This has been a sobering week North of the Yarra with yet another cyclist doored (allegedly), and flung in under the wheels of a passing vehicle. Unfortunately, this accident was not an isolated incidence. This 1.7 km stretch of Sydney Road has one of the highest crash rates for cyclists in Victoria.

At this point, depending on your point-of-view, it would be easy to start a rant about inconsiderate motorists, inattentive cyclists, or careless drivers. But this would be unproductive. A man is dead. For his sake, we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Obviously, the situation on Sydney Road is complex – you have a narrow road, cars, cyclists, trams, on street parking, not to mention the many traders who rely on regular through-traffic. Clearly, greater minds than mine are working towards a solution. But as someone regularly cycles that section of Sydney Road, I thought I’d throw my wishlist into the mix.

  • No parking on this section of Sydney Road. Or no bikes on this section of Sydney Road. You can’t have both. The road is too narrow. Personally, I’d ditch the parking. It would help cyclists, trams and motorists. No doubt the traders would have something to say about this.
  • Better driver education – and not simply in realtion to door opening. I almost got cleaned up at a roundabout the other night (let’s not get started on blokes in four wheel drives). If I hadn’t been taking my usual precaution of not assuming cars will obey the law, I would also be lying in the morgue. A series of TV adds maybe? To alert drivers to the rights of cyclists on the roads?
  • Compulsory bike education for cyclists. When I started riding, I did a Cyclewise training course. In addition to basic road rules, how to signal and make hook turns, I was taught to look inside parked vehicles and pass with ample clearance, not to duck in and out of the parked cars, to take my place in the car lane with confidence, to wear reflective strips at night, and to use adequate lighting. Many cyclists ride as if unaware of these basic rules.
  • New cars built with cycle awareness alarms. Remember the days before beeping cars and microwaves? When it was possible to leave the fridge open all night? What about backing into a car space without accompanying audio assistance? It is possible to build warnings into vehicles. Why not do so for cyclists? Some sort of alert before people open their doors? A side mirror camera?
  • Better lighting. The main reason I ride Sydney Road is for safety. This sounds like a oxymoron. But only two years ago, a woman was sexually assaulted and murdered off this section Sydney Road. This makes me wary of using the Upfield bike path at night. I love my night rides along Sydney Road – the lights, cool air, crowds spilling onto the streets around pubs and restaurants feel. However, there are plenty of on-road bike lanes on the back streets. I have purchased a better front head-light for this purpose.
  • Educate taxis. Look I don’t want to sound peevish. But it simply isn’t appropriate to pull over, double park and talk to your mate on Sydney Road. The only time I’ve ever slipped on a tram line was trying to negotiate a double parked taxi.

Representatives from VicRoads, Yarra Trams, Public Transport Victoria, Moreland Council and Victoria Police met with Sydney Rd traders, bicycle users and residents groups have met in the wake of the tragedy. As a result, speed limit Sydney Road will be reduced to forty kilometres per hour. Speed humps will be installed and some parking spaces removed. City of Moreland, will also proceed with its plans to upgrade the bike path. Let’s hope it will be enough. That Alberto Paulon has not died in vain. For his sake, and for his family’s, for all future cyclists, let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.