This Queensland Road Safety Week our thoughts are with those who have lost a loved one or suffered trauma on the roads.
StreetSmarts have been encouraging people to “sign up” for road safety. We made a sign for Michelle Smeaton who was cycling home from work in 2013, and was almost home with her family when she was struck from behind and killed by the stabilising bar of a truck. We’ve heard the incident described as a “freak accident”, but the truth is, it happened on a stretch of Old Cleveland Rd where there is absolutely no separation from traffic. Michelle wasn’t lacking “awareness” of the danger of heavy vehicles, and no amount of “signing up” would have brought her home. Seven years later, the road has not changed – except perhaps the volume of traffic has increased.
While Road Safety Week puts an emphasis on individual behaviour, it’s important to also recognise that the road environment has a huge part to play. People make mistakes (in this case not correctly securing the truck’s stabiliser arm), but the road environment is often what determines the result.
Queensland Road Safety Week has been held in August each year since 2015. Residents of Nudgee Beach have been campaigning for safer conditions on Nudgee Rd for far longer – since 2000. When Ian Gilmore was struck from behind by a truck and killed while cycling on Nudgee Rd in 2009 they were shocked but not surprised.
Now another decade has passed. Ian would have been turning 50 next year, with his baby perhaps just starting high-school. That is a loss hard to contemplate. But still, Nudgee Rd remains almost exactly as it was – just with more traffic rumbling along it and turning across the low-grade shared path.
We have signed up for road safety, but what we need from our road authorities is not pledges and platitudes, it’s action.
In the western suburbs, it’s unlikely that signs saying “watch for cyclists” and “change lanes to overtake” would have saved either Richard Pollett or Richard Burden – each of whom were cycling on Moggill Road when they were struck from behind and killed.
Since Richard Pollett’s death in 2011 there have been changes to laws, education and awareness campaigns, and six editions of Queensland Road Safety Week, but still no safety improvements to the road where he died. Following Richard Burden’s death in 2017, the Minister for Main Roads announced a planning study to investigate options for safer cycling between Brookfield and the Centenary Bikeway, but so far there has been no action on the findings.
Reports that sit in a drawer do nothing to prevent another family’s tragic loss. It’s time for road managers to sign up and take action on road safety. In the western suburbs, the planning study for the Moggill Road corridor would be a good place to start.
Next month is the 6th anniversary of the death of Rebekka Meyer who was killed by a truck whilst cycling to university on Annerley Rd on 11th September 2014.
The coronial inquiry found that the driver of the truck, a fully laden conventional truck and dog trailer combination, could not see anything on the road in front of the truck closer than 7 metres. The bull bar of the truck hit the rear tyre of the bicycle causing Ms Meyer to fall beneath the truck where she was run over by the trailer’s tyres.
One of the Coroner’s recommendations from the inquiry into Rebekka’s death was:
“Conventional shaped heavy vehicles should be prohibited unless they are fitted with appropriate technologies to warn the driver of any obstacles or other road users within the forward blind spot of the truck.” – Coroner Christine Clements.
Queensland’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Action Plan 2019-21 lists four key action areas:
- safer roads
- safer vehicles
- safer speeds
- safer people
In Road Safety Week 2020 we are calling on the road managers, the Brisbane City Council and Queensland Government, to sign up for road safety and address key action area number 2 – safer vehicles, and not allow dangerous trucks with forward blind spots to operate on the busy streets in our city.
Finally, we finish Road Safety Week 2020 with a tribute to the “unknown cyclist” – a man we know almost nothing about. A year ago, this man was was riding his bike when he was involved in a collision with a motor vehicle on the Muriel Avenue on-ramp to Ipswich Road at Rocklea, and two weeks later he passed away in hospital from his injuries.
What we do know is that the area where this tragedy occurred is very hostile to active transport. It’s not at all difficult to imagine how something could go so terribly wrong here. The footpaths are narrow and poorly aligned and the slip lanes feel like freeway ramps. It’s the type of place you avoid while cycling if you can, but for many people it’s on their way to work or to do business, and there is no other way through.
Recently, the road has been resurfaced, but the footpath hasn’t changed There is no memorial here, and the story didn’t make headlines. But we remember. It’s time to do better, Brisbane.