On the morning of 11th September, I got off the bus at the Mater Hospital and walked to work. Never a morning person, I was thinking of the coffees I would get for my boss and I and how good they would be, and worrying if I would get to the café in time, as it takes me forever to get out the door and onto the bus, and I was running a bit late again. As I approached the intersection of Annerley Road and Stanley Street, however, I realised something wasn’t quite right. The traffic was held up, and there was a long, curving smear on the tarmac. There was also a pair of white sandshoes, a set of A4 papers and an apple, not crushed, but driven into the road. A little distance away, near the kerb, was a bicycle, untouched.
I stared, transfixed, hoping that what I was looking at was the result of produce falling from a truck. However, that didn’t account for the sandshoes or the papers. It wasn’t until the policewoman in her yellow fluoro vest asked the people now collecting at the pedestrian crossing if they absolutely had to cross the road. ‘If you don’t want to see something that you can’t unsee, then I wouldn’t recommend going down there.’ It was only then that I realised there had been an awful accident, and that the smear belonged to a human being.
I and another fellow backtracked and went past the accident on the other side of the road, and I didn’t look. Later that day, the news said a young female cyclist had been hit by a semi-trailer and killed. Her name was Rebekka Tine Lousdal Meyer. She was a Danish student at the University of Queensland and she was 22 years old. That apple, grazed until half of it was gone, showed how hard she had been hit.
Cycling organisations and forums have said for 15 years that this was a bad spot (1999 - http://www.ericmanners.net/blackspots.pdf; 2008 -http://helenabrahams.com/media99.html; 2012 - http://www.cbdbug.org.au/…/2012/CBD-BUG-minutes-20120530.pdf). They have agitated for a Copenhagen style bike lane, but the Brisbane city council didn’t do anything about it.
A minimum passing distance of 1-1.5 metres (depending on the traffic speed) from a bicycle was legislated by the Queensland Government on 7th April 2014, but we need bike lanes, not just more laws. I speak as someone who frequently has to ride on the footpath because it’s not safe enough on Brisbane’s roads.
At the end of that day, a friend told me a friend of hers was a co-worker whose daughter was a paramedic on the scene. ‘Sad day, small city,’ she said. When something bad happens in Brisbane, many people feel it, and on 15th October, Brisbane’s cycling community came together to pay their respects.
Perhaps that should be qualified. Many people, but not the Brisbane City Council. Someone’s daughter won’t be coming home for Christmas because the Council had 15 years to act on this black spot, and they haven’t. If even the death of a young girl doesn’t move them, what will?
Please take care on the roads and look out for cyclists, and not just at Christmas, but always.