Mr Richards elected not to cooperate with police enquiries, hiring a lawyer who successfully acted to delay police attempts to take a formal statement from her. when the investigating officer recommended she be charged with nothing more than the minor offence of opening a car door into traffic, she was overruled by a superior officer.
a coronial inquiry into the case made recommendations on reducing dooring risks, but yielded little in the way of understanding police policy on the matter, and more specifically why Ms Edwards was not charged in that instance. the police recently apologised for mistreating James' parents in the aftermath, by failing to pass on information in a timely or effective manner.
A Parliamentary Committee Inquiry stated:
"The Committee believes that some police members may not be aware that causing a hazard with a car door is sufficient to establish an offence under Road Rule 269(3)," the report said.
"Intent, recklessness, negligence and whether a person looked or did not look prior to opening the car door are irrelevant.
"Evidence provided to the Committee and the Coroner’s report from the Inquest into the death of Mr James Cross indicate Road Rule 269(3) is not being consistently enforced."
i personally know someone who was dismissed by a visibly irritated and openly hostile police officer when he attempted to report an incident in which he was doored, suffering severe bruising.
more recently, Richard Pollett was killed when run over by the back wheels of an overtaking cement truck in Brisbane. in this case, the police response was more encouraging - the driver - whose defence essentially amounted to "whoopsies!" - was charged with dangerous driving. unfortunately, he was found not guilty.
it seems clear (to me) that there was no conspiracy here - the defendant needed only raise doubt in the minds of jurors to compel them to acquit him. what is infuriating to me is the degree of protection afforded to motorists in such cases. for any action or outcome which is deemed serious enough to potentially involve the commission of a crime, law makers must determine the standard which may constitute evidence of the crime.
for driving, and as demonstrated in this case, the standard is set very low. prosecutors were unable to hold the cement truck driver to account for failing to avoid Mr Pollett, rather being forced to focus on proving he chose to imperil the rider's safety. only the cement driver really knows if that was the case or not, and obviously he was never going to admit it, if it was. it's a hopeless situation that empowers motorists to act with virtual impunity.
to reinforce this, cycling tips blog last week posted an article on passing distances and lane positioning. it included a video recorded by the author of a van passing within what he claimed was probably 10 cm of his handlebars.
the most stunning thing was a quote from Sergeant Arty Lavos, State Bicycle Operations Coordinator at Victoria Police, who said “The driver in the video has not really committed an offence”. say what? if that isn't an offence, then what is?
at a 2011 forum on the push for a safe passing distance law, VicRoads road user safety director James Holgate said :
‘‘there are some circumstances where one metre may not be enough, particularly on higher speed roads’’.
‘‘Drivers must overtake only when they can do so safely,’’ he said.
this seems reasonable to me, but appears to contradict the assessment of Sergeant Arty Lavos above. to make things more confusing:
Sergeant Bob Cerisara, of the Moorabbin Highway Patrol, said a colleague had recently fined a truck driver for getting too close when overtaking after the cyclist used footage from a helmet-mounted camera as evidence.
i could only think to describe the situation with two words, one being 'cluster'.
make no mistake, this is at a crisis point. change to laws and enforcement practices protecting cyclists must change. this isn't going away and the more incidents that occur, the more we learn just how inadequate the status quo is. it's time to get behind those who are working to drive change - SCA, AGF, etc.
i'm not saying what the answer is, but anything would be better than what exists now, which is effectively nothing.