16 March 2023

What's a cyclist's life worth? All road users urged to show each other respect

| Claire Fenwicke
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cyclist campaign

Lonsdale Street Cyclery owner John Ross, ACT Road Policing Supt Matt Craft and Pedal Power executive director Simon Copland want everyone to respect all users of Canberra’s roads. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

It’s not hard to find someone with strong feelings about how cyclists or motorists behave towards each other on Canberra’s roads.

But everyone has been urged to respect each other and the road rules as we all travel to our destinations.

ACT Road Policing Superintendent Matt Craft said most incidents between cyclists and motorists reported to police involved serious injuries.

“I can understand some of the frustrations with motorists, particularly when they’re seeing cyclists out on the road disobeying the road rules and not being reasonable out on the road,” he said.

“Remember they are people themselves … they’ve got to get home to their families as well.”

One major change motorists can make to improve a cyclist’s safety on the road is leaving a metre gap if travelling 60 km/h or slower, or a metre-and-a-half gap if going faster than that.

The gap is a legal requirement.

“Motorists need to leave that gap between themselves and the cyclist,” Supt Craft said.

“If that means passing across an unbroken line, they can do that quickly [if safe] and get around the cyclists, they don’t need to wait an eternity behind that cyclist.

“It’s about giving cyclists as much space as possible and allowing that safe pass.”

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Lonsdale Street Cyclery owner John Ross is no stranger to the dangers of being a cyclist on our roads.

He’s been hit by a car while riding – no-one was at fault – and urged everyone to ride and drive defensively, and for motorists to give cyclists space.

“The metre and the metre-and-a-half rule is a big thing, it makes a massive difference as a cyclist because you are vulnerable on the road,” Mr Ross said.

“Ultimately, if [a motorist] gets that gap wrong and clips you, you’re gone.”

Pedal Power executive director Simon Copland said it gave motorists more room for error in case something unexpected happened, such as an animal suddenly coming across the road or a lapse in concentration.

“If a cyclist makes a mistake, there’s a chance they’ll hurt themselves,” he said.

“But if a car driver makes a mistake, there’s a chance they’ll potentially kill someone,. They’re driving this huge metal vehicle that can kill people at speed.

“Everybody needs to respect each other and respect the rules we have.”

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Police are most often called to incidents during peak hour, when tensions may be running high as people try to get to work or other appointments on time.

But Supt Craft said that was no excuse for putting someone’s life at risk.

“It’s about being patient, giving that cyclist five or 10 seconds will mean a world of difference,” he said.

“Just think about the people who are potentially riding to work, their safety is important.”

Cyclists were also urged to take responsibility for their actions on the road, which included having lights, wearing bright clothing and helmets, using a bell to alert pedestrians and following the road rules.

“If a cycle lane is available to you, please use it … it’s an easier and a safer way to get around the city,” Supt Craft said.

“[However] it’s people’s right to ride a bicycle on the road, and a lot of those people are getting themselves to work or [riding] just for recreation.”

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GrumpyGrandpa4:12 pm 19 Mar 23

I think it’s fair to say that fault is on both sides. Only yesterday, a cyclist wearing a pedal power vest, zipped around me and the Mrs, as we were walking; no bell, no warning. I’m not saying I’ve never done the wrong thing by the more vulnerable either.

I think that the Government has a lot to answer for in this whole debate by creating shared zones. On road cycle lanes are accidents waiting to happen.

On many occasions, I’ve been in the left-hand lane of Hindmarsh Dr, heading Weston Creek towards Woden – ie on an 80kph road and come across a slower cyclist to my left. Suddenly, you have no where to go due to heavy traffic in the right hand lane. The options have been:

(A) to brake, hoping that traffic behind you can see the developing situation and can slow down without hitting you (we all know how people from Canberra love to tailgate).
(B) somehow force your way into the adjacent lane without causing an accident or
(C) slow down to the speed of the cyclist and create a local traffic jam, until either the cyclist turns off the road, or you can merge right. (I mostly default to this option and create a traffic jam).

These issues are neither the fault of the motorist or the cyclist. It simply comes down to the stupidity of Government by installing on-road cycle lanes on existing roads, reducing the width of lanes and pushing everyone closer together.

And yeah, sure, some will argue that motorists should be more aware and anticipate situations, however, with the speed differential, situations occur very quickly.

Why do you censor the comments? You want the truth or not?

I wrote to the police a long letter urging them to start special courses for cyclists using roads that teach them how to ride a bicycle according to the road rules and after completing the course they receive a cycling licence that allows them to use rods. I based it on my European and Australian experience. We don’t have a well developed cycling culture in Australia. Cyclists have no idea how to ride on roads. The police never responded, totally ignored it. Clearly, the police doesn’t care about the road accidents and fatalities among cyclists. They just pretend and pose for photographs.

Not The Mama2:15 pm 18 Mar 23

No point having a policeman standing in a bike shop! Before yesterday, I have not seen a police car on the road in several months, 24 at least!

These sorts of articles and outreach preach to the converted – There is very little chance of changing the behavior of the rest, unless police get out there and actually **stop and fine** both drivers and cyclist for using the road unsafely.

The behavior of some drivers towards other drivers needs attention too. On a drive just this morning I was tailgated repeatedly even on the left lane and I was doing 5 KM/HR over the speed limit, when overtaken these drivers would swerve in 1m front of me as if to make a point.

“using a bell to alert pedestrians” I ride around LBG every weekend. The MAMILs I see, ride around like it is Tour de France. If they have bells, I have not heard them

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