In anticipation of the Inquest report

In January 2019, the ACT Coroner is due to release her recommendations following the Coronial Inquest into the death in March 2017 of British cyclist Mike Hall.

Wiser heads have recommended that everyone ‘hold fire’ instead of pre-empting the release of that report. However, I sometimes feel the need to march to a different drummer.

The observations and opinions below are solely those of the author and are in no way intended to pre-empt the ACT Coroner’s report and recommendations. Nor do they represent the views or wishes of Mike Hall’s family or friends, or of any advocacy group.

My wish is simply to see Australia become a better place for us all to live, and a safer place for those who choose to use a bicycle on public roads to get where they are going. This is an opportunity for change. Will we seize it?


Recommendations for the ACT Government

Continue to improve the ACT’s road infrastructure. Continue to build bicycle paths and shared bicycle paths. Continue to retro-fit public roads to include dedicated bicycle lanes. And continue to improve rural roads so that more roads have a paved shoulder area that cyclists can use when that shoulder is clean and safe to use.

In line with global norms and world’s best practice, reform ACT laws so that helmet use by cyclists is optional. This will help participation rates return to or even exceed the rates that existed prior to mandatory helmet laws being introduced to Australia, as higher participation rates directly contribute to improved safety for cyclists.

Get your own local police force that can give its full attention to local policing and local issues. Let the AFP focus on its strengths, which include policing our ports and airports, and keeping Australians safe from international and domestic threats.

Reform your Coroner’s Court to bring it in line with the standards of those in the six Australian states. This may include allowing evidence presented to the Coroner’s Court by police to be examined and questioned by the Court.

Recommendations for the AFP in their role as the ACT Police

In order to hold motorists accountable for their actions, when motorists admit to distracted driving, to speeding, or to overdriving (driving with lights that aren’t bright enough to see what is ahead), bring charges against them.

Remember that, as police, it is your role to enforce the law, including the road rules.

Remember that, as police, it is not your job to decide what punishment or leniency offenders should receive. That is the role of the judiciary.

In the public interest, when presenting your case, always present the full facts and not a subset of or a version of the full facts.

In order to instil public confidence in your processes, do not dispose of evidence.

When investigating the death of a cyclist, do not exonerate the motor vehicle driver and then build a case to blame the cyclist before you have impartially gathered all the evidence. This included testing mobile phones for data use, and interviewing witnesses in a timely manner not six months later.

Recommendations for cycling advocacy groups

Continue to advocate for better laws and better road rules.

Continue to advocate for better and more consistent enforcement of those laws and road rules.

Continue to advocate for better and safer infrastructure for cyclists.

Continue to advocate for more and better education for all road users, including written tests for licenced road users every few years, as road rules are continually evolving and licenced drivers need to be compelled to update their knowledge of the road rules on a regular basis.

Recommendations for motorists in Australia

It is your responsibility to follow all road rules. These include not being distracted while driving – and the most insidious form of distraction is a smart phone (spot the irony in that name).

It is your responsibility to ensure that your vehicle is roadworthy – and this includes ALL of your lights working properly. If you are missing light globes or your headlights are too dim or not angled correctly, then you should not be driving that vehicle on a public road.

Drive to the conditions. If it is dark and the road you are on is known to have many kangaroos on it at night, then drive more slowly.

It is implicitly a condition of your licence to drive a motor vehicle that you know how to safely share the road with other road users. If you have to ‘swerve’ to avoid hitting a cyclist, then hand your licence in and stop driving.

It is also implicitly a condition of your licence to drive a motor vehicle that you do not injure or kill other road users while driving. If you are unable to drive safely, then hand your licence in and stop driving.

Pedestrians, the elderly, children going to school, and cyclists are all referred to as ‘vulnerable road users’. They are called that because they are not protected by a motorised metal box that can destroy a human body in a split second. It is also implicitly a condition of your licence that you take extra care when driving near vulnerable road users. If you are unable to drive carefully near vulnerable road users, then hand your licence in and stop driving.

Speed kills – but you may have heard that before. Perhaps more effective penalties are required to get you to change your behaviour.

Distracted driving also kills.

Recommendations for the organisers of the IPWR

Do not feel guilty for Mike Hall’s death. You were not driving the car that struck Mike Hall. You were the organisers of a cycling event in which participants legally used public roads.

Do not cancel your event before considering all the ramifications. The cancellation made your event look like it was dangerous, instead of it just being a bicycle commute from Fremantle to Sydney.

If you organise another cycling event that uses public roads, take greater advantage of the opportunity to educate the public – both cyclists and motorists – on how public roads should be safely shared by all road users.

Do not sensationalise the dangers of riding a bicycle across Australia on public roads.

Where possible, do not allow the social media surrounding your event to focus on or glorify riding a bicycle while suffering from lack of sleep.

Recommendations for Mike Hall

Mike Hall, you did nothing wrong. You were compliant with all ACT – and all Australian – road rules:

  • You were riding safely, not swerving and not riding on the wrong side of the road.
  • You had bright and more than adequate lights on your bicycle.
  • You had reflective material on your bicycle and as part of your clothing.
  • You were riding left of the fog line (white line) whenever it was safe to do so.
  • You were not impaired by lack of sleep.

Recommendations for future visitors to Australia

If you believe you will not be safe riding a bicycle in Australia, then do not come here to ride a bicycle.

If you believe Australian road rules are adequate and up to world standards, then reconsider coming here.

If you believe Australian police will enforce the road rules without an anti-cycling bias, then do not come here.

In conclusion

What should we expect to hear from the ACT Coroner in January? I don’t know, but don’t hold your breath if you are expecting something like what you have just read. This is a wish list.

I believe change will come to Australia, but it is likely to come slowly, kicking and screaming.

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