July 21, 2005

Horse 375 - Road-Racing Cyclist Dies

Australian road-racing cyclist Amy Gillett was killed and five teammates injured when a car crashed into their group during a training ride. The accident happened Monday afternoon near Zeulenroda, south of Leipzig, where the six-member Australian Institute of Sports (AIS) women's road cycling squad was training for the Tour. The Australian team had a safety car behind the group, as is customary, but not in the front, organizers said.

Cycling Australia chief executive Graham Fredericks said two of the other riders, Louise Yaxley and Alexis Rhodes, were in a serious condition in intensive care at a local hospital. Fredericks also said the three other injured cyclists were in a stable condition.

The girl driving the Honda Civic who hit the cycling team head on had only received her drivers licence 4 weeks ago. She had swerved onto the wrong side of the road and hot them head on, then pranged her car into a ditch. She was also seriously injured and could not be interviewed by police yet. It is likely she can be charged with manslaughter.

While this is a great tragedy, I think it highlights something which quite frankly scares me as a driver. In the morning peak traffic periods, it is not uncommon to see cyclists and bicycle couriers not only weaving through traffic but worse, gambling with bus lanes.

It's not that cyclists shouldn't be allowed on roads, but there is a point in which caution and common sense has to be used. If a 1 tonne car hits a cyclist, then its usually the end of the cyclist.

Worse, by travelling in bus lanes, cyclists not only endanger themselves with far bigger objects than motor cars, but they annoy traffic generally which has to slow down to avoid buses.
I don't want to hit someone on a bike and if even elite sportspeople aren't immune to getting taken out by cars, then I think it's more than just a subtle warning that bicycles and cars don't mix.

Is punishment the answer here? A suspended licence is probably in order I suppose, but sending someone so young to prison on charges which are both unmeditated and quite harrowsome I don't think is a correct course of action and punitive damages won't solve the grief and the hurt that the family and loved ones of Miss Gillett must be going through.


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