Vile abuse for safety activist before road death
CYCLISTS have a death wish. Bike riders are arrogant and should be banned on roads. They never take their share of blame when something awful happens.
These are just a few of the sentiments shared on social media in the wake of the tragic death of Sunshine Coast father and safety activist Cameron Frewer last Monday.
The 44-year-old was out for a morning ride in Caloundra when he was struck by a utility vehicle and killed. Police investigations continue and the driver has not been charged.
Queensland's cycling community was struck by the tragic irony of his sudden loss, given he had long campaigned for police to enforce the law requiring vehicles to leave a 1m space when passing someone on a bicycle.
No sooner had his wife Catherine and their three children started the horrific grieving process, and the inflammatory debate between motorists and cyclists reached a frustrating new low.
Motorists flout the law and have a vendetta against bike riders, one side says. Bike riders deliberately put themselves in harm's way, hogging the road and inflaming tensions, the other shouts back.
A man is dead, a family is broken and the war of words rages on.
It seems little, if anything, has been gleaned from Mr Frewer's death. Another life lost, another lesson not learnt, another missed opportunity for change.
This week, news.com.au will highlight Mr Frewer's legacy and the contentious issue of road safety, from all sides, in a campaign inspired by his passion for harmony and fairness.
Earlier this year, he helped to launch Drive Safe, Pass Wide after experiencing a number of close calls while out and about.
Mr Frewer's bike was equipped with front and rear cameras and he regularly shared clips of cars speeding past him, dangerously close, to highlight the importance of leaving a safe space.
"When only two in three drivers make an effort to pass a rider with care, you know that education of the safe passing rule or its 'enforcement' needs looking at," he wrote on Facebook alongside a video of a driver passing a cyclist.
"Short stretch of road. Good sightlines and no oncoming. Should be a no-brainer, yes?"
Days before he was killed, Mr Frewer wrote to Bicycle Queensland chief executive officer Anne Savage - also a close friend - about an open letter he had written.
Addressed to Queensland Police, transport officials and cycling advocates, it was a lengthy expression of his frustration that existing laws, requiring the 1m gap, were not being enforced.
Authorities in the state issued just 70 infringement notices in 2017 for motorists failing to comply, which Ms Savage said was a tiny percentage of incidents.
"I just felt the need to say my piece in the event something ever happens to me - God forbid," Mr Frewer wrote in a note to her, accompanying the open letter.
"I know I am not the only rider with these issues. I am not trying to big note myself but to cover all bases for whatever transpires."
Data for the 2017-18 period shows the number of cyclist deaths on roads nationally increased 80 per cent to 45. Bike rider fatality rates haven't decreased for almost two decades.
Advocates say current policy in all states is failing and more needs to be done - and Mr Frewer's death highlights that reality, Ms Savage said.
"We plan to honour Cameron's memory by continuing his campaign to protect the safety of cyclists and promote respect on our roads," she said.
When talking about his campaign, Mr Frewer was often at pains to say he didn't want to issue a blanket blame for all motorists. His interest was in improving cyclist safety by lobbying for improved laws, but also by insisting authorities enforce existing ones.
That perspective often wasn't heard, drowned out by the noisy shouting from both sides of the debate who seemed to have made up their minds.
Tom Reynolds, general manager of marketing and communications at Cycling Australia, told news.com.au the debate between cyclists and motorists had become toxic.
There were countless comments after his death - those who thought he shouldn't be on the road, think cyclists get what they deserve and that bike users lack common sense.
But it was a remark from earlier this year, when his 1m safety campaign was in full swing, that is perhaps the most poignant.
"You f***tard," one cyclist critic posted on Mr Frewer's Facebook page earlier this year.
"F**k off idiot. You sir, are a true f***head and I hope you survive using this precious law as a shield."
As we now know - none more so than his grief-stricken family - he did not survive.