On the third of July this year, Louise Brand lost the man she had loved for nearly 40 years.
Seventy-two-year-old David was killed while he rode his bicycle with friends in what looks to be a road rage incident on Mount Darrah Road at Lochiel between Eden and Pambula.
David died after being airlifted to Canberra Hospital with serious head injuries, eleven days after he had had a roadside encounter with a 37-year-old local man.
At the time, police told the media that the 37-year-old had allegedly stopped his Nissan utility to speak with David prior to the crash.
That man is due to face Bega Local Court on Tuesday (December 18) on charges Mrs Brand believes are inadequate.
“My husband is dead I am not just going to let this go,” Mrs Brand says.
The accused man faces three charges:
- Pedestrian move into driver’s/cyclist’s path;
- Driver of motor vehicle not pass bicycle at safe distance;
- Grievous bodily harm (GBH) by unlawful act.
The GBH change comes with a two-year maximum prison sentence.
“This man allegedly intervened in my husband riding lawfully on a public roadway, and such intervention resulted in my husband receiving massive brain and bodily injuries, from which he died,” Mrs Brand says.
“I personally consider these charges to be inadequate.”
Mrs Brand is grateful for the support and work of local detectives but believes the approach to these matters needs to change.
“After long teaching and farming careers, my husband and I transitioned to retirement in Merimbula a number of years ago now,” she says.
“We enjoyed running Poppy’s Café in Merimbula for a number of those years before deciding to fully enjoy our retirement together.
“Cycling regularly with a group of friends to stay fit and healthy was part of that.
“That future together has now been destroyed. Similarly, our children, fine young men just graduating from university and embarking on careers, will never again benefit from their father’s wisdom and advice.
“What a tragedy for us all,” Mrs Brand says.
On the day of David’s death, Louise was riding ahead of her husband on Mount Darrah Road and was alerted to what had happened by a witness in a car.
“We were at the back because we are the oldest and the slowest,” she laughs.
“This guy stopped his car, got out and chose to intervene.
“David went over his handlebars and hit the road.
“Instantly he had a massive trauma to his brain stem – he was rendered a vegetable on the road that day.”
Bicycle NSW, the state’s peak cycling body says the legal community needs to toughen up its approach to these kinds of cases.
“Rarely do serious driving offences get custodial sentences, even cases of dangerous driving occasioning death,” says Bastien Wallace, General Manager NSW Public Affairs, Bicycle NSW.
“Police often work hard on these matters but prosecutors can appear reluctant to press for more serious charges.
“The difficulty then is that plea bargaining can mean convicted offenders receive lenient penalties for serious offences.
“We would like to see prosecution under more serious charges in cases like this,” Ms Wallace says.
Mrs Brand hopes a more respectful approach to using local roads is part of her husband’s legacy.
“Educating both drivers and cyclists to share the road safely can only benefit everyone and help to ensure that what happened to my husband does not happen to others,” she says.
“I have requested that there be a Coronial Inquest so that some of these issues can be better looked at.”
It’s something more and more families are having to deal with. According to the Australian Automobile Association, of the 1,222 road deaths in 2017/18, 45 of those were cyclist deaths, an increase of 80 per cent on the previous year.
“We want to see stronger enforcement of the minimum passing distance and safer driving behaviour around cyclists, and better driver education so this never happens again,” Ms Wallace says.
“We call on drivers to give people riding bikes space. Like you – they are just trying to get to where they need to go. You may need to wait a few minutes to pass safely, but every rider is one less car you’re stuck behind in traffic.
Bicycle NSW has produced a handy pocket guide to bicycle laws including the minimum passing distance for drivers, the rules around crossing double lines in order to pass cyclists safely, and acceptable road riding formations for groups of cyclists.
“Many of us learned to ride a bike during the summer holidays and it’s a great time to teach children or just to get more active. We remind everyone to take care on the road so everyone has a great festive season,” Ms Wallace says.
Meantime, the Brands are preparing for their first Christmas without their husband and father.
Mrs Brand says she will be in court on December 18 to reinforce the very real impacts road rage can have and her desire to see justice done for her husband.