by Kate Smart
Once again, another fool/silly young person/egomaniac/moron/sad little person with insecurities (delete as applicable, though in this case all may well apply) brazenly bragged on twitter about hitting a cyclist.
This tweet may well be the product of someone seeking attention and there was no incident, (the account seems to have disappeared from twitter). It may also be the product of some sick desire to copy Norfolk trainee accountant, Emma Way’s now notorious tweet last May, about hitting a cyclist, although why anyone would want to do that defies rational understanding. Ms Way actually went on to claim that she was the victim of online bullying as a result of her very regrettable actions.
I am not for a second condoning or suggesting that Ms Way or the owner of this tweet deserve to be bullied. I suspect this tweet is yet another example of the naiveté of a young person who doesn’t fully understand that anyone can see what you do on the Internet.
In saying this though, you can’t get past the horror of the venomous words. Who thinks it’s ok to tweet about killing people? Perhaps even more frightening are the 3 likes.
For anyone reading this who has lost a loved one, who has had the dreaded visit from the girls and boys in blue, delivering the words that you never want to hear, its hard to picture the person who sent this. Actually, it’s terrifying.
And those who’ve never experienced above, it doesn’t take much to imagine the unique sadness of sudden loss. This article, though is not a deconstruction of grief, it is a discussion of safe road use for all.
In some ways whatever prompted this tweet is a little beside the point. What is clear is that there is a core group of drivers (thankfully, has to be said, in the minority) in the community who do not respect other road users. These people have little comprehension of the effects of their actions and little understanding and compassion for their fellow woman or man.
The road should not be a battleground between drivers and cyclists. No one has an ownership over rights to use the road.
The steps to creating greater harmony amongst road users are long and complex, but they have to start with mutual respect.
One of the key elements of improving cyclist safety is educating drivers to be safe and responsible around cyclists. The real challenge here lies in educating existing drivers, but with the right strategies, there’s no reason why this cannot happen.
The Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) in Australia was established after the tragic death of the Australian cyclist. Gillett was on a training ride in Germany with six members of the Australian cycling squad when a newly licensed driver lost control and ploughed into the group. The driver was barely punished, receiving a 1440 euro fine and a driving ban of eight months. Hardly an adequate punishment for taking a life and seriously injuring five other riders.
Out of this tragedy though, the foundation was born and they work tirelessly to spread the message of safer roads for cyclists. Currently, the AGF is engaged in the ‘A Metre Matters’ campaign. They are lobbying the individual Australian states to put into law that vehicles must give cyclists a metre clearance. A key partner in this campaign is the trucking and logistics company, Toll. I suspect their choice in partners is no accident.
A successful campaign to create increased safety for cyclists must bring drivers of cars and trucks on board, or else the campaign falls into nothing but empty words.
Currently, AGF is conducting their ‘Lap around Tasmania’ with distinguished riders such as Brad McGee, Wesley Sulzberger, Koen de Kort and Rachel Neylan riding for part or all of the event.
A key element to developing greater awareness amongst drivers to the dangers cyclists face is to address just why drivers perform so badly around cyclists. For some it may be a case of not knowing what to do around cyclists but that just is not good enough. These are the same people who transfer their ignorance onto cyclists, and in a strange twist on reality, cyclists then become the cause of accidents, not those behind the wheel of a car.
Whilst there is no doubt that poor road infrastructure and lack of adequate public transport funding are key factors in increased cars on our roads, this is by no means an excuse for suggesting that cyclists are fair targets for drivers.
Drivers need to take responsibility for the potentially dangerous vehicles they operate. That’s why we have to pass a test to get a driver’s license. Driving is a huge responsibility and those who are not up for it shouldn’t be granted the privilege of a license.
‘A Metre Matters’ is an important message. Whilst, there are those within the cycling community who do not support the campaign, it is a significant beginning point for addressing issues such as driver education.
Those who argue against increased driver education fall back on the argument that navigating around cyclists is nothing more than just common sense driving.
The reality is the common sense argument just doesn’t cut it. The problem with common sense is that it’s not very common and even the smartest of people can be severely devoid of it.
For a terrifying minority of drivers, cyclists are fair game on the road because they don’t pay registration fees or a road tax. This argument is so ridiculous, it is almost impossible to fathom.
How paying a registration fee will save lives is beyond my imagination. It also ignores that many cyclists own cars and already pay registration fees. In fact, aren’t cyclists easing the burden of congestion on our roads?
This argument then leaves me wondering if pedestrians too are fair game, as they don’t pay registration fees to use the road either. If we extend the logic of those who take up the road tax argument, that is where we end up. A world where you can’t cross the road without paying a fee would be considered by most as ridiculous, and rightly so.
It’s hard to believe that people send these tweets, even if they are in jest (a jest I suspect you need to be the owner of limited brain cells to understand).
There is, though another side to this issue and that is the behaviour and attitude of cyclists. It is important that the issues of road safety for all road users is not framed as drivers are evil and cyclists are righteous and holy.
The reality is some cyclists also need to take responsibility for their actions on the road, as pointed out by Taylor Phinney recently.
Phinney’s reminder is integral to building better relationships with all road users. Sometimes we need to acknowledge that poor road users operate all forms of vehicles.
Working toward safe roads for cyclists is paramount and the best way to do this is for us all to work together.