Laws must change
SENTENCING must be increased for those who deliberately hurt or kill cyclists.
A groundswell of support is building to force new national legislation which would enforce minimum jail times following two sentences of drivers who killed riders were handed down in the past month.
Nathan Craig MacDonald was sentenced to nine years in prison for killing father-of-one Stephen Small, with a parole eligibility date of March 14, 2020 – four years after the incident.
MacDonald pleaded guilty to dangerous driving while intoxicated causing Mr Small’s death, and leaving the scene of the crash.
In Victoria, Ben Smith, 27, was sentenced to a non-parole period of 5 ½ years for the manslaughter of fatherof-three Steve Jarvie who was left to die on the side of the Old Pacific Hwy at Cowan in February 2013.
Sunshine Coast triathlete, cyclist and Allez Sport owner David Chick (pictured) said both sentences were “grossly inadequate” and failed to meet community expectations.
“These sentences are manifestly insufficient considering these individuals deliberately set out to hurt innocent individuals,” Mr Chick said.
“There needs to be sufficient deterrents to those who somehow think cyclists are not human.
“It’s inhumane and beyond belief to think these people have been killed simply undertaking their passion, training and trying to better themselves.
“I’m not sure what it is that causes some individuals to harbour so much anger toward cyclists. Whether its physiological or jealously that some people have the motivation to challenge themselves, I’m not sure, but the actions of these individuals are inhumane.”
There are plans for a petition to be formulated which calls for minimum jail sentencing – similar to one-punch can kill laws introduced in 2014. The potential penalty is life imprisonment.
“The judge said there was no remorse for the attack on Steve. Is anyone going to feel safe riding when he is back on the road in four years?” Mr Chick said.
“I ride past Steve’s tribute bike all the time and it’s a constant reminder we cannot let this go without action.”
Sunshine Coast Cycling Club president Robert Thompson backed Mr Chick’s comments and agreed tougher deterrents were needed.
“This type of behaviour cannot be tolerated in our community,” Mr Thompson said.
“It’s a very sad day when anyone is threatened on our roads – this is not what the Sunshine Coast is about. As a community we have a responsibility to look out for each other and a duty to create a safer road environment.
“Every road user, regardless of what mode of transport they are using – motorists, motorcycles, cyclists and pedestrians – has the right to return home safely to their families.”
A spokeswoman for the Attorney-General said “the penalty for the one-punch law was a maximum penalty rather than a mandatory penalty”.
“This government considers that the courts are best placed to impose an appropriate sentence in the circumstances rather than impose minimum mandatory sentences,” she said.
“Before making a new law, consideration needs to be given to determine whether the current penalties are adequate and there would be a need for community consultation and consideration of the policy.”
Governments of all levels are working to encourage cycling across the nation to ease congestion and improve health.
The National Cycling Strategy was due to finish at the end of last year, but has been extended until the end of 2017.
The strategy has a vision to double the number of people cycling in Australia, and among the key priorities are:
■ Promoting cycling as a viable and safe mode of transport, and an enjoyable recreational activity. ■ Creating a comprehensive and continuous network of safe and attractive routes to cycle and end-of-trip facilities.
■ Addressing cycling needs in all relevant transport and land use planning activities.
According to the Australian Bicycle Council's National Cycling Participation Survey 2017, about 3.74 million people ride a bicycle for recreation or transport in a typical week.
While bicycle ownership has remained steady in comparison to the 2011 National Cycling Participation Survey, there has been a statistically significant decrease in the level of cycling participation in Australia between 2011 and 2017.
Cyclists at the sentencing of Stephen Small's killer, Nathan Craig MacDonald.