This appears to be the belief of a predominantly car driving press in recent months. An article in today’s Age reported that a cyclist who was involved in an accident with a pedestrian in Mentone last August, while taking place in the ‘Hell Ride’, was fined $400. The Magistrate made comments suggesting that the available laws were inadequate to deal with the situation, something that I find curious.
It appears that the cyclist was charged with “failing to stop at a pedestrian crossing”. He plead guilty. The world around the cycling community is that he had fallen behind the main group (i.e.: he’d been dropped by the bunch) and didn’t stop at a red light, probably because he was trying to stay with the rest of the bunch. The elderly pedestrian had started to cross, on a green light, and got hit by the cyclist. The pedestrian fell heavily, and later died.
I’m not aware of much more in the way of details of what actually happened. Nor, it appears, is the press, since there have been precious few details reported, but plenty of chest beating and vitriol about how we feral cyclists are all vicious killers who love nothing more than running down elderly pedestrians while simultaneously breaking every road rule we can. Oh, and we also eat live kittens for breakfast!
Nothing about this event is good. Someone has died needlessly, and this is tragic. I have no doubt the cyclist in question will be haunted by this event for the rest of their life. I take issue with the way the press has hyped things out of all proportion, pushing the tired angle of ‘cyclists shouldn’t exist’. They have taken a tragedy and used it to sell newspapers and airtime in a cynical ploy for attention. This is rubbernecker theatre at its most pathetic.
The recent Premier-by-default John Brumby has made worrying statements about looking at revising the existing laws. One wonders why the police didn’t charge the cyclist in question with a more serious crime? Perhaps lack of evidence, rather than a lack of possible crimes? I am concerned that in his haste to do something the press will write about in his early days, the new Premier may rush through yet more laws that do nothing but promote his own political agenda. We have seen enough of that for several lifetimes in the War On Abstract Nouns. The last thing we need now is a War On Cyclists.
There are plenty of people who fail to observe the road rules. Some of these people happen to ride bicycles. A greater number by far drive motor vehicles. From my own experience, I have had far fewer near misses as a pedestrian than I have as a cyclist. I would be very interested to know how many pedestrians are killed each year by bicyclists, and how this compares to how many pedestrians are killed by cars, or how many bicyclists are killed by cars. I believe the correct approach would be to look at the reality of the situation, as reflected in these macabre statistics, and enact laws that will keep the most people alive.
But then, that would be a measured, rational response. I’m a cyclist, so I suppose I’m not capable of that. I wonder if John Brumby rides a bike?