May 8, 2013

Are cyclists ‘mere obstacles’ to motorists?

Cyclists are outraged a jury found a truck driver not guilty of dangerous driving causing the death of a cyclist this week. It's time the law stopped treating cyclists as 'mere obstacles' to motorists

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

Moggill Rd Kenmore in the vicinity of the fatal collision between a cement truck and a cyclist (click)

Cyclists in Qld are calling for the road rules to be changed so that motorists are required to maintain a minimum safe passing distance when they overtake riders (e.g. see here and here).

Their call follows the death of cyclist Richard Pollett in 2011 in Kenmore, in Brisbane’s western suburbs. Mr Pollett was killed when he was struck by the rear wheel of a cement truck driven by Luke Michael Stevens.

According to the report in the Courier Mail this week, Mr Stevens attempted to overtake Mr Pollett in the left-hand lane of Moggill Rd and was effectively “boxed in” by other cars as he approached the cyclist.


Follow this link to enter the competition to win one of two copies of ‘Where to Ride‘ – closes Friday


The transcript of the proceedings isn’t available yet but fortunately the Courier Mail on-line provides a surprising amount of detail in its reports on the trial (here and here).

During the hearing, the Crown prosecutor told the jury a heavy vehicle could be more difficult and take longer to manoeuvre. He said Mr Stevens therefore should’ve “put his foot on the brake” as he approached the cyclist:

The accused should have had an appreciation for how vulnerable Mr Pollett was and insight into how unsettling his vehicle could be.

The defence barrister said Mr Stevens wasn’t driving erratically or speeding and was under “the honest and reasonable belief” there was enough room to overtake Mr Pollett safely. He said there were “any number of reasons” why Mr Pollett might’ve fallen off his bicycle.

Responding to news of the jury’s decision, Paul French from the Brisbane CBD Bicycle User Group, said it now seems drivers can pass as close as they like to cyclists:

It’s difficult to imagine another situation in which a driver needs to exercise greater care and wait for a safe opportunity to pass – a truck weighing at least 20 tonnes, and apparently boxed in by other vehicles so the driver couldn’t change lanes, bearing down from behind on a cyclist riding along a narrow, winding road. Yet under the law it now appears motorists can treat a cyclist with the same disregard as they would a witch’s hat and leave no margin for error by passing as close as they like.

Mr French said motorists have a ‘duty of care’ toward cyclists and can’t treat them as “mere obstacles”. He called on the State government to legislate a minimum one metre overtaking distance:

How many more innocent people who just want to ride their bikes while going about their daily lives will be mown down before the government acts on this pressing safety issue? The State Government’s continuing out-of-hand rejection of the ‘one metre rule’ is sending the wrong message to irresponsible motorists – that when wanting to drive from Point A to B in the shortest possible time bike riders can be treated as mere obstacles.

It’s important to bear in mind that, as the defence barrister told the court, there’s no evidence Mr Steven’s truck caused Mr Pollett to come off his bike. The jury found Mr Stevens not guilty of the charge of dangerous driving causing death.

Provided there’s no deliberate contact, it seems it’s lawful in Qld for a truck to overtake a bicycle within the confines of a single lane even if, as in this case, it varies in width between 3.1 to 3.6 metres (VicRoads recommended width for busy off-road bicycle paths is 3.0 to 3.5 metres).

The exhibit above shows Moggill Rd just after the intersection with Blacon St, close to where the collision – in the left hand lane – reportedly occurred (click to look around in Google Streetview).

This isn’t just a Qld problem though. Drivers elsewhere aren’t legally required to leave a ‘safety buffer’ in case the cyclist, for whatever reason, unexpectedly falls or steers into their path either.

Close proximity might lead to a minor scrape or touch where two vehicles are concerned, but where one is a cyclist it’s likely to have severe consequences.

The underlying issue is most motorists don’t view cyclists as legitimate road users. The slower speed and greater vulnerability of riders isn’t acknowledged, accepted or duly allowed for by drivers.

I suspect the jury’s decision reflects that widespread perception. Nevertheless, the law says cyclists are in fact legitimate road users.

In my view, the law needs to change to require motorists to ‘fit-in’ with the characteristics – including limitations – of bicycles, most especially where there’s a risk of death or serious injury.

Motorist almost universally assume they’re entitled to travel at the speed limit at all times. Our cities would be better places if instead there was a culture of driving according to prevailing conditions.

They would be more liveable if the driving culture also included consideration for the welfare of all other road users, and of those who live along or use adjoining land uses.

As I’ve said many times before, cars will be with us for decades yet. It’s therefore all the more important to ‘re-position’ driving as a highly conditional privilege not a presumed right.

In the particular case of the issue highlighted by this trial, greater safety for cyclists might be achieved by way of a ‘one metre rule’ or possibly even a requirement that motorists have to change lanes to overtake cyclists.

It might initially apply only to large vehicles since they’re over-represented in serious cycling collisions. There’s very likely a place for better education and training too.

I know the law is a complex beast, but I hope a student of the contemporary relevance of the jury system looks at this case and shares their thoughts.

Update: “24 year old Australian violinist Richard Pollett performing the second movement of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto Op 14 in the Grand Final of the 2010 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra”.

(Visited 77 times, 1 visits today)


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

58 thoughts on “Are cyclists ‘mere obstacles’ to motorists?

  1. peter ross

    hgv drivers are pressured by time restraints like JUST IN TIME LOGISTICS.
    I saw one HGV driver fly past a cyclist missing only by an inch.
    IGNORANT and overworked.
    cyclist deserve the same amount of room as a car as does a horse.
    the penalty for striking a cyclistshould be severe as there are far to many accidents on the uk roads.

    Half of hgv drivers are half asleep.

  2. peter ross

    in the UK the transport operators ignore the law namely the ROAD TRANSPORT REGULATIONS – WORKING TIME 2005.
    the latest case sets rules but these are ignored.HGV driver work over 80 hours every week ,year in and year out till one day they may have a accident from fatigue.
    see peter ross v eddie stobart on google.
    the proof is in the pudding.
    If you complain to the regulator they do nothing and you will lose your job.
    if you complain to the police they ignore you
    if you complain to the courts they will mock and ridicule you.
    as a hgv driver you must do what your told a bit like a gimp.
    the uk government make a lot of cash from transport and operators claw this back by pazing a low hourly wage and drivers work many many hours and hours that are deemed ILLEGAL.
    Every day needless accidents ocur all over the UK with some fatal.
    Nobody cares from the D F T and traffic commisioners, they say they care in the press but really these departments are hypocritical sponges on a free rolling journey to early pension and mega bucks.
    fatal accidents are occuring and the transport operators are responsible for overworking its hgv drivers untill some sufer fatigue and often kill in there 44 ton killing machines.

    well done D F T for allowing the daily deaths. I hope one day the U K public will open its eyes to the industries none compliance of the LAW.
    see peter ross v eddie stobart (type into google)
    safe driving and have a nice day

  3. Alan Davies

    On Your Bike columnist, Michael O’Reilly, at SMH – One metre between life and death

  4. Jimbo Jones

    If the death of Richard Pollett wasn’t enough to send a shiver down the spine of every cyclist in Australia, the outcome of this court case certainly is. It sends a terrible message to the community that if you hit and/or kill a cyclist on the road, you won’t be punished for it.

    Without seeing the court transcript, going off the facts at hand I’m really struggling to see how the truck driver escapes penalty. He approached from behind. He had an opportunity to slow down and overtake safely, but he chose not to. He couldn’t comprehend the dimensions of his own vehicle and the road he was travelling on. He didn’t exercise caution when operating a heavy vehicle on a public road. He didn’t take into account the vulnerability of a cyclist sharing the same lane as a 20 tonne vehicle, and so on, and so on.

  5. Aaron Ball

    @Alan Davies,
    During this trial ther Judge ruled that ,in the event the jury was not satisfied the dangerous driving caused death, it was open to the jury to return a verdict of dangerous driving simpliciter.
    So while presumably the jury were not satisfied the close pass without changing lanes caused the death, the fact that the jury did not even find the driver guilty of dangerous driving simpliciter indicates that it was of the opinion that it is acceptable for a cement truck to overtake a cyclist, on a corner, in the same narrow lane. This is the outrage.

  6. Burke John

    Simon Davis @# 48 is on the ball illuminating the difference in attitude between Australia. In Australia it is clear from this story that it is ok to murder someone, as long as the weapon used weighs more than a ton. In several Euro juristrictions the onus is on the car/truck driver to prove it was not their fault. That is what would have to change.

    It seems like a hopeless ideal, but since they did it with smoking perhaps righteousness might prevail over car culture in our country.

  7. Bob the builder

    When I used to live in the city I’d judge decent overtaking width as the distance I could reach with my foot or my hand – any closer and an indicator or rear view mirror would need repairs.
    People said that was no way to solve problems, but it made me feel better and I’m sure it gave the drivers who didn’t think my life was worth bothering about some time to think. I’m sure it made them angry and ill-disposed to cyclists, but I’d rather someone was ill-disposed but respectful than neutral and unthinking.
    And for those people who think cyclists should be registered, what do you think of prams or pedestrians?
    Licences are permission to operate a dangerous machine, registrations are certification that a dangerous machine is safe – bicycles and bicyclists satisfy neither of those conditions (except if you drive too close to my foot).

  8. Pusscat

    I’ve only ever engaged with Traffic as a non-driving, non-cycling, publictransport-using, pedestrian and passenger, but even I am not surprised that there is a lot of emotion, and a touch of vitriol occasionally, in so many these Comments.
    Anyone trying to negotiate any kind of vehicle through Traffic is facing a series of decisions, and the very frequent split-second ones with high stakes involved must be Extremely Stressful every time even for the very experienced. And the frequency, with the congestion, is always rising.
    I’ve noticed as a passenger over decades all over Sydney with many different drivers, universally there is a sigh, or an expletive, or an embarassed chuckle expressing Sheer Relief after a collision doesn’t happen by luck or a few centimetres.
    Forget serving in Afghanistan: I’m starting to think there may be an undiagnosed epidemic of Traffic-Induced PTSD.
    You are all Very Brave People.
    I can’t comment on this particular tragedy because, frankly, words fail me.

  9. Trevor Morgan

    Despite the fact that it is gut-wrenchingly sad to see a gifted violinist die how is that relevant to an objective analysis of the responsibility of one road user to another. Would it be different if Tony Abbott was the cyclist. If the argument doesn’t survive without emotion it isn’t a valid argument.

  10. Alan Davies

    Reported by The Age on-line at 10.14am today and updated at 11.58am (Saturday 11 May 2013): Truck runs over cyclist in Collingwood. According to the report, the driver didn’t stop.

  11. Simon Davis

    As a lifelong commuter and tourer I would have to say that I do not think car drivers in Australia consider cyclists as legitimate road users.
    The attitude is noticably different in western Europe where cycling has a long tradition and more motorists have probably been or are cyclists.Motorists are much more courteous even in busy traffic and wait until it is safe to pass.
    Motorists in Australia especially young males generally dont slow down when they pass me but another car is approaching in the opposite direction.Usually I can anticipate this happening I wear a rear view mirror and pull into the gravel.

  12. Keith Thomas

    I would have preferred the heading of “Are cyclists ‘mere obstacles’ to cars and trucks?” had been phrased “Are cyclists ‘mere obstacles’ to motorists and truck drivers?”

  13. Glen

    “Motorists almost universally assume they’re entitled to travel at the speed limit at all times.”

    Make that speed limit plus 10; plus 20 at highway roadworks. Tried doing 65k through some 60k dual carriageway roadworks on the Gold Coast last night. Immediately passed by two B-doubles doing 20k over … professional drivers my a-se.

    BTW, I know that section of Moggill Road well. It is old with sub-standard width and alignment. There is no close alternative route for cyclists, and no cycleable footpath (that’s legal in Qld).

    BTW2, where were the Euro-style side bars on the truck, which might have save the guys life? Very few Aus trucks have them. (Woolworths trucks excepted … tick.)

    BTW3, why do we permit those “truck and dog” combinations, where the unguarded front trailer wheels present an extreme hazard to cyclists, and even to young pedestrians minding their business on the kerb (recent example in the bravery awards).

  14. Yclept

    And maybe if licensing authorities stopped giving out licenses like lollies we would have less congestion on the roads and less risk. Everyday I see mindless fools who are not in control of their vehicles causing problems. Get them off the roads and make it safer for all of us. Yes I do ride a bike, but not on roads, I’m primarily a motorist.

  15. Pete from Sydney

    “Motorist almost universally assume they’re entitled to travel at the speed limit at all times”….absolute garbage, for most city drivers the speed limit is aspirational, unlike most road rules for cyclists which don’t seem to apply …
    I’ve done a fair bit of bike riding by the way

  16. John Belward

    The problem is the status accorded the motor car. It is assumed that all other moving objects should give a motor vehicle right of way so any rights a cyclist has are disregarded. Certainly when a vehicle come up behind a cyclist most motorists do not expect to slow down and so will overtake whether it is safe to do so or not.
    Unfortunately it does not stop there, in shopping centre car parks drivers act as though they are on the open road. Pedestrians should have precedence in all situations in car parks. Likewise, when crossing the road at intersections pedestrians should have precedence, and I believe that this is the case as laid down in the rules of the road. To deal with the problem of the hazards cyclists face as they use the highway a significant change of attitude is needed.

  17. suburbanite

    Maybe this is a good example of why driver assist technologies need to be mandated. Most drivers are incompetent due in good part to vehicle design which make it impossible for drivers to see around them and sense what their vehicles are doing.

    Until this technology is available larges trucks should be speed limited to give the drivers a chance to drive without causing unnecessary risk.

  18. Smith John

    Let’s assume that the ‘contact’ (aka collision) was the cause of the outcome – it is not the case that by a tragic coincidence the victim fell off his bike for other reasons into the path of the truck (the reports are not quite clear about this).

    Now let’s tweak the details a little (I’ve put slashes to show changes as it seems we can’t do underline and strikeout) :

    “/Gifted musician Richard Pollett/ MOTHER OF TWO MARY BLOGGS AND HER INFANT CHILDREN/ died after being struck by a cement truck /as the driver attempted to overtake him on Moggill Rd /AS THE DRIVER ATTEMPTED TO STOP WHEN SHE SLOWED TO MAKE A LEFT TURN….

    “The barrister for the defendant told the jury his client was going about his lawful business and driving in a responsible way on the day of the accident.

    “He said the truck driver was not driving erratically or speeding and was effectively “boxed in” by other cars as he approached /Mr Pollett on his bike /MS BLOGG’S CAR.

    “He said the truck driver was under “the honest and reasonable belief” there was enough room on the road to /safely overtake him/ STOP SHORT OF MS BLOGGS.

    “He cited the evidence of an eye-witness, which contended that /Mr Pollett may have come into contact with the cement truck near to the intersection with Blacon St – a straight section of road before the left-hand bend – and therefore “had the option” of turning down it if he felt unsafe /MS BLOGGS ‘HAD THE OPTION’ OF CONTINUING ALONG THE MAIN ROAD IF SHE FELT UNSAFE ABOUT SLOWING TO TURN LEFT IN FRONT OF THE TRUCK.”

    In the counterfactual case, let’s assume that the victim was behaving reasonably – indicating the turn in a timely way; not jabbing the brake while being tailgated. But the truck driver failed to judge his speed and braking distance correctly.

    Would he have been acquitted? I see no difference in culpability between ‘failing to keep a safe clearance beside’ and ‘failing to keep a safe clearance behind’.

    I’ve never yet heard of a defence counsel saying, ‘the truck driver was not culpable because the motorist could have abandoned her left turn if she felt unsafe.’

  19. Sue B

    I don’t understand how the jury could have acquitted this man. I’d like to know the name of the lawyer if I ever get in trouble with the law (unlikely).

    I don’t cycle. I did, when I was younger, and in a sleepy backwater. Now I’m in Melbourne I’ve ridden a bike once and it was an exercise in terror, so I give it a miss.

    As a driver, I’m especially concerned when I attempt to pass a cyclist and always give them plenty of room because of the aforementioned terror. And in the back of my mind, there’s always the chance (fear) the bike will hit a rock or something and go over right next to me and under my wheels (which I guess is possible explanation in this case, but doesn’t excuse the fact that the Lane.Was.Not.Wide.Enough). If this forces me into the next lane a bit, that’s fine as long as nobody’s *right* next to me. Slightly behind me, can move over a bit, then we’ll ALL get to our destination alive in an acceptable time.

    I don’t believe we should encourage cyclists to occupy a whole lane, as it will lead to road rage and traffic chaos in short order. It’s all about courtesy – if YOU were on the bike, would YOU think it was okay for someone to almost sideswipe you on their way past?

    And we should ALL rejoice when a new bike lane is made (except that stupid one on Swanston St, what’s with that?)

  20. Rumplestatskin

    I’d have to agree with Saugoof that most drivers are very good, and my experience with truck drivers where I commute is that they are very cautious and give me plenty of space.

    A 1m rule would be unenforceable, and at slow speeds in traffic would be very strange.

    Quite clearly this is an unfortunate conflation of circumstances. I have a friend who witnessed the event who told me that the cyclist passed them riding erratically at the previous roundabout where he was held up in traffic in his car. He told me he was really worried about the guy cycling like that on a main road – no hand signals, out to the middle then to the side of a lane etc. One of those times when you think they are really risking it. Then moments later he passes the dead body, and pulls over to get help.

    Now, the question is, should drivers be more cautious around cyclists demonstrating this behaviour? Yes. It’s not ok to just pretend they will be fine and treat them like expert cyclists, passing close and not providing sufficient stopping distance.

    The odd thing is, we know the driver did hit the cyclist at some point. That to me signals pretty poor driving on his part, whether or not it led to the cyclists death.

    In any case, I hope this prompts legislators to be more clear about responsibilities of drivers on the road, and prompts better road designs in the future.

  21. Julia Massey

    I don’t know Brisbane that well, but looking at the map, someone please point out what alternative route would have been suitable for this poor man? But there are none apparently.
    what about banning trucks from this type of road, or making the road wider by removing the middle strip – plenty of room there.
    Surely there was surely a better offence to charge this driver with to ensure that there was a prosecution and a strong message sent to drivers to take care on the road.

  22. Dylan Nicholson

    Goes without saying though that other motor vehicles are ‘mere obstacles’ to many drivers, so what hope do cyclists have.

    One issue with large trucks passing close by that I’m not sure’s been brought up is the significant draft they can generate, often enough to pull you quite uncomfortably close to them (in fact once I was pulled out far enough that had their been another vehicle close behind it almost certainly would have hit me). In general larger vehicles and bicycles are a particularly bad mix (visibility is another big problem), and I wouldn’t necessarily have an issue with restricting bikes from routes that were frequented by such vehicles providing good alternatives were provided.

  23. duke the lost engine

    if motorists had to either slow down to cycle-speed, or change lanes, then on roads such as that pictured, cyclists could lead to rather significant congestion

    i would think that adding a cycle lane would be less costly, in social terms, than either banning cyclists from such roads, or than enforcing safe passing. (i’m unsure about the wisdom of banning cyclists from such roads altogether–its often hard to cycle without using such roads)

  24. Murray Nicholas

    Driving a cement truck.
    “Boxed in” in a 3.1 m wide traffic lane.
    Had a honest and reasonable belief that, having subtracted 0.7 m from the width of the lane to allow for the bike keeping absolutely as far left as possible, there was still room to drive a cement truck through the remaining 2.4 m wide space while leaving “sufficient distance to avoid a collision”.

    Can’t argue with that can you?

  25. Sancho

    That’s largely been my experience too, Persia: professional drivers give cyclists a break.

    Most of the close calls I’ve had were with ordinary drivers who expected traffic to be moving at 50+ km when they turned in, then found a cyclist right in front of them.

    That’s a case in favour of separated lanes, not increased driver performance.

  26. Austin M

    It may seem academic but sometimes you can have multiple lines of traffic effectively within a lane under the road rules (i.e. if a road is wide enough for 2 lines of traffic and they act as such but lanes are not marked as such). In the line example the give way and overtaking provisions apply as if there was a line separating these lanes (i.e. in an 80kmh or less and you don’t need to keep left and may effectively over or undertake in the separate line). As a cyclist is a vehicle it could be argued that provided there is space for the 2 vehicles a separate line of traffic may have existed within the lane and thus “overtaking” or independent movement of the 2 lines is permitted (similar things could be said for 2 motorbikes or 2 cyclists sharing a lane, or for lane splitting on motor bikes).
    For what its worth I believe in a road user hierarchy with cyclists being the second most vulnerable users behind pedestrians and thus any larger/more dangerous users have an obligation to give way/avoid accidents with this user (just as cyclists have an obligation to give way/avoid/miss pedestrians). Just because a pedestrian steps out onto a freeway lane does not mean you can run straight over them without trying to avoid (the same applies in this instance as the truck had an obligation to avoid the more vulnerable cyclist regardless of who had the “right” to be doing what). Everyone would probably agree that the truck driver likely had no intent to harm or kill the cyclist however the question then becomes about negligence. This is where it gets subjective i.e. you could be negligent in your duties at work and someone could die (a jury then has to decide on the degree to which your negligence contributed to the death and thus your responsibility therein).
    I think it’s unlikely a road rule change would have changed the outcome in this case as the charge is likely around negligent manslaughter not overtaking (the persons negligence fundamentally remains the same regardless of what the road rule states) much the same as you could obey all the road rules and potentially be seriously negligent in your behaviour under the prevailing road conditions say by driving at 100kmh in thick fog (its fundamentally about human judgement not prevailing rules).

  27. Frag Spawn

    Roads in urban Australia are not to a human scale. Cyclists and pedestrians should enter this environment with a sense of fear. The mistakes by lower order species (cyclists and pedestrians) have ramifications, because we our out scaled and outpaced by motor traffic. This is a reality that no one law can ever effectively deal with.

    I’ve ridden my bike on this stretch of road in both directions. I should feel safe, because traffic have an alternative lane in which to safely pass me. But unlike Melbourne, Brisbane’s road users are a little more impatient to the human pace. Until the cycle becomes a more dominant species, there is little we cyclists can do.

    I do notice that Melbourne at least enforces a human scale on traffic in the form of the tram. People feel free to enter traffic zones to board and exit this public conveyance. Motor traffic are calmed by this impediment. Maybe we should think about calming traffic by reducing the scale of the roadway, giving back some of the landscape to humans again…

  28. Persia

    I must say that I rode for 7 years to work along a road used by heavy trucks on their way to the docks and I found the drivers to be expert and sensible, they would invariably give me a lot of room, changing lanes to do so.

    VicRoads have some guidelines for the amount of width taken up by various vehicles. Bikes are around 1m + various widths of space that should be left, depending on the speed of the road – a minimum of 1m would be sensible at any speed, so that’s 2m of the 3.7m road in this case – there’s obviously not room for a car to safely overtake in the same lane (even if it were legal), let alone a truck.

    Dangerous driving, I say.

  29. Roberto

    I ave to agree with Persia, since when is it legal to overtake in the same lane? Unless you are a cyclist the road rules (no 146)say you should travel in a separate lane and move into another lane when overtaking. In fact “overtaking” is defined in the Road Rules (in the Dictionary) as passing another vehicle in a separate lane!
    A question was asked in Parliament of the NSW Minister of Roads on this and he answered that this was indeed correct.
    The only exception is if there is an “obstruction”, but the road rules say a slow moving vehicle such as a bicycle is not an obstruction.
    Cyclists can pass on the left in same lane according to the rule 141(2) that says they can travel to the left of vehicles so long as the vehicle is not indicating a left turn, and turning left.
    It is well known that road widths of around 3.2 to 3.7 m are dangerous for cyclists (Bayley and Loder Study), and Austroads guide recommend against their use on a bicycle route. Lanes should be 3.1 m or less so that they look narrow and vehicles can see it is dangerous to try to pass a bicycle, or 3.8 or more so there is in fact some space to pass in the same lane (even if as above this strictly is illegal.)

  30. Ned Martin

    Regardless of your belief on cycling or driving or the merits of one or the other, it is an unavoidable fact that cars and other motor vehicles are far larger, heavier and faster than bicycles, and the two should not be allowed near each other at speed.

    Cyclists should be banned from major roads (roads with a speed limit above 50) in cities and large towns (i.e. excluding highways in rural areas), unless there is a marked cycleway on the road. This would make driving and riding safer for everyone, save lives, possibly reduce traffic congestion in some situations, and shift the focus to the creation of bikeways rather than this incessant cyclist versus driver argument.

  31. Flat tyre

    colwedd, The “bike path” is a bit of tar about 50M long that provides access to 3-4 homes. Use google street view (Moggill RD approx. 200M east of the Brookfield Rd intersection).
    That area is lacking in bike infrastructure and there is no easy way to avoid that bit of road if cycling to and from CBD.
    I ride in the area regularly but always avoid that stretch. Too narrow and too much traffic.

  32. Persia

    hk – 10

    Bicycles are defined as vehicles in the Victorian Road Rules.

    The rules also state that it is illegal to pass another vehicle in the same lane, unless you are on a bicycle and passing another vehicle on its left side.

    QLD & other states’ laws may vary, I suppose.

  33. Rohan

    As far as I can see, there is no suggestion of contact anywhere other than the rear tyres. I’m interested in whether any forensic testing was undertaken on the rest of the truck.

    Although if so, it appears that it would be sufficient for the defence to postulate that the cyclist rode into the truck on his own accord.

  34. Nightingale John

    No, there is no cycle path adjacent at that or any point on Moggill Rd., so that excuse for you drivers is gone.

    My guess is that the jury said to themselves “shit… that could have been me driving, cos i’d have done the same… I can’t convict someone for doing what I’ve done so many times… just lucky I’ve killed no one…. the law? what’s that?

  35. Gobillino

    I’m confused about this so-called bike lane as well? Am I missing something, or are people referring to the service lane that ends and leads to what is clearly only a footpath, and not a shared path?!?!

  36. Matt Clarke

    Ronson Dalby – bloody impatient and inconsiderate people shouldn’t be allowed to drive (or ride) on ANY roads. But without being familiar with the M7 cycleway, it does sound stupid not to use it. Lycra-clad? Is that supposed to be some kind of disparaging term to show some bigot-like hatred of cyclists?

    chpowell – its not a cycleway but a short dead-end road.

  37. Sebastian Tauchmann

    Re: The “path” – google street view is really a wonderful thing. It lets you look around. Take a look to the back. The side. Go along the road a bit. Look to the side again.

    It’s a dead-end service road, leading to a footpath. These are not options for safe cycling.

    From a personal safety aspect, it would be much, much safer (and perfectly legal) to ‘claim the lane’ along the narrow stretches until the road was wide enough to allow motor vehicles to pass safely. Claim the lane to stop anyone thinking that they can “just squeeze past”.

    If the choice is a driver’s momentary inconvenience or a cyclist’s life… well, to be honest, in a civilised country that’s not even a freaking choice. There’s no debate there.

    Civilised people don’t endanger the lives of other road users for their own convenience.

  38. Alan Davies

    Rohan #20:

    The CM’s report says there was contact between the cyclist and the truck. That’s not disputed. It’s how and why the contact happened that evidently persuaded the jury to bring in a not guilty verdict

  39. Rohan

    I’m curious about the seemingly central contention that there was no evidence that the driver casued the cyclist to fall.

    Probably a trifle optimistic, but I would have thought the coroner/forensics might have been able to determine if there had been any contact with the body of the truck?

  40. Sancho

    Thanks Alan.

    It’s quite possible that Pollett had the option of taking a bike path, but I mentioned it because this is a polarising issue and specifics are important. If the cyclist had chosen not to use a separated bike path, that affects the argument around cycling infrastructure.

  41. Alan Davies

    Sancho #16:

    I inferred the location from the CM’s report. It cites a witness who says Mr Pollett had the option of turning down Blacon St if he felt threatened by the truck. There’s also a reference to the collision occurring as the road bends to the left, so I expect it happened somewhere on the stretch shown. I said “vicinity” because I can’t say precisely where it happened.

  42. Matt Clarke

    Heavy vehicles sometimes ‘crab’ to the left. Was this the case with this cement truck?

  43. Sancho

    The title pic is captioned “in the vicinity of the fatal collision”, so the path may not be available at the actual site.

    And maybe it’s a designated footpath only.

  44. Saugoof

    I can’t see the point in legislating the 1 metre distance when passing. This has the whiff of introducing a law that is not just pretty much unenforceable but also does nothing to address the problem.

    I do well over 10,000km on the bike each year, most of it on Melbourne’s roads. Cars that pass me almost always do so with leaving me plenty of a gap. Occasionally it does happen that someone passes closer than I’d like but that’s something that happens maybe 2 or 3 times a year. This is rare enough to make me think that the driver passing me was not paying attention (or I forgot to turn on the rear light at dusk) rather than them thinking this was a safe distance. I can’t see that changing by introducing legislation.

    Basically the point is, if a car or truck does come too close, I doubt this was intentional or bad judgement. It’s more likely because they didn’t realise I was there. Not a comforting thought either but not something that can be legislated against.

    It’s all give and take on the roads. I make sure that I don’t cut off cars and ride close enough to the border that there is room to pass and in turn I find cars are nice to me as well. If you reckon it’s “war on the roads”, whether you’re in a car or on a bike, I would suggest you should look at how you behave on the road yourself first.

  45. chpowell

    The unfortunate cyclist (RIP). Now, reviewing the picture above: 1) I would never ride on this roadway (divided carriageway; faster traffic; with no, zilch, nada shoulder for escape) 2) there does appear to be a cycleway to the left-THIS is where I would be.

  46. Cyclesnail

    A legalised safe passing distance is long overdue. More than half of the American states have one, and it works (Baltimore study) and can be enforced (Austin, Texas)
    In WA it is opposed by both the RAC and the Road Safety Council (which I like to call the Car Safety Council for obvious reasons).

  47. carlos kramer

    @colwedd – wow nice bit of victim blaming there. That “perfectly good cycle path” you point out is a actually a dead end private driveway.

    I guess you could just say that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road. Oh you do. “The point being get off the road”. Wasn’t that one of the contentions in this trial? Richard Pollett should have turned off onto a side street which goes an entirely different direction – yeah sure, of course.

    “but there needs to be some level of personal responsibility” – yep there sure does, but the responsibility for being killed doesn’t lie with the victim, the personal responsibility lies with the driver…(some word removed, AD). He had a duty of care which he shirked, he is now responsible for someone’s death, but his flim flam artist lawyer allowed him to dodge this responsibility as well.

  48. Ronson Dalby

    Bloody bikes should not be allowed on ANY road on which cars travels.

    And as colwedd @5 pointed out, in Sydney we have the M7 with a multi-million dollar lighted cycleway running with parallel with it and still the lycra-clad fools ride on the expressway.

  49. hk

    Persia, FYI I have yet to meet a driver of a truck, bus or car(who is not a cyclist) who concedes in conversation that a bicycle is a vehicle…
    I often raise the subject, of whether a bicycle is a vehicle, when discussing responsible behaviour as part of a study to measure the social capital in communities.

  50. hk

    To reduce mortality rates for cycling on the road network, additional legislated regulation is necessary to not allow the passing of cyclists by vehicles wider than 2 meters in traffic lane widths marked at 3.7 meters or less. (Or some equivalent geometric constraint)
    The final legislation setting the guidelines for road geometry signing and traffic control needs to include a range of speeds for cyclists and vehicles to manage and regulate a safer shared environment for all.

  51. Persia

    Since when is it lawful for one vehicle to pass another in the same lane?

  52. Sancho

    That the same tired claims crop up every time cyclists are in the news demonstrates that the bike-bashers are either too ignorant to learn anything about the topic before voicing an opinion, grossly misinformed or simply too dumb to learn from the dozens of times this discussion happened previously.

    But if repetition is what it takes, let’s all go round the maypole once more.


    Okay. Gladly. I’ll pay a yearly fee to register my bike, put a number plate front and back, plus a fluro sticker on the helmet. Registration fees would satisfy the complainers, raise billions in revenue, and annoy cyclists – which seems to be the highest priority in much if this.

    So why has no state government taken this obvious and popular step?

    Here’s why. No motorist would tolerate the driving conditions cyclists do, and the reason they can make claims on government to improve conditions is because they pay for registration. So what do you think will happen if cyclists have to pay rego? Think they’ll continue to put up with hazardous shared bike lanes, partial roads that end at random and lack of basic road infrastructure?

    Of course not. They’ll make perfectly reasonable demands for sweeping changes to justify the registration fees. The bashers seem to think cyclists should pay for the privilege of saving motorists time and money, but in reality a rego scheme would favour cyclists overwhelmingly.

    So go on. Keep whinging and whining about cyclists paying rego, just so you can turn around and act shocked when it turns them into a powerful lobby group that transforms Australia’s roads.


    Last month I watched a station wagon run a red light and hit another car. Obviously station wagons and their drivers are lawless menaces who need stricter policing and should be kept off main roads.

    Oh wait! That reasoning is dribblingly stupid and obviously devoid of sensible thought. Unless the subject is cyclists, in which case it’s an obvious statement of fact which should be treated with respect.

  53. gapot

    How many more cyclists have to die before the penny drops that a steel box is stronger than a person with a plastic lid on and no other protection. Bikes and cars are not compatable, find a solution, ban one or the other on main roads

  54. colwedd

    I don’t know about anyone else, I too ride a bike and drive a car, and have driven large trucks on the roads, so I can see the argument from these different perspectives. The thing that worries me the most when I encounter cyclists on the road is when I see a dedicated cycleway adjacent to the road. I don’t know if the picture with this article is indicative or an accurate location of the crash, but I see a perfectly good cycle path in the shot. It is sad that someone lost their life in this crash, but there needs to be some level of personal responsibility. If there is a cycle way or path to use, then use it. It may be a bit dinky… but it is safe for cyclists. There will be those who say they can’t ride as fast and there are pedestrians on those paths… well that is another argument altogether. The point being, get off the road and you will not be involved in this sort of situation. It would be nice to hear if anyone else has truck driving experience with a cycling back ground.

  55. Alan Davies

    Strewth #1:

    The jury was tasked with deciding if the truck driver’s behaviour constituted dangerous driving causing death. Even if they felt he contravened the road rules, it might be they didn’t think it and the consequences warranted a likely gaol term? Or perhaps the jury wasn’t sufficiently persuaded that the truck was the cause of the collision?

  56. pjrob1957

    Incidents of careless behaviour by truck drivers, the most dangerous road users, may increase now that seatbelt law has finally been applied to truck drivers after 40 years of exemption.
    The researcher John Adams reported that the collisions between drivers and vulnerable road users actually increased in the UK after the introduction of seatbelt law there resulting in a figure of 183 extra deaths and this was put down to risk-compensation.
    For the life of me I cannot understand why a government would disregard such information that suggests so strongly that dangerous road users need to be prevented from feeling too safe.
    Such insanity seems part of our thinking though as safety rating systems for our cars only consider the safety of drivers and passengers, not others on the road.
    If such thinking continues unabated we can only expect that roads will become evermore dangerous for vulnerable road users.

  57. Dylan Nicholson

    Interestingly enough I actually think as cyclists we endanger ourselves more by knowingly passing too close to motor vehicles already on the road than by potentially being passed too close by such vehicles. Arguably we do it because a) motorists aren’t leaving enough room for us to filter past and/or b) roads are poorly designed/marked out for cyclists, but still, it would take away one of the main advantages of travelling by bicycle if any sort of law was introduced that specified a minimum passing distance (it’s hard to see how such a law could only apply when it’s the larger vehicle passing, especially when both scenarios are inherently dangerous).

  58. Strewth

    Every Australian state including Queensland has uniform road rules on overtaking. Rule 140 says that a driver must not overtake unless “the driver can safely overtake the vehicle”, and rule 144 says a driver “must pass the vehicle at a sufficient distance to avoid a collision with the vehicle or obstructing the path of the vehicle”.

    Apparently the jury settled here on an extremely narrow definition of ‘safely’ and ‘avoid a collision’.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Share this article with a friend

Just fill out the fields below and we'll send your friend a link to this article along with a message from you.

Your details

Your friend's details