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Young mother’s cycling tragedy a lesson for ACT bus and truck drivers

By Anne Treasure - 14 March 2017 20

yarraville

Infrastructure that separates bicycles from trucks and buses is the best way to avoid people on bikes being killed on ACT roads.

Last week, a young mother-of-two died while riding her bike in Melbourne, prompting calls for better bike lanes and more awareness of bicycles on the road.

Arzu Karakoc, whose daughters are aged 6 and 2, was only a short distance from home when a truck hit her in Yarraville, in Melbourne’s west, on Friday afternoon.

As the most vulnerable vehicles on Australian roads, bicycles are always at risk from other road users.

Canberra has high volumes of traffic on our roads, and the sheer size of trucks and buses means that often they find smaller road users like bicycles difficult to see.

Until the ACT Government commits to better cycling infrastructure, understanding between people who ride bikes and people who drive trucks and buses on Canberra roads is essential to prevent tragedies like the recent Melbourne death.

A meeting in Canberra recently brought together the two groups who don’t often meet face to face or see eye to eye. ‘Reducing the risks: cyclists, pedestrians, buses & heavy vehicles’ aimed to build understanding and cooperation between the groups around safely sharing the road.

“There’s a need to educate bike riders about riding safely on the roads, but it is clear that bus and truck drivers are really lacking knowledge about the rights of bike riders on the road,” said Pedal Power ACT advocacy officer Rachel Lynsky.

“People who ride bikes are particularly vulnerable on the roads, so they have to prioritise safety. If that means taking up a whole lane at a roundabout or merging into traffic to avoid glass in the cycle lane, that’s what they do. Sometimes this momentarily inconveniences other road users. But so do other cars, and motorbikes, and pedestrian crossings. Bicycles are just another part of the road system.”

To see leadership from ACTION and the heavy vehicle industry in ensuring the safety of vulnerable road users is commendable, but not revolutionary; it should be a normal part of everyday business.

In London, the trucking industry has been highly involved with cycling groups to improve conditions for cycling on the road since 2010. In Australia, Toll has been working with the Amy Gillett Foundation to educate their drivers about how to share the road safely with cyclists. In 2016 the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority developed a strategy to ensure bike safety.

That’s how Rachel found herself behind the wheel of a massive bus, driving right next to a truckie sitting on a bicycle.

“It’s actually really challenging to judge the metre overtaking distance in a bus,” said Rachel. “You have to physically move in the driver’s seat to be able to see your mirrors, and to see the bikes next to you.”

Despite the difficult conditions, Rachel described the practical experience as a highlight of the forum.

The understanding that dawned on bus drivers about how vulnerable bike riders can feel while riding in a cycle lane next to a huge vehicle was far more useful than the hours spent discussing the issues.

Talking is ineffective when representatives from the biggest trucking and public transit organisations in the ACT do not regard bicycles as a vehicle with a right to be on the road.

“One of the bus drivers was concerned about what happens to bikes when the bike lane just suddenly ends,” said Rachel. “They said, ‘the bike is in our lane of traffic – there’s nowhere for the bike to go’, and we had to explain that in this situation, a bike is just another vehicle on the road merging into a lane of traffic.”

Everyone who uses ACT roads would benefit from the heavy vehicle industry and government taking a leadership role in promoting understanding about sharing the road with vulnerable users.

The community benefits by having more people on bikes. People who ride increase workplace productivity, and save the public long-term health costs. More people on bikes mean fewer cars on our roads, and less congestion and pollution. Bus drivers and truckies want to be able to do their jobs efficiently, and more bikes and less car traffic in Canberra will improve their productivity enormously. And ultimately, it will help prevent bike riders dying on our roads.

Anne Treasure is the Communications Manager for Pedal Power ACT. She writes on bike riding in the ACT from the perspective of a lapsed bicycle rider who should be cycling more. 

 

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20 Responses to
Young mother’s cycling tragedy a lesson for ACT bus and truck drivers
1
Roksteddy 9:35 am
14 Mar 17
#

Cyclist-blaming in 3, 2…

2
Rollersk8r 11:37 am
14 Mar 17
#

I witnessed a cyclist vs motorist stand up argument this morning – and it was two women, which is a change. The exact situation is a bit of a grey area, I think. The motorist was stopped in traffic on Northbourne, with indicator on, waiting to turn into a hotel driveway. The cyclist has continued through on the bike lane inside the car waiting to turn. To be fair on the motorist the cyclist did appear out of nowhere. You can’t expect absolute right of way in the bike lane. I’ve been hit by a car myself in a similar situation so I generally stop if uncertain about what the car is going to do…

3
Holden Caulfield 4:16 pm
14 Mar 17
#

Having bicycles, cars, trucks and buses sharing roads has kind of just happened. Nobody would ever design such a system from scratch.

It’s very well (and correct) to suggest a cyclist takes up a full lane to ensure his or her safety (citing the roundabout example). However, this does little to address the basic level of impatience displayed by many road users. I would guess that any cyclist who regularly takes up a full lane through a roundabout has got quite a few examples of disharmony to share.

Raising awareness across all road user types of other road users is a definite step in the right direction. But it will be a very, very long journey in this country before anything like a common agreement to chillax when you encounter a cyclist on the road is achieved.

My approach when riding my bike, where possible, is to avoid any road without a dedicated cycle lane. Limestone Avenue comes to mind as an example.

Personally, I’m happy to adapt my route through nearby back streets which carry less traffic, but require just as much anticipation on my part of what could go wrong.

In a perfect world push bikes wouldn’t be on the road at all. That’s never going to happen, so the best thing we can do is support any measure that aims to make all road users be more considerate of other road users.

4
Masquara 6:36 pm
14 Mar 17
#

How many cyclists in Canberra have been killed by trucks? Bit odd citing a Melbourne example, where the infrastructure is entirely different.

5
bd84 8:57 am
15 Mar 17
#

Rollersk8r said :

I witnessed a cyclist vs motorist stand up argument this morning – and it was two women, which is a change. The exact situation is a bit of a grey area, I think. The motorist was stopped in traffic on Northbourne, with indicator on, waiting to turn into a hotel driveway. The cyclist has continued through on the bike lane inside the car waiting to turn. To be fair on the motorist the cyclist did appear out of nowhere. You can’t expect absolute right of way in the bike lane. I’ve been hit by a car myself in a similar situation so I generally stop if uncertain about what the car is going to do…

Road rule 141(2) prohibits cyclists from passing to the left of a vehicle turning left and giving a left turn signal. Acting oblivious to the vehicle ahead turning left is just plain stupidity.

6
Holden Caulfield 10:41 am
15 Mar 17
#

bd84 said :

Rollersk8r said :

I witnessed a cyclist vs motorist stand up argument this morning – and it was two women, which is a change. The exact situation is a bit of a grey area, I think. The motorist was stopped in traffic on Northbourne, with indicator on, waiting to turn into a hotel driveway. The cyclist has continued through on the bike lane inside the car waiting to turn. To be fair on the motorist the cyclist did appear out of nowhere. You can’t expect absolute right of way in the bike lane. I’ve been hit by a car myself in a similar situation so I generally stop if uncertain about what the car is going to do…

Road rule 141(2) prohibits cyclists from passing to the left of a vehicle turning left and giving a left turn signal. Acting oblivious to the vehicle ahead turning left is just plain stupidity.

Common sense is not always so common, hey.

7
Rollersk8r 11:27 am
15 Mar 17
#

bd84 said :

Rollersk8r said :

I witnessed a cyclist vs motorist stand up argument this morning – and it was two women, which is a change. The exact situation is a bit of a grey area, I think. The motorist was stopped in traffic on Northbourne, with indicator on, waiting to turn into a hotel driveway. The cyclist has continued through on the bike lane inside the car waiting to turn. To be fair on the motorist the cyclist did appear out of nowhere. You can’t expect absolute right of way in the bike lane. I’ve been hit by a car myself in a similar situation so I generally stop if uncertain about what the car is going to do…

Road rule 141(2) prohibits cyclists from passing to the left of a vehicle turning left and giving a left turn signal. Acting oblivious to the vehicle ahead turning left is just plain stupidity.

I’m positive this rule was not designed with cycle lanes in mind. There are many green cycle lanes (i,e, across off ramps) where turning cars must give way to cyclists. It’s therefore not surprising some cyclists expect to continue on their merry way down Northbourne, thinking cars must always give way to them.

8
Leon Arundell 6:24 pm
16 Mar 17
#

Rollersk8r said :

I witnessed a cyclist vs motorist stand up argument this morning – and it was two women, which is a change. The exact situation is a bit of a grey area, I think. The motorist was stopped in traffic on Northbourne, with indicator on, waiting to turn into a hotel driveway. The cyclist has continued through on the bike lane inside the car waiting to turn. To be fair on the motorist the cyclist did appear out of nowhere. You can’t expect absolute right of way in the bike lane. I’ve been hit by a car myself in a similar situation so I generally stop if uncertain about what the car is going to do…

Aside from the fact that a cyclist cannot “appear out of nowhere,” it seems from my reading of the road rules that a cyclist ON A CYCLE LANE must legally give way to a driver who is turning left into a driveway.
Rule 75 requires a driver, when turning left from a road to a road related area (e.g. a driveway), to give way to vehicles (including bicycles) on road-related areas. Rule 75 is silent about giving way to vehicles on the road (including on an on-road cycle lane).
Rule 141 (2) says, “The rider of a bicycle must not ride past, or overtake, to the left of a vehicle that is turning left and is giving a left change of direction signal.”

9
gazket 9:20 pm
16 Mar 17
#

“a bike is just another vehicle on the road merging into a lane of traffic.”

wrong… The speed difference and maneuverability between the 2 is massive . Push bikes on the road are mobile chicanes and not just another vehicle .

10
Paul2913 10:30 pm
16 Mar 17
#

The most obvious solution to this problem is to separate cyclists and drivers, sure education will help but if you really want to improve cyclist safety then encourage cyclists not to ride on the roads.

Several years ago there was a push to build on-road bike paths in Canberra as cyclists had a right to be on the roads; now that the on-road paths exist cyclists are lobbying for greater safety on the roads. The troubling effect of the on-road paths is that it is encouraging very inexperienced cyclists onto the roads including children. Just because a cyclist is riding on a dark green lane doesn’t make on-road cycling any safer.

Why aren’t cyclists lobbying for better off-road cycling infrastructure? Dedicated cycleways separated from pedestrians (and dogs) that are maintained properly.

We see all the time on the government’s electronic billboards “a meter matters”. At the moment the rule is that cars need to swerve at least a meter around cyclists… wouldn’t a more sensible rule be to move the cyclists a meter off the roads?

11
BlowMeDown 11:34 pm
16 Mar 17
#

“The community benefits by having more people on bikes.”

Not really …

“People who ride increase workplace productivity, and save the public long-term health costs.”

But not on the road. The additional levy at vehicle registration time was introduced to pay for the rehabilitation of injured cyclists, and the occasional funeral.

“More people on bikes mean fewer cars on our roads, and less congestion and pollution.”

No it doesn’t. Reducing the speed limit by 10kph simply increases travel time, meaning there are roughly 15 percent more cars on the road per lane kilometre, and that’s before narrowing the pavement available to vehicles and the elimination of merging lanes. Also raises stress levels and adds significant distractions: looking out for extremely vulnersble cyclists, speedometer watching, etc.

“Bus drivers and truckies want to be able to do their jobs efficiently, and more bikes and less car traffic in Canberra will improve their productivity enormously.”

False. See above.

“And ultimately, it will help prevent bike riders dying on our roads.”

The evidence so far disputes this.

Spare a thought for the Melbourne vehicle driver who now very likely blames him/her self for the death of a cyclist who chose to take the risk.

12
bryansworld 3:53 am
17 Mar 17
#

bd84 said :

Rollersk8r said :

I witnessed a cyclist vs motorist stand up argument this morning – and it was two women, which is a change. The exact situation is a bit of a grey area, I think. The motorist was stopped in traffic on Northbourne, with indicator on, waiting to turn into a hotel driveway. The cyclist has continued through on the bike lane inside the car waiting to turn. To be fair on the motorist the cyclist did appear out of nowhere. You can’t expect absolute right of way in the bike lane. I’ve been hit by a car myself in a similar situation so I generally stop if uncertain about what the car is going to do…

Road rule 141(2) prohibits cyclists from passing to the left of a vehicle turning left and giving a left turn signal. Acting oblivious to the vehicle ahead turning left is just plain stupidity.

This rule is not relevant to the situation. The cyclist is not overtaking the vehicle and has right of way on a marked cycle lane.

13
bigred 7:29 am
17 Mar 17
#

A traffic engineer once told me that there were ‘three Es’ required to ensure road systems were safe, these being engineering, education and enforcement. Given the often chaotic situation on local roads when anything out of the ordinary occurs, I suspect there are deficiencies against at least one of these.

14
markb 2:15 pm
17 Mar 17
#

As pointed out in some of the comments, riding bicycles on roads is all about risk. Risk is inherent in life but where the consequences of the risk get up to the level of being catastrophic then usually something gets done. Large vehicle versus cyclist is usually catastrophic (think wheels and trailers). The answer is obvious and perhaps us cyclists need to accept we really don’t have equal rights to all roads – and perhaps the law needs to reinforce this too?

15
dungfungus 3:50 pm
17 Mar 17
#

markb said :

As pointed out in some of the comments, riding bicycles on roads is all about risk. Risk is inherent in life but where the consequences of the risk get up to the level of being catastrophic then usually something gets done. Large vehicle versus cyclist is usually catastrophic (think wheels and trailers). The answer is obvious and perhaps us cyclists need to accept we really don’t have equal rights to all roads – and perhaps the law needs to reinforce this too?

And these sobering statistics from Melbourne support what you say.

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/inner-east/melbournes-13-worst-cycling-crash-black-spots-revealed/news-story/cd996696e7476c80e85ac2a672b6b4d9

Still, The Greens are advocating the rights of this thrill seeking demographic.

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