Cycling widow calls on community to take the Road Safety Week Pledge

Ian Campbell 8 May 2019
Bega - Candelo Road. Louise Brand says attitudes need to change. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Bega – Candelo Road, April 2019. Louise Brand says attitudes need to change. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“I don’t want David’s death to be in vain,” Merimbula’s Louise Brand says.

“We need to start talking about road rage and dealing with that.”

Louise Brand is a person who understands the impact of road trauma all too well. Tragically her partner of 40 years David, a fit and vibrant 72-year-old father, was catastrophically injured in a road rage incident while he was riding his bike with friends on Mt Darragh Road, west of Pambula last year. He never recovered and died in hospital on July 3, 2018.

In February, Thirty-seven-year-old Lochiel man Nathan Cumming was given a 12-month Intensive Correction Order, fined $5,000, and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service, for his undisputed role in David’s death.

Louise Brand, outside Bega Local Court. Photo: Alasdair McDonald & Ian Campbell.

Louise Brand, outside Bega Local Court. Photo: Alasdair McDonald & Ian Campbell.

Reading her powerful victim’s impact statement to Mr Cumming and the court, Mrs Brand pointed to her campaign for change.

“On June 23 of last year, Mr Cumming, you chose to confront my then 72-year-old husband, who had recently retired after a lifetime of work as a school teacher, farmer and café proprietor, as he was cycling legally on his pushbike, on a public road,” Mrs Brand said.

“That confrontation resulted in his death.

“With all due respect to this court, [I have] complete disillusionment with a legal system that sees a man’s wrongful death reduced to a ‘Grievous Bodily Harm’ charge,” she said.

Mrs Brand is now calling for a Coronial Inquest into the circumstances surrounding her husband’s death, supported by formal and informal cycling groups across Southern NSW.

“Every year, more than 1,200 people are killed and another 35,000 seriously injured on Australian roads,” says Doug Reckord, Secretary of Bega Tathra Safe Ride.

“Traffic injury is the biggest killer of Australian children under 15 and the second-biggest killer of all Australians aged between 15 and 24. These numbers are growing every year but are fully preventable.

National Road Safety Week from May 6 to 12 is an annual initiative to highlights the impact of road trauma and ways to reduce it.”

David and Louise Brand, cycling in Merimbula. Photo: Supplied.

David and Louise Brand, cycling in Merimbula. Photo: Supplied.

Mrs Brand believes there are grassroot changes we call all adopt.

“How can we all – car drivers, pedestrians, horse riders, skateboarders, bicycle riders, all road users, become more patient and tolerant to all who use the road and put an end to road rage?” she asks.

“Stop and think before you act thoughtlessly or in anger when we use the road. Treat all road users with compassion and respect – remember every road user is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s mother or father, who is loved.

“Know your road rules and obey them. Know the minimum passing distance laws that allow motorists to cross double lines to overtake bike riders when it is safe to do so.”

Mrs Brand and Bega Tathra Safe Ride ask all road users to take the National Road Safety Week Pledge:

As every life is precious, I pledge to drive as if my loved ones are on the road ahead.

I will remove all distractions and promise to never use my mobile phone while behind the wheel.

I will not put other people at risk by speeding, driving while tired or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

I pledge to protect all vulnerable road users, especially those whose job places them in harm’s way, by slowing down and giving them the space they need to be safe.

Mr Reckord adds, “display a yellow ribbon to remember those who have lost their lives on our roads.”

Beyond what we can all do as individuals, Mrs Brand is arguing for cultural change within legal and political circles.

“I am advocating for more active police enforcement of the safe passing legislation, that law was passed in 2016 and my understanding is that it is rarely enforced,” she says.

The rule requires drivers of a motor vehicle to leave a minimum distance when passing bicycle riders – at least 1 metre between the motor vehicle and a bicycle rider when passing a on a road with a speed limit of 60km/h and below. Drivers must leave at least 1.5m when they pass a bicycle rider on a road with a speed limit above 60km/h.

If drivers cannot pass the bicycle rider safely, they should slow down and wait until the next safe opportunity to do so.

And bicycle riders are permitted to ride two abreast in the same lane. However, when riding two abreast, riders must travel within 1.5 metres of the other rider. This means that riders should ride as close together as safe to do so.

Mrs Brand is also calling for a NSW Police Crash Investigation Unit to be based locally and for harsher road rage penalties.

The annual Bega Tathra community bike ride later this year will be named in David Brand’s honour, Mrs Brand is considering taking part, she hasn’t been back on her bike since the day her husband was critically injured.

What's Your Opinion?

23 Responses to Cycling widow calls on community to take the Road Safety Week Pledge

Caroline Long Caroline Long 7:32 am 09 May 19

I was a long time bike rider and there are roads around here I wouldn’t ride on. I don’t ride now but I’m very sensitive to bike riders and take a lot of care when they are on the roads. Some roads around here are not safe for bike riders. I’ve come upon bike riders on the road and was forced to a stop as on oncoming car meant I couldn’t overtake. Brogo pass and bermagui road are two that come to mind, although I know there are many more examples. There is no where for the bike to go. The roads are too narrow with no shoulder. All future roads should be built with the ability for all to share the roads.

    Jen Severn Jen Severn 10:44 am 10 May 19

    Thanks Caroline. You may be one of the thoughtful Brogo drivers who my bike-riding husband has mentioned. He has been yelled at on other roads and I worry a bit every time he goes out.

Lauren Knight Lauren Knight 7:09 pm 08 May 19

My thoughts exactly Phillip Kennedy..

Phillip Kennedy Phillip Kennedy 6:56 pm 08 May 19

It's quite simple, dont ride your bike on a road that is unsafe. Just because you can and are legally allowed to doesn't mean you should when you know it's a dangerous road.

    Andrew Fisher Andrew Fisher 8:09 pm 08 May 19

    Phillip Kennedy these roads are not unsafe. The attitude of some of the drivers using the road is the problem.

    Phillip Kennedy Phillip Kennedy 8:12 pm 08 May 19

    Andrew Fisher you are not a local and can not possibly know that. The road is documented as the most dangerous road in the whole district/regional area. It has nothing to do with attitude, facts are facts.

    Wendy Constance Wendy Constance 9:08 pm 08 May 19

    Phillip Kennedy Completely agree! The Candelo road is dangerous at the best of times

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 7:51 am 09 May 19

    Phillip Kennedy it doesn’t matter how dangerous the road - cyclists deserve respect

    Melinda Wilkie Melinda Wilkie 7:56 am 09 May 19

    Calculated risk.

    J.S. Holley J.S. Holley 8:45 am 09 May 19

    Andrew Fisher, attitude runs both ways & the arrogance of many bike riders is also a factor.

    Joanne Ferguson Joanne Ferguson 12:10 pm 09 May 19

    Jenifer Mather yes riders deserve respect and they need to respect drivers and the road situation, not just blindly ride along not caring who might be behind them or trying to pass them. I drive a small car and sometimes I have to sit for a long time until the inconsiderate bike rider decides to go single file and let me pass.

    Andrew Fisher Andrew Fisher 7:30 pm 09 May 19

    Joanne Ferguson that is about your impatience and you feelings that you are more entitled to be on the road.

    Andrew Fisher Andrew Fisher 7:33 pm 09 May 19

    Phillip Kennedy it has been a while since i lived there but that does not mean that i do not visit, ride there and know other riders who do live and ride there. Where i have been riding has far more traffic and arguably has less agro than what i consider a relatively quite country road.

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 8:50 pm 09 May 19

    This was a road rage incident resulting in the death of a person - do you think this is ok?

    Phillip Kennedy Phillip Kennedy 8:16 am 10 May 19

    Jenifer Mather it was an accident, bother the driver and rider stepped/swerved out of each others way and unfortunately went the same way and collided.

    Clayton Shipp Clayton Shipp 1:02 pm 15 Aug 19

    cyclists are killed on safe roads also

Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 4:31 pm 08 May 19

I don’t understand why so many people driving cars are so aggressive to cyclists. That is a pathetic sentence for a killer.

Joanne Ferguson Joanne Ferguson 10:56 am 08 May 19

Bicycle riders should have to ride single file on narrow country roads.

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 4:28 pm 08 May 19

    Joanne Ferguson Two bike riders are allowed to travel side-by-side, known as two abreast, if they are no more than 1.5 metres apart. It is legal in any traffic lane on single and multi-lane roads. It is not legal for more than two riders to travel together side-by-side, but a third rider can overtake riders who are two abreast.

    Andrew Fisher Andrew Fisher 8:08 pm 08 May 19

    Joanne Ferguson the majority of fatalities happen to lone riders or small groups traveling in single file. Two up increases rider visibility and improves their safety.

    Alyce Barker Alyce Barker 9:24 pm 08 May 19

    Jenifer Mather what a joke that is, in my eyes they are just asking for trouble on our already dangerous roads around here!

    Jenifer Mather Jenifer Mather 7:50 am 09 May 19

    Joanne Ferguson those are the rules - I only hope no one you know and love are hurt or killed by a raging car driver

    Joanne Ferguson Joanne Ferguson 12:06 pm 09 May 19

    Jenifer Mather I know what the rules are, I am saying that in my opinion some of our local roads are so narrow that riding two abreast is dangerous for the riders and the drivers trying to share the road. And for your information I have lost a loved relative to an accident when he was riding his bike on a highway that was nowhere near as narrow as the roads around here.