The threat to vulnerable road users is one that is very close to Ballarat’s heart yet as a city it also has a perfect combination of high risk factors. The term vulnerable is used more frequently by police and the TAC, in particular with reference to cyclists, in recognition that on a majority of occasions they must share the same roadway with cars and trucks. Yet a tonne of steel travelling around five times the speed is no equal match in any collision.
New research indicates that in major collisions between the two, it is also the vehicle that is overwhelming at fault with most collisions occurring at intersections where the bicycle is travelling in a simple straight line. The recurrence of cars cutting into the path of cyclists indicates an elevated problem of drivers simply not noticing (or caring to notice) cyclists on the road.
Add to this in Ballarat a preponderance of roundabouts, very poor road skills in negotiating the give-way rules of these roundabouts and perhaps the most sinister devil of all; the distraction of mobile phones and other devices for drivers and is it little wonder Ballarat cyclists are feeling additionally vulnerable.
Tragically one of the most famous names in road fatalities, champion cyclist and rower Ballarat’s Amy Gillett has become a byword for the change needed in driver behaviour.
There have been many more terrible stories in a city that loves cycling and increasingly is looking to the bicycle as a form of exercise and transport. In addition, modern cities have proved the two wheeled mode is not going away as a road user but rather increasing exponentially, so effective road sharing must be part of the plan.
In 2012 it was Doug Gurley on the road to Clunes, last year it was athlete Christian Ashby who was brutally rammed on Wendouree Parade. Most recently Luke Taylors terrible injuries inflicted on Cuthbert’s Road, having just emerged from a coma, have raised another case study in the disasters of the failure of safe road sharing. Many other incidents indicate when these collisions occur there is little in the way of safety gear that can protect the vulnerable road user.
Ballarat’s circumstances further highlight the glaring omission of the Victorian Government, alone of all states, in its failure to make law a one-metre passing distance, an instructional law that is aimed at increasing awareness and developing better road sharing practices.