11 September 2019

Merimbula cyclist's widow calls for tough stance on road rage

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

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

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.”

David Brand, back row standing, second from the left. Louise Brand, front row last on right. Photo: Supplied.

David Brand, back row standing, second from the left. Louise Brand, front row last on right, and their local cycling mates. Photo: Supplied.

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.

Photo: Bicycle NSW

Photo: Bicycle NSW.

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.

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This incident highlights the prevalence of road-rage aimed at cyclists. I find it difficult to understand the mentality of people who rail against cyclists but are quite happy to sit behind a tractor holding them up for a similar time-frame. There is no logic to the way cyclists are targeted.

Lorene Stewart8:38 am 14 Dec 18

Thankful I wasn’t the cyclist or the motorist. Only a month earlier I had tried to contact this particular cycling group after being stuck behind them for 15 minutes doing about 25km/hour in a 100 zone on my way to work. Some were riding up to 4 abreast where there is double white lines, no mirrors and usually complacent about the traffic they are delaying as the large group splinters into smaller groups, resulting in several overtakes in different and at times difficult windy road conditions.

I have no problem sharing the road with odd cyclists, encourage their physicality and like them visiting my town and am friends with many of them. However when these individuals form large groups and become a traffic hazard the community should be consulted….lest the tragedy that resulted.

I find it extremely frustrating that I now have to allow 20 minutes extra travel time on Saturdays to accommodate a group that doesn’t contribute to road improvements via a registration process and is not compelled to get any sort of permit as would a wide load, fun run etc. thus rendering the community uninformed.

This article fails to represent an accurate or objective picture of the sad events surrounding the death of Mr Brand. There is no mention of the devestating effect on the young family of the driver who did not actually hit the cyclist…even if his judgement was slightly lacking the outcome was not intended. As sorry as I feel for Mrs Brand offering an avenue for her to find healing through the benefactions of blame is as irresposible as those drivers and cyclists doing the wrong thing.

Hopefully the courts will see this as a broader issue confronting communities and a coronial inquiry will see improvements on an issue that at present is likely to reoccur somewhere on the road.

Hi Lorene – I must reply to your comment that says “a group that doesn’t contribute to road improvements through a registration process”. Roads receive most of their funding from general revenue – which comes from taxes and council rates. Registration contributes very little to roads. Using your logic, pensioners should not receive hospital care as they don’t pay for it!

“15 minutes doing about 25km/hour in a 100 zone on my way to work.” What absolute garbage The rest of your comment is also extremely ignorant. Cyclists pay RATES which pays for local roads. They also pay INCOME TAX which pays for federal roads and CAR REGISTRATION because they own cars. You really are a stupid person.

Chris OSullivan8:51 pm 13 Dec 18

Very biased and judgmental journalism Ian.
Do we even know, if in fact this was a road rage incident?
Did you even bother to interview the accused? If you did why isn’t this stated in your piece?
Maybe your just trying to incite some sort of lynch mob to turn up at the courthouse
What ever happened to not guilty to proven otherwise, the family of the driver are probably doing it tough as well and this one sided article has not helped anyone.

Strength and courage to all who have lost someone through the sad attitudes that drive some Australian drivers to criminal behaviour. It is a self inflicted local problem induced by denormalisation of cycling and elevating the perception of skill through car and license ownership. Ignorance is no excuse, people need to look out for eachother. Safety is not just a professional requirement. Punishments are the last resort to change criminal minds, Even if we want people to suffer as much as they make us do, stronger lessons are learnt from experience and confrontation with the result of ones actions. The loss of humanity is just as bad as casting crime in a temporary box to simmer. Cyclists don’t ask for much, just safe places to ride. They already prove their worth by reducing carbon pollution and traffic congestion. Motorvehicles will be a part of traffic, just decrease their mobility where possible to create safe infrastructure instead of increasing the roads for them to saturate.

Colleen Stewart8:02 am 13 Dec 18

I think the courts should be allowed to do their job. This is a story based on emotion and while I have great sympathy for the loss of a loved one I have to travel this road quite often and have had very frustrating experiences with SOME cyclist. Cyclist behaviour around drivers is also an issue but never seems to be discussed, I have been thinking of installing a dashcam and reporting some of the sheer arrogance I have had to endure, Lycra doesn’t make you invincible so please also cycle carefully.

Dad of 5 cyclist12:52 pm 13 Dec 18

Is the cyclist riding in a legal manner when you witness their arrogance? Drivers seem to forget that they are allowed to overtake cyclists when it is safe to do so. Arrogance could be misinterpreted by a driver as a cyclist moves to take the whole lane and in doing so stops the car being able to overtake in a dangerous spot.
I think both sides need to have a bex and a good lie down, mowing down a rider because they are holding you up for 30 seconds or a minute does not justify causing a death. On the flip side some cyclists need to understand that if they have caused a line up of traffic behind them, that pulling over for 20 seconds will make everyone happy and safer.

Seriously Colleen, how on earth do you know that a cyclist is being arrogant? If you feel frustrated because a cyclist through his/her legal use of the road is preventing you from proceeding in your car, you must be patient and courteous, and above all, obey the road rules. Cyclists are very vulnerable and always lose in a car vs bike encounter so why would a cyclist go looking for trouble? Drive carefully and respectfully.

“This is a story based on emotion”
Yes, it is a story of someone who allegedly lost control of his and killed a man.
But somehow it’s the victim’s fault.

Way to try and excuse Motorist Violence and depraved indifference to human life, Colleen. There should never be any excuse, yet rarely do Police even bother to act, even when irrefutable evidence is placed right in front of their noses. From my experience, most officers seem to find it easier to blame the victim. Happens all the time.

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