By John Stevenson
More than 3000 people attended the Wheels of Justice rally in Adelaide, South Australia yesterday to commemorate the 2003 death of rider Ian Humphrey and protest against an Australian legal system that takes the deaths of riders on our roads far too lightly. Angered by the $3,100 fine and 12-month loss of driving license awarded against driver Eugene McGee - who admitted he had been drinking before hitting and killing Ian Humphrey - riders filled the streets of Adelaide from Parliament House to Victoria Square.
At Parliament House, event organizer Rob Lewis gave a short speech, pointing out that the Motor Accidents Commission "maintains that there is no such thing as an accident - there are crashes."
Lewis continued, "If an airliner crashed, and people were killed because the pilot had a couple of drinks and wasn't really paying attention to what he was doing, there would be an outcry. If he survived the crash, he would be locked up, he would lose his job, and he would never be allowed to fly again. So why do we have a different attitude to driving cars?"
In a statement, Ian Humphrey's brother Graham thanked riders for turning out and said, " It is important to remember that today is for everyone who has lost a loved one and has felt left down by the system."
South Australian premier Mike Rann has launched a Royal Commission into the Humphrey case - an inquiry with extremely wide-ranging powers to call witnesses and set its own terms of reference - as a result of widespread community anger over the lenient judgment against McGee.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, some 500 cyclists rode from Federation Square to Parliament House and, as in Adelaide, left water bottles with messages for MPs on the steps of the building.
Small but passionate show of support in Sydney
About 150 riders turned out on a grey and chilly Saturday morning for the Sydney Wheels of Justice ride yesterday.
Riders donned black armbands provided by organizers and rode through the city to Parliament house, where Green state MP Lee Rhiannon spoke to the crowd and organizers relayed via mobile phone a message of thanks from Graham Humphrey brother in Adelaide.
Cyclists' rights protest rides in Sydney - such as the monthly Critical Mass event - have occasionally seen confrontations between riders and motorists, but there were no such scenes here, as every non-cyclist who heard the explanation of our presence was sympathetic. A hearty "Good on ya!" was the common response when pedestrians heard why we briefly blocking the streets that morning.
It was a hastily-organised show of support for the much larger ride in Adelaide. Given the relatively short notice, 150 or so riders was a reasonable turn-out, but there was a common feeling that more time to plan - as the much, much larger Adelaide rally had - would have led to a bigger turn-out. (Riding in from the suburbs I got chatting to a couple of other riders who would have joined us but for previous commitments with work and family that were hard to break at short notice.)
Nevertheless, large swathes of Sydney's 'serious' cycling community were missing. One cyclist told Cyclingnews he was unsure of the organisers' politics, and he might have a point: as well as plenty of Lycra-clad club riders, there were also riders on MTBs and recumbents. However, it's fair to say that reserve was ill-deserved, as the assembled crowd rode in quiet respect, and also paid a minute's silence - in front of the State Parliament - for stricken riders such as Adelaide's Humphrey, and the much-admired former Sydney cyclist, Bryan Martin, who died in February this year.