Cycling in the news 6 Jun to 12 Jun 2020

A cyclist has died after being hit by the driver of a ute in the town of Springwood, NSW. The Blue Mountains Gazette reported on Tuesday that the 45-year-old male cyclist had been riding near Macquarie Road when he was hit at speed. The driver of the ute has been charged with negligent driving occasioning death, dangerous driving occasioning death and not drive in lane. He faced court on Monday and was granted bail.

Also on Monday, a cyclist was hit from behind and killed by the driver of a four-wheel-drive in Howard Springs, just outside Palmerston, Northern Territory. The 30-year-old rider was a well-known former VFL footballer who had moved from America to pursue a career in the Australian Football League. The man was riding on a rural road near a camping and fishing area popular with tourists. The driver stopped to render assistance but the cyclist was severely injured and died at the scene.

On Wednesday, Mandurah Coastal Times reported that an 8-year-old girl had been seriously injured and taken to hospital after being hit by a truck driver in Dudley Park. The collision occurred on a suburban street only a few hundred metres down the road from Dudley Park Primary School. According to Nine News, the driver of the truck stopped to render assistance and is cooperating with authorities. The girl was taken to Perth Children’s Hospital and is in stable condition. Police are currently investigating the incident and are requesting information from witnesses.

As The Herald Sun reported on Tuesday, bike sales in Australia continue to remain much higher in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as commuters take to new bike lanes and cycleways instead of returning to public transport. However, it remains to be seen whether this increase in cycling participation will also result in more cyclists being injured or killed on Australian roads.

Photo by Yoel J Gonzalez on Unsplash

Conflict between motorists and cyclists is the subject of research released earlier this year by Melbourne University academics Andrew Dawson, Jennifer Day and David Ashmore. As they wrote in The Conversation on Thursday, changes to infrastructure alone are unlikely to reduce dangerous and aggressive driving if they are not accompanied by broader acceptance and tolerance towards cyclists riding in spaces typically thought of as ‘car only’.

The researchers argue that the public debate between motorists and cyclists has all the hallmarks of a prolonged ‘ethnic conflict’, in which stereotypes and distinct identities are reinforced through social and political discourse. Improving cyclist-driver relations is therefore important to changing attitudes and behaviours, and this includes convincing cyclists as well as motorists that a safer mixed traffic system is possible.

They therefore call for “a politics of ‘recognition’ for mixed traffic settings”; one that mirrors similar discursive pushes for multiculturalism. The aim of this would be to foster widespread acceptance of a shared code of conduct for all road users, one that attends to the unique affordances of different modes of transport. This could involve education, training and advocacy to build awareness of ‘other’ road users, with the aim being to reconceptualise roads in the public consciousness as shared spaces, with no single transportation type being considered the ‘natural’ vehicle.

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