An Australian coroner has today recommended heavy vehicles be banned from the streets unless fitted with blind spot alert devices, during an inquest into the death of a Danish woman who was killed cycling in Brisbane.
The lorry hit 22-year-old exchange student, Rebekka Meyer, from behind as she cycled to university during rush hour on 11 September 2014. She was trying to turn right at a congested T-junction, but the driver couldn’t see the 7m of road directly in front of the cab and Meyer died upon impact.
The lorry ban was among eight recommendations given by Coroner Christine Clements to improve cycle safety on Brisbane streets, and included bike lanes and using smart technology at traffic lights to detect cyclists and give them a head start ahead of motor vehicles. The day of the inquest a man was killed cycling following collision with a car in Sydney.
Clements, who called Ms Meyer’s death “sudden, unexpected and shockingly traumatic and tragic”, said: “The advantage to cyclists [of advanced green technology] would be to maximise their visibility to other traffic and provide them with time to make their way across an intersection ahead of other traffic”.
“Ms Meyer’s family might one day return to Brisbane. It is to be hoped that if they do, they will be able to see some positive improvements in safety for the cycling public”.
Meyer was an experienced cyclist, having learned to ride in Copenhagen as a child, but Clements noted conditions on Australia’s streets are “very different” from what she would have been used to.
Among the eight recommendations were that lorries be banned from roads unless they are fitted with technology that would alert the driver to road users in the vehicle’s blind spots. She also recommended Brisbane build more bike lanes and seriously consider giving a head start to cyclists at traffic lights.
Brisbane Council has previously dismissed this due to a perceived negative impact on traffic flow, but Clements suggested smart technology could be used to only trigger the lights when a cyclist was in the bike box.
She says: “Anecdotal observation of buses using such head start technology throughout Brisbane city does not suggest that traffic grinds to a halt because of this initiative.”
Clements also said there should be a preference for recorded over handwritten eyewitness testimony by police, while recommending improvements be made to the bike path near Stanley Street and Annerley Road where Miss Meyer was killed, and that CCTV be installed at that junction.
Clements said there was insufficient evidence to show the sequence of events leading to Miss Meyers cycling in front of the truck.
She said: “It could not be determined whether, when the truck driver approached the intersection, Ms Meyer was already ahead of the truck in the same lane, or whether Ms Meyer passed the truck leading up to the intersection and positioned the bicycle in front of the truck before commencing the right hand turn”.
Around 600 cyclists use the busy Annerley Road daily, and it is a key route for students cycling to the University of Queensland where Meyer studied. In June the council announced a dedicated bike lane trial for the road, which will operate during peak hours twice a day.
Work has almost finished to prepare the roads for the trial, including an off-road approach to the junction where Meyer died, and a front of queue waiting area for right turning cycles from Annerley Road to Stanley Street, the turning she had been making when she was killed.