the outset that I never run red lights regardless of vehicle type, and that I’m happy to stand next to you as we analyse behaviour at any given traffic light. Let me know when you’re available.

But the reason why you ‘hypocrisy’ argument doesn’t hold water is simple. It’s twenty years since a cyclist running a red light killed anyone in Australia (and that was a freak event), whereas motorists kill multiple cyclists each year by passing too close.

Bill, I never said anything about “illegally passing “too close”.
I have sat at many a light as a car driver, and I reiterate, I rarely see someone cycling go ahead through a red light. It’s your bias showing. You hate bikes, we get it! You see one bike go through a red light and it equals many. You see one car go through a red light; it’s not worth mentioning.

I wish you the best of luck with this Pedal Power, but there is no money. According to Stanhope’s recent analysis –
The 2023-24 ACT Budget forecasts net debt will grow to $10.6 billion by 2026-27, more than double the $4.8 billion of 2021-22, which will be an average increase of $1.173 billion every year, or $3.2 million every day. Over this period annual interest payments will have increased from $250 million to $595 million.

Here’s a thought. They could actually enforce the close passing legislation, take the consequent fine revenue, and build proper (heck, gold-plated) cyclist infrastructure.

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