By Natalie Brown
Olympic gold medalist and Ambassador for South Australia’s Motor Accident Commission Anna Meares has kicked off Road Safety Week with a plea for better infrastructure on our roads, in order to protect both drivers and cyclists.
In her keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 28th Australian Road Research Board International Conference, Meares called on attendees to consider and be inclusive of all people and parties who use our road systems, saying that failure to showcase perspectives on both sides only contributes to the issue.
— Anna Meares (@AnnaMeares) April 30, 2018
“I hope that I have given you some inspiration today to work in your roles to create safety through the infrastructure that you can build for tomorrow, to bring everyone home.”
“It doesn’t matter in what context – loss of life is hard.”
Her comments come just days after a piece by columnist Des Houghton in The Courier-Mail, referring to cyclists as “car-hating Lycra louts”, an “insufferable, self-righteous minority” and “two-wheeled show ponies who are slowly strangling our great capital.”
The heated argument in Australia between motorists and cyclists over who has more right to be on the road has been a long-standing one, with a column like this only further fuelling the fire.
“I condemn the State Government and the Brisbane City Council for pandering to cyclists,” wrote Houghton.
“Cyclists cause traffic chaos, slow the delivery of vital goods and services, harm the economy and expose themselves, and others, to great danger.”
Since 2014, Australia has witnessed a significant uplift in deaths and injuries on our road system, with pedestrians and cyclists experiencing the biggest increase.
Yet research suggests that the public health advantages of walking and cycling – i.e. a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise – outweigh the risk of death or injury from road crashes.
The only answer to calm those on both sides of the fence — and keep all on the road safe — seems to be equal reciprocity, with the need to build greater awareness of cycling safety, road sharing and courtesy on the road greater than ever.
While Houghton condemns the “squandering” of government money used to examine cycling and other transport opportunities, he too says that better pathways are needed to prevent the “recipe for tragedy” caused by bicycles mingling with cars.
“I am not against bikeway networks that provide a healthy and inexpensive mode of travel,” wrote Houghton.
Bicycle Queensland CEO Anne Savage says, in a piece for the The Courier-Mail, major infrastructure projects such as Cross River Rail, Brisbane Metro and Queen’s Wharf are poised to dramatically improve cycling in Brisbane.
“On average, every dollar we invest in cycling infrastructure will return nearly $5 in economic benefit in improved health outcomes, reduced congestion and lower transport costs.”
Providing a safe co-existence between cyclists, pedestrians and other traffic is an ongoing challenge.
Through better education, enforcement and engineering, hopefully the road to safety for all on our streets isn’t too far away – but here are some things you can do, regardless of which side you’re on, to help ease the tension.
The RACQ says, as a driver you should allow cyclists at least a one-metre leeway when overtaking and be aware that bicycles are not as stable as other vehicles, and that they may need to suddenly veer away from rough road edges.
As for cyclists, the Motor Accident Commission advise they ride defensively, consider setting their front and rear bike lights to flash in order to attract attention to road position, and wear light and bright visible clothing.