Tuesday 25 November 2008

How to engineer a collision between man and bike

OK, this story is actually about a collision between woman and bike, or bike and woman. It would not have been pretty - I know the site of the crash really well, and I can say this - it was no accident.

JOHN ZALUGNA can point to the exact spot on the footpath beside Victoria Road where his wife lay bleeding and unconscious after being hit by a cyclist six years ago.

The yellow dots used by investigators to mark the outline of Maria Guliano's form on Iron Cove Bridge are still visible.

"We'd just come up the stairs onto the shared bicycle-pedestrian path which goes over the bridge," Mr Zalugna said. "The cyclist was coming down the path at a fair pace and he hit her head on."

The accident has left Ms Guliano with a brain injury that affects her memory.

I am so, so cautious when I carry my bike up those same stairs and step onto the Iron Cove Bridge, because that site is a crash waiting to happen. The shared path over the Iron Cove Bridge is too narrow for the number of pedestrians and cyclists that use it, and it is unfenced. If you get hit by a strong gust of wind, or collide with someone else, chances are you are going to end up on the road in front of a bus. It is a nasty bit of work.

But the city end is the pits, especially the spot where this crash happened. Cyclists can only ride on the footpath on one side of the road, since on the other side, it simply stops. The path is on a fairly fast, downhill section, and just above the bridge, it is nice and wide. The width, smoothness and steepness of the hill encourages cyclists to lay off the brakes and fly down the hill.

Then it gets tricky. The path rapidly narrows to less than half the width, and it goes into a sweeping right hander - and visibility is blocked by a high wall and overhanging trees. If a cyclist is being an idiot, they shoot out the bend with no idea of what is in front of them, and when they get there, it is too late to brake, and there is no room to go anywhere. It is a perfectly engineered crash site.

I hate coming up the stairs, because there is a time when I am vulnerable to some fool zooming around that bend and taking me out. When I get to the top of the stairs, I have to turn right, prop my bike, get on it and clip both feet into the pedals. That takes time. If I am clumsy that day, and my feet just can't find the slots in the pedals, it takes more time. I always worry during that time that, even though I am hard up against one side of the path, some loon will come careering around the bend and hit me from behind. There's pretty much nothing you can do about it, except to get out of that spot as rapidly as humanly possible - you simply reduce your exposure time to the risk.

The RTA has been asked for years to add a clip-on lane to the bridge to give cyclists and pedestrians a safer option, but they've constantly refused - probably because they have a hard-on for duplicating the bridge with an unnecessary and expensive extra bridge. When Rees cut the budget recently, I thought he might have grown a brain and cut the Iron Cove Bridge duplication, but he didn't. It was a $164 million gift, just waiting to be taken.

Idiots. They refuse to tack on a cheap improvement to the existing bridge that would be extremely useful, and instead commit to a very expensive duplication that will be as useful as a second arsehole.


kae said...

Be careful, Boy, it sounds like a really bad spot!

Anonymous said...

Boy, oh Boy! Do take care - I know that spot. Those stairs are a bit of a climb, the hairpin turn onto the bridge offers little visibility and I'd hate for any of the beautiful joggers, mums with prams or dog walkers to run into one of the Bay Run's well packaged cyclists.

Saphire McBoo x