A Metre Matters – A Call to Action

I spend a lot of time riding in traffic so the issue of rider safety is something I feel very strong about. The death of Richard Pollett in particular struck home. Mr Pollett was riding to work when he was hit by a cement truck while it was overtaking him.

Anyone who commutes on a regular basis has probably had many close shaves. Either the drivers don’t see you or they underestimate the space needed to pass safely.  Other times drivers actively intimidate riders, pushing them into the curb. This is a very frightening experience and I often wonder whether the driver would act the same way if it was their mate, their brother or anyone they knew who was on the bike. Do they stop to imagine what the consequences are of hitting a rider?

Now I’m the first to say that riders are first and foremost responsible for their own safety. This includes riding with consideration for other road users, riding within the rules of the road, and having clothing and lights that make us visible to other road users. Helmets are essential for head protection whether another vehicle is involved or not. You don’t need to be riding fast for your head to hit the ground hard, hard enough to cause serious injury or death. Only last year I came off when I dropped my chain going up hill at a modest speed. At the time I thought that I had just tapped my head on the ground. Not after I noticed that my new $300 dollar helmet was finished. It did it’s job and I walked away with a bit of a headache. The helmet did its job.  The point is simple. Riders make the roads that bit safer for themselves by riding smart.

But this isn’t enough. The road culture in Australia has to change. Something has to be done to make the roads safer for everyone. Holland is often cited as the premier example of a great riding culture, but what many don’t realise is that this is the result of a deliberate campaign spanning several decades. In the cities speeds have been reduced to as low as 30km and parking fees are high to reduce the amount of traffic. Inner city commuter riders don’t wear helmets on the whole largely because it is a completely different environment to what we have here. On the other hand, sport riders do wear helmets and are required by law to do so. In Australia you’re nuts not to wear a helmet no matter where you ride simply because cars drive much faster.

With the death of Richard Pollett there is a renewed and intensified energy behind the 1 metre overtaking rule. This would mean that vehicles will be required to leave a minimum of 1 metre space between their vehicle and the bike. It would be nice if this was common sense. It should be. But the sad fact is that it’s not and riders like Richard Pollett pay the price.

What else can WE do though?

I think we can all do more to raise awareness within our own spheres of influence. Speak up on facebook, talk about it with your friends, family etc. You can also share this blog, or better still, write your own. You can also write to your local member of parliament or council. The Amy Gillett Foundation has all the info you need to do this, as well as a template to make it very easy here.

The Amy Gillett Foundation does a lot of great work on the promotion of road safety so check out their site and get involved in whatever way you can. They also run a range of terrific events around Australia, including Amy’s Gran Fondo which you can participate in to support the cause.

Change starts at home. Ask yourself, what can I do to make the roads safer for everyone?

Remember, every action you take makes a difference.

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2 thoughts on “A Metre Matters – A Call to Action

  1. I was riding in South East Queensland this weekend (where the death occurred) and I was disgusted to find a marked increase in car on bicycle road rage. Usually I can ride without too much verbal or horn abuse. But in 160km yesterday I was abused on at least 20 occasions. Scarily, one of the most abusive people was a mother teaching her son to drive.

    I was riding within the road rules, off to the far left of the road, wearing a high visibility vest and on relatively quiet country roads.

    Something has to be done because I think the case and subsequent media attention are sending drivers the message that cyclists shouldn’t be on the road (one of yesterday’s abusers even called out “get off the road or we’ll get a cement truck to take care of you”).

  2. Thanks Andrew. This is really shocking and it just reiterates the need for this to become law (along with other measures) – a law that parents will teach their kids. The abuse is familiar, and it can be quite unsettling. But really, as long as drivers do the right thing and don’t endanger our lives, they can say whatever they like – of course, some encouragement would be nice too! I hope your local member is onto this, if not maybe they need a push to get on board. Ride safe.

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