Truckie leads bike safety campaign

9th May 2017 9:43 AM

FOR many truck drivers, road safety is always a top priority.

However for Brisbane's David Sharp this drive has developed into a passion for safety for road users of all shapes and sizes.

As the Safe Cycling Australia founder, David wasn't always a rider - he prefers the roar of a diesel engine - however after a few health concerns he decided to don a helmet.

"Truck driver and cyclist is a strange mix, I know, but there are a few of us out there," he laughed.

"After I actually decided to get back into cycling in 2009, I was shocked to see how much worse the road had gotten."

As someone who had been on the highway as a driver almost all day every day for the past 15 years, David was accustomed to being the biggest thing on the road.

"As drivers, all of us are in large vehicles, who most of the time have no idea what it feels like to be so vulnerable," he said.

"More often than not it's not the 15-tonne vehicles that are the threat, it's the Ford Festivas with no excuse."

 

Safe Cycling Australia founder, David Sharp.
Safe Cycling Australia founder, David Sharp.

Aware of the animosity between some road users and cyclists, David has made efforts to bridge the divide.

"You can kind of understand it, it's all about give and take, more of the problem stems from general ignorance," he said.

"A B-double will take a while to pull up and when you come across a cyclist on a blind bend it can create some hairy situations.

"My parents had just gotten back from New Zealand at the time I began riding again and they told me about the one-metre rule that was in place for cyclists, I thought it was a great idea."

So in that year the driver set to work to introduce similar standards for a 1.5m minimum passing distance on all Australian roads.

"Our campaign was joined in 2013 by the family of a cyclist who had lost their life on Moggill Rd, Brisbane, after being struck by a cement truck," David said.

"Cyclist Richard Pollett's mother rang me out of the blue one day.

"She called Safe Cycling Australia from the court room seconds after the not guilty verdict was handed to the driver that struck him.

"She wanted to know her son's life could mean more than a not-guilty verdict and if there was anything at all that we could have done."

Over the next few months, SCA worked tirelessly with the State Member for Moggill on a Parliamentary Petition.

"Within the first few hours the petition went live we had 1000 signatures, it went gang-busters," David said.

As a result of the pressure, an inquiry into the split rule was eventually introduced in 2014 and was adopted into legislation in 2016.

"We are a pretty small organisation who ended up helping the split rule happen here in Queensland," David said.

"It was a snowball effect, to see how many lives could be saved having this rule achieved on our roads."

Since the 1m rule was introduced in Queensland, it has been introduced into a number of other states, most recently Western Australia, which has announced a three-year trial.

A recent study by the Queensland University of Technology found drivers were responding well to the laws, with cyclists reporting wider berths.

"It's about managing to put yourself in each other's shoes and improving those relationships," David said.

"Cyclists have no idea what truck drivers go through, we have a lot of other things to contend with.

"And when you put a cyclist in the cab of a truck, or a driver on a bike, you begin to understand each other.

"Unfortunately we aren't robots, we are all human and it sucks transport operators often bear the weight of this."

The group continues to push the legislation in Australia and find other ways to share the road and improve safety into the future.