Cyclist and Mobile Phones – Responding to Mr Bill Daking

Boris Johnson mobile phone bicycle

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London using a phone on his bicycle – The Guardian

A recent letter to the editor of the Joondalup Times (October 25, 2012) and posted at in my Community caught my attention. The letter was from a Mr Bill Daking of Kingsley who has written previously to the Joondalup Times on traffic matters but not it seems from my Google search results on motorists using mobile phones, the road toll or not whether his use of his vehicle’s horn was appropriate.

To put my comments into context, Mr Daking’s letter follows:

IS there a law against using mobile phones while riding a bike?

I was driving in Kingsley when coming towards me was a woman cyclist either texting or trying to put in a number.

She was quite oblivious to the traffic coming towards her. She was so intent in this that when I blew my horn she turned away and nearly hit the kerb.

After giving me the universal one-finger salute she rode off.

First and foremost while I believe Mr Daking’s opening question is a valid one, it is a serious concern to me, that Mr Daking as a driver and I assume a holder of a driver licence is not familiar with Western Road Traffic Code 2000 or at least how to review to bring himself up to date on his knowledge of the rules. I would have thought that Mr Daking if he is so concerned about safety on the roads would start by familising himself with the road rules.

My second concern was Mr Daking’s response to the cyclist behaviour. All we are told is that cyclist was cycling towards him. Mr Daking does not spell if the cyclist was on his side of the road, if the cyclist was crossing the road and hence heading in his direction or was the cyclist riding on the left side of the road and whilst distracted with the phone was not endangering Mr Daking? Clarity here would have been helpful as it seems from Mr Daking’s comments, she was close to the kerb (not sure if that is the left or right kerb) but she nearly hit the kerb when Mr Daking frightened her with his use of the horn.

I think we can conclude that:

  1. The cyclist is in the wrong by using a mobile phone whilst riding, it is against the law in Western Australia. The relevant regulation is regulation 265 which does not allow the use of the mobile phone if it is being held. It is more involved than that but for the purposes of this discussion the cyclist would be by all accounts have been in breach of the law and behaving stupidly;
  2. however has Mr Daking also behaved illegally? Regulation 190(a) of the Western Australian Road Traffic Code only allows for the use of a horn if it is necessary to “warn other road users or animals of the approach or position of the vehicle.” There is insufficient information in Mr Daking’s letter to determine the legality of the use of the horn, but I do question its appropriateness, given the cyclist could have hit the kerb and being injured.

The above reflects my thoughts on the fundamentals of Mr Daking’s letter but I also think it raises broader issues.

First and foremost Mr Daking does not going by my Google search seem to have an interest in writing to the local paper about motorists and their use of mobile phones, neither does Mr Daking mention them in his letter. Mr Daking also seems to ignore the fundamental risk levels of a cyclist versus a motorist, yet Mr Daking seems to feel it is necessary to write about “all” cyclists and their perceived behaviour.

In Western Australia in the past twelve months to my knowledge no cyclists killed any pedestrians net alone motorists. Two pedestrians have been killed in the past five years by cyclists. One was sadly a pedestrian who stepped on to the road in front of a cyclist.

However the Australian Road Fatality Statistics tell us in the 12 months to July 2011 that 17 pedestrians where killed in WA, five cyclists and 168 motorists (includes passengers). It is reasonable to assume that most if not all bar one of those pedestrians where killed due to an interaction with motorists and that the majority of the cyclists where also killed due to an interaction with a motorist.

This then raises the question as to where our priorities should be and where Mr Daking should be considering addressing his energies: cyclists or motorists? Where is the greater risk Mr Daking?

Mr Daking might also benefit from reviewing the Office of Road Safety’s advice on distractions whilst driving more so as the RAC points out

A driver is four times more likely to be involved in an accident if they use a mobile phone while driving. The two most common types of accidents that occur are rear end collisions and loss of control/running off the road.

Personally as a cyclist and a MOTORIST I don’t use a mobile phone when riding or driving. That said I do use two cameras on my bikes (front facing and rear facing) for the simple reason I consider myself at far greater risk when riding my bike than I do driving my car.

This recent incident is one example of why I am concerned for my safety. Maybe Mr Daking could share his thoughts on this driver’s behaviour. [Language warning – I tend to react when someone puts me at risk. Thankfully I was not distracted and avoided serous injury or worse …]

[Note: I have decided to not report this driver to the Western Australian Police because he at least acknowledged the error of his driving. Had he not done so it would have resulted in a full comprehensive report to the Western Australian Police.]

Finally I note Mr Daking’s comments about the “universal one-finger salute”. Well Mr Daking this motorist also gave me the universal one-finger salute as she drove off. I wonder which one you should be more concerned about? The driver or the cyclist?

Frankly neither the cyclist or the motorist behaved acceptably but from my vulnerable road user space, I don’t appreciate the motorists of this world whom seem to believe that they can put others lives at risk from the “safety” of their car’s interior.

It is time to slow down and to enjoy the ride  … we can all share the road with consideration and respect, but whether we like it or not, when we are driving our cars and trucks we can easily injured or worse vulnerable road users (cyclists and pedestrians) and we need to be far more considerate and responsible.

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