This morning I have received some truly tragic news about a colleague, a friend and a fellow cyclist. Another life has been lost on our roads, with no explanation as to why and with another motorist who has shown no respect of human life by driving off after the collision. This person was a passionate cyclist and I am trying to find comfort knowing they were doing something they loved. My heart breaks for his family, his friends and all of my workmates past and present that he leaves behind.
As a cyclist, stories of these awful accidents, whether fatal or not, leave me filled with sadness and at a loss for words- but today this saddness has been taken to a whole new level. I cannot to this day comprehend how common these incidents are on our roads and why there seems to be such a sense of entitlement by too many motorists who believe that we do not deserve to use the roads as they do. But this is beyond the point of this post, the motorist vs cyclist war is bound to continue for many years to come, but what I want to remind people of is that we cyclists are also motorists; we are also your colleagues, your friends or your family and loved ones. We all know that when we go riding we are, to some degree, putting our lives in your hands. With the recent introduction of minimum passing distance laws in Queensland, many of us hoped it would be a long time before we lost another cyclist on our roads, and I certainly never expected that cyclist to be someone I knew and cared for. So my message to each of you is- if you come across a cyclist whilst driving please show them the same respect and courtesy you would of any other road user and particularly if that road user was also you friend or loved one, for they are just that to someone.
Multiple articles earlier this year cited how cycling related fatalities are rising in Australia, despite a significant fall in such incidents in the rest of the world (by up to 53%!). The only other country to report a rise in these fatalities was Canada. Australia reported at 10% increase between 2000 and 2011. The number of cyclist deaths on the roads continues to rise and actually DOUBLED from 2012 to 2013. This is a BIG problem and something has to be done. This is despite the introduction or establishment of many cycling safety campaigns and organisations, not to mention the recent introduction of the new minimum distance laws being trialled in Queensland. What needs to happen to change this? I think a lot of it comes down to trying to change the attitude of the motorists who do not want to share the road with us. Many of them cite that we should be paying registration if we want to use the road (although they seem to forget that the majority of us are actually already paying registration just like them on our motor vehicles). Every cyclist I have spoken to has said that they would be more than happy to pay registration if they thought it would make us safer on the road, but if laws cannot do this how would us paying registration change anything? I am not saying that all accidents are the fault of motorists alone, but the studies show that the majority are.
The majority of accidents (if not all of them) be them motorist vs motorist or motorist vs cyclist are avoidable and this is the saddest part about it all. Just the other night I had a conversation with a group of people about the use of mobile phones whilst driving. This is something that many of us are guilty of, but I pointed out to this group that this is something I refuse to do these days as the risks are far to great. I can’t remember when or what changed my attitude to this, but I suspect it may have been about the time I became a cyclist. Mobile phones have been shown to be worse than driving under the influence of alcohol in their effect on our driving ability and alertness. Is that message or facebook news feed really more important than the life of that child, cyclist, pedestrian or animal that you may not see on the road as a result? I think I would fail to find anyone that would answer yes to that question- so why is it still happening?
What upsets me the most about all this and what I’m most worried about reading about this accident in particular is the number of heartless and cruel people that use these incidents as an opportunity to voice their opinions about cyclists and the too many comments along the lines of these accidents being ‘deserved’ Already I have read a comment about the poor motorist…I’m sorry are we talking about that poor motorist that drove away and left someone to die alone on the side of the road? How can people think like this and how can we allow these people to drive amongst any of us on the roads when they show such disregard for human life. I look forward to the days when the rights of all humans are respected amongst the greater community of this country.
Ride safe MBSTers