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Slaughter of the cyclists in the Cotter (OK OK, no one is dead)

By johnboy - 30 April 2007 93

[First filed: April 29, 2007 @ 13:40]

The ABC informs us that a group of racing cyclists have had an unfortunate meeting with a four wheel drive on the Cotter Road.

About five cyclists were in the group that was hit just after 10:00am AEST.

Two have been taken to the Canberra Hospital.

One is in a critical condition and the other in a serious condition.

The injured cyclists were believed to have been competing in the Canberra Cycling Tour

UPDATED: Our snouts in the cycling community offer the following insight:

The Canberra Tour is an annual two-day event which attracts all kinds of interstate and top road cyclists. This year was the 24th time it has run. It involves many different grades — men, women, juniors — and a number of different kinds of races for each grade. Most of these races involve numerous laps of a course, and because there are so many races happening it is very difficult to close roads — many major roads would have to be closed for the entire weekend which is just not practical.

It is understood the accident happened in the women’s B Grade race, which was fairly small. Apparently a couple of the cyclists in the bunch touched wheels, causing them to fall and inevitably bringing down the rest of group. It is understood some of the group fell into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Without preempting any investigation, it is understood there was little the driver would have been able to do in the conditions.

Apparently one of the two cyclists hit was in a coma pretty much at the scene and word is she was given CPR at the scene. Apparently her husband was riding in the men’s A grade race that come down on the same route 10 minutes after the accident.

The cycling community is preparing for a big discussion about how better safety, or road closures, can be managed for these big events.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The ABC reports that the organisers are now going to try and get the road closed in future.

More: This is the only local news on the Canberra Times today. Firstly a padded piece on the basic detail with some bum covering by the race organisers followed by a list of anyone to ever be hurt riding a bicycle anywhere. They also have calls from the NRMA to end cycle racing on open roads.

IMHO more interesting is a comment here by our very own FB:

On Sat morning a a few mates & myself headed out to Namadgi to do a bit of 4WDing. We came back around 2:00pm along Brindabella Road then up Cotter road. The exact route of the race. We were driving in a Jeep Wrangler set up for off roading with a big F%@k off bull bar. We passed dozens of idiots on bikes & I made the comment to my mate that someone was going to get hit, it was just a matter of when.

More then once we would go around a corner to find a group coming at us with some crazy idiot trying to overtake on the inside, riding with his wheels ON the centre line. They wouldn’t even back off when they saw us coming at them, they would just ride straight at us and make us put two wheels off the road to avoid them. We even had the same thing happen with a lone cyclist. The attitude of the cyclists seemed to be that it was their road.

Comment by FB — 30 April, 2007 @ 10:14 am

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93 Responses to
Slaughter of the cyclists in the Cotter (OK OK, no one is dead)
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bonfire 9:29 am 04 May 07

i can think of a reason.


that a pleasant sunday drive on public roads is ruined by inconsiderate cyclists taking up BOTH LANES of the road.

after 20 minutes or so of cyclist boorish arrogance, most normal people would probably like to exit their own vehicles.

advocate 12:25 pm 02 May 07

“I have to admit, I’m getting all of my information on this incident third hand, but it seems to me that the organisation for this event was far from elite. If it is an elite event, then why were riders put in the potentially (and subsequently revealed to be actual) dangersous position of competing with cars for space on the road? Surely, it was obvious to everyone that the racers would use the full width of the road?”

The organisation was as good as it gets. There were lead and follow vehicles for every grade, and signs and marshalls all over the place. The organisers requested road closure (as always), but were denied it by the gov’t (as always).

A few points to clarify:
– riders who cross the centre line *are* automatically disqualified in any event under the auspices of Cycling Australia (including the Canberra Tour)

– the vast majority of racing cyclists would agree that it’s stupid and arrogant to cross the centre line, run red lights, take shortcuts through petrol stations on corners, etc. etc. etc. As with motorists, a few inconsiderate idiots create most of the problem…

– And there’s no shortage of inconsiderate idiots in the motoring community either. I was driving a support vehicle on Saturday, and observed numerous severely malicious acts by motorists against cyclists:
— opening doors into the bunch while stopped in the other lane
— opening doors into a bunch while passing the bunch at speed
— pulling in front of small rider groups after passing, then slamming on the brakes
— pulling alongside a bunch and slowly veering left
— throwing fairly large objects (e.g., big McDonald’s bag full of rubbish, full can of soda) at cyclists

Yes, I personally saw every one of these things happen in two short hours Saturday.

Say what you will about cyclists imposing delays on motorists for two days out of the year, but there is **absolutely no justification** for the malicious response displayed by motorists in response to this brief inconvenience.

James-T-Kirk 3:41 pm 01 May 07

Your pic reminds me of my 1974 corolla. Used to take it up Mt Ginini, and Black Hill – I remember being in a position where I had stopped (Lack of grunt – had to take another bite at it), and had decided that I wanted to get out to evaluate my situation – Park brake on – Car slid backwards when I took my foot off the brake – The braking effect of 2 wheels just didn’t do it – Reversed down the hill with no problems, had anither bite at it (faster this time) and up we went.

I also remember bashing the floor pan back down more than once – Pesky passengers complained that there was nowhere for them to put their feet!!!

mcjimminy 3:13 pm 01 May 07

practical…done now

mcjimminy 2:27 pm 01 May 07

FB, 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), but 1/2 as far sounds too good to me. 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 think that that’s the Two Sticks Road to Mt Coree, and I agree that I’d feel more comfortable in a properly equipped 4WD for that sort of terrain. It’s not just about what’s doable, but what’s most practicle, and even enjoyable.

…and now I’m off topic.

Miranda, there were many people in front of me who had a clearer view, but I might give the police a call just in case they’re interested in additional information. Of course, they’re reading The RiotACT again too aren’t they (no pun intended)?

Anyway, enough from me already. I’m done.

Colin_Vine 2:21 pm 01 May 07

I have also witnessed several 2WDs up there over the years, and while several sustained damage of one sort or another, this was due to driving style rather then necessity. My Subaru wagon (older model), while having the benefits of 4WD, does not have any more ground clearance then other sedans, and has done the trip several times…

Danman 2:14 pm 01 May 07

Technically – the top is as close to the “lollipop” as you can get – looks like you stil have 2 or 3 meters elevation to go – but still – a worthy effort – for a junker – but I still would not take any 2WD car up there – for my own safety – not the cars.

Steve 1:58 pm 01 May 07

Danman set the challenge here’s a dodgy cameraphone pic.

The exhaust did get damaged, but we also had a charade up there no worries at all.

FB 12:29 pm 01 May 07

a locked up car slows quickest

Not to criticise you or the driver of the other car, I’m sure that in the situation he did as best he could.

A locked up car does not slow down quick at all. Hence the invention of ABS. A car braking hard enough, almost to the point of lock up, will stop in about 1/2 the distance of a locked up car.

Miranda 11:47 am 01 May 07

mcjimminy – did you give a statement to the coppers?

mcjimminy 11:31 am 01 May 07

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.

Steve 10:26 am 01 May 07

And i guess it seems in this situation it was not the ‘arrogant’ riders pushing their way into traffic that have paid the price.

FB 9:09 am 01 May 07

To get back on topic.

Was the oncoming traffic warned that there was a bicycle road race approaching in the opposite direction? I would be extra careful if I saw such a sign.

Yes, there were lots of signs and marshals warning you. We were extra careful and that’s why we managed to not hit anyone (barley though)

I agree, all those bike riders and ride organisers are reckless and totally at fault in this case.
I disagree, from my observations the event seemed quite well run, as I said plenty of signs, reduced speed etc… The problem to me seemed to lie solely on the riders. I don’t think the organisers need to accept any blame


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