Thursday, May 08, 2008

Furious driver takes out 50-strong cycle pack

A group of about 50 top Austrialian cyclists were involved in a hit and run, road-rage incident this morning.

The group made up of professional riders, Olympic hopefuls, and top amateurs on a training ride in Sydney, Australia, at 6:30 am. A driver, agitated with being held up, accelerated in front of the pack and then slammed on his brakes, giving the riders no time to stop.

The group piled into the back of the vehicle and each other, bikes were smashed and there were injuries, by a miracle no one was killed. The resulting smash forced a semi-trailer to lock up, jackknife behind the cyclists while cars had to swerve to avoid the fallen riders.

The group included Australian racer Kate Nichols, Kate's father Kevin Nichols, former Olympian Ben Kersten, (Top right, inset.) Graeme Brown, Michelle Ferris and Matthew White.

Thankfully no one had to die in this one, although it is serious enough. I only hope this story of a group of high profile cyclists, will make the mainstream media world wide.

Drivers need to realize that being held up is part of driving today, it happens all the time, not just from cyclists but also on freeways, everywhere. Taking revenge on a vulnerable group of cyclists is both criminal and cowardly.

The driver would not have slammed on his brakes in front of another car and risked more serious damage to his own vehicle.

You can read the full story in The Sydney Morning Herald. My thanks to Luke Burton for sending me the link.


Unknown said...

There have been too many incidents like this lately. There was another high profile case in California a couple months ago. I think it is time for the cycling community to look inwards too. I think a group of 50 is too large for an unsactioned, non-police patrolled ride. Riders should take it upon themselves to limit pelotons to about 12 riders. If riding two abreas they will take the same space as a regular vehicle and leave a line of sight for the driver behind to pass them.

I enjoy large groups, their speed and the feeling of safety but I think there are many opportunities today (races, charity rides, etc) to do that.

Remember we share the road, we as cyclist are not entitled to anything, we should excercise the same care, respect and courtesy towards motor vehicles as we demand for ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I kept reading and reading, waiting for the punch line... but alas, it wasn't a joke.

Do pedestrians ever incur such wrath? Why is it that when you take a defenseless group of pedestrians who are generally tolerated, and stick them on bicycles, common decency and respect no longer applies?

mpetry912 said...

The mornning news (on the big screen in Tully's coffee) had a short feature on a flock of geese that were waddling across a local arterial road. Motorists slamming on brakes to let the fowl take their sweet time crossing the street oh so safely.

This has always puzzled me. I have seen a car swerve off the road to avoid hitting a dog. Yet (some) drivers will intentionally use a 5000 lb car to to threaten, scare, intimidate a cyclist who's doing nothing but riding along. Police don't care ("He did'nt hit you. Maybe you flipped him off").

There is no justice, there are only laws. However something else is at work here. I secretly wonder if a fit cyclist becomes the focal point of a motorist's resentment or jealousy. We're skinny, we're not stuck in traffic, and we're doing something that is essentially fun. Driving a car (even a porsche!) in today's world is a miserable activity. Hmm.

Mark Petry
Bainbridge Island, WA

Anonymous said...

The driver would not have slammed on his brakes in front of another car and risked more serious damage to his own vehicle.

Yes he would!

Check out .au papers a bit more regularily

Welcome to Oztralia, where if roadrage doesn't result in a GBH, you're not really trying.

Anonymous said...

When I read the story this morning it shocked me. The cyclists were described as obeying traffic laws, the driver clearly wasn't and is known by the police.

Something else is at work. Has horsepower and size addictions destroy common sense? As a passenger with drivers who are sympathetic to cyclists, they often feel inconvenienced when passing a cyclist or a group.

Best wishes to the cyclists and for their plans,

Hagus said...

@rodrigo - I'm not sure where you're posting from, but in Australia - and the US too - cyclists are entitled to use the roads. There are laws governing the specifics. For instance, in Australia, packs must be 1.5m from the curb and not more than two abreast.

This driver is a psychopath, and must be removed from the roads permanently. There is no cure for psychopathic behavior; we just have to manage it by keeping the guy away from where he can do harm.

Also remember these cyclists were on the road at 6.30 in the morning. Sydney's traffic is freaking appalling during peak hour, but these guys were on the road well before the peak.

Since moving to the Bay Area from Sydney, I can't rave enough about how good the cycling is here. I enjoy huge shoulders, quite respectful drivers, beautiful mountains to climb, and wonderful weather.

In Sydney it's a choice between using a path shared by pedestrians, or the shoulderless roads populated by testosterone fueled morons in V8s who can't wait to hassle a cyclist to reinforce their own flaky masculinity.

Sydney's "highways" are seldom more than two or three lanes wide, and inter suburban roads are mostly one lane wide. Rather than recognizing the sheer impossibility of growing Sydney's car population, the government there just buries its head in the sand.

Sydney really needs to be move to a European model of car use. It's impossible retrofit Sydney with an American style road infrastructure, because there is simply no space. So the alternative of small cars, congestion charges, closing off roads to cars, and encouraging bike transport, needs to be embraced.

I feel really weird lecturing Sydney - supposedly one of the world's most livable cities - from car centric America. But the reality is that Sydney's transportation strategy scores a big fat F, even when compared to an American city.

While there remains a focus on trying to squeeze more cars into an impossibly smalls pace, road rage incidents like this one will occur with more frequency.

Grizzly Adam said...

Wow that is ridiculous. People today are so impatient. Everyone thinks they are entitled to everything they want. It is a me-centric world. And if the "me" is not getting it's way, then any action is justifiable.

I am glad to hear nobody was killed. But still, this driver needs to be seriously punished. Putting the number of people in danger that he did is criminal.

Anonymous said...

The only good thing about it being a hit-and-run is that if he hadn't run, there would have been a fatality! Wait... maybe that would have been a good thing.

Anonymous said...

If only the oil crisis can accelerate, maybe in my lifetime we will start seeing the end of car-driven civilization, cities that are laid out for people rather than cars, the end of mall culture, and a return back to sane civilization. Without that, I doubt that anyone, any informational campaign, any news like this, can ever change the attitude of the average neanderthal on the roads of the world. If that could only happen, then the next thing we could work on is the elimination of reality shows on TV.

Anonymous said...

Good job it wasn't a woman driver.
Sheilas don't take any prisoners when they get behind a wheel.

Richmond Roadie said...

People are absolutely nuts! I'm always amazed when some fool blows past me after crossing over the double yellow lines, and swerves back across just before he blasts into oncoming traffic!

These tards come in all shapes and sizes, and from every conceivable class.

Mark Petry's comments are insightful and spot on!

Groover said...

The man is known and the riders are considering class action as there was about $50,000 worth in damages to equipment. If nothing else this might teach him a lesson. Glad nobody got seriously hurt.

Anonymous said...

Ugghh! Now there's a driver that takes his Happy Motoring culture way too seriously.

SafeLanesForAll said...

Sadly, here in Australia, drivers think they own the road. Australia's land mass is huge and compared to a lot of places overseas, travelling times are long. Try 12hr driving times between capital cities, Melbourne-Sydney etc As such, we have a car-oriented culture where drivers spend a lot of time in their car commuting from the suburbs etc and their tolerance for anything holding them up is low.

I've been hit 3 times, hospitalised once, and each time was the drivers fault. We need the government to step in and do something about it. They want to encourage us to ride so the roads don't get congested, but they aren't taking extra steps to make the roads safer.

Give idiots like this a jail term and clamp down on speeding and using mobile/cell phones as well. We need heavier penalties because drivers aren't paying any attention to the driver safety awareness campaigns.

I remember the first time I was overseas and a car stopped to let me cross the street! Back home they'll run you down while trying to beat you through the intersection.

The more air time & internet time incidences such as this get, the better. Cyclists have as much right to use the roads as anyone else. A low speed crash between two cars ends in a scratched fender, but on a bike you could end up dead.

SafeLanesForAll said...

They've charged that idiot..