Subiaco Underpass

Subiaco Post

Vol 37, No 5, January 30, 2010

Bike smash tests Sam’s dream

A 16-year-old boy has spent the past two months in hospital with his back broken in five places after crashing into an- other cyclist in Subiaco’s Haydn Bunton Drive underpass. And his mother and other cyclists have warned of what they say are serious design faults with cycle paths through Subiaco. The promising career of Sam Berry, an elite cyclist with the WA Institute of Sports’ National Talent Squad, is in doubt after the crash on December 9.
Cyclists bolt through the tunnel, part of a main bicycle route between the western suburbs and the city, sometimes at speeds of more than 40kmh. Sharp turns leading into the tunnel at both ends inhibit visibility. The underpass runs along the railway line where it passes under the road next to Subiaco Oval.
Sam, of Wembley Downs, was lagging behind a group of friends when he collided with a cyclist coming in the opposite direction. He was thrown about 10 metres; and was knocked out, his helmet smashed to pieces. His dream of attending the Junior World Titles in Italy later this year is over. “It has been horrible,” Sam said. “I can’t describe the pain.
“I remember bits of it, I re- member everything before the collision and then I just re- member the pain.” His back was broken in five places, from vertebrae T5-T9. His left hand was also smashed. Doctors kept him immobile on his back for 23 days, fearing he might be paralysed.
The Churchlands High School student was supposed to begin Year 12 next week. His mother, Deborah, said she did not consider her son was lucky to be walking again. “Luck has nothing to do with it,” she said. “This was an accident that did not have to happen if the tunnel had been designed so you could see what was coming in front of you. “The design forces you to go on to the wrong side of the path. The lane comes to a complete stop instead of merging. “We are yet to know the full extent of his injuries.” Sam’s bike, valued at more than $6000, was also destroyed, Mrs Berry said.
Main Roads WA spokesman Dean Roberts said the department did not have concerns about the design of the path and tunnel. “Problems arise when cyclists, in particular, are not as attentive as they should be or are riding at high speed,” he said. “This is an issue Main Roads and local government face all over the principle shared path (PSP) network. “Riders, as with motorists, have an obligation to act responsibly and safely.
“There is a convergence of paths on the western side of the tunnel but there is also clear visibility.
“Again, it is up to cyclists and pedestrians to act responsibly and share the path.
“Tomorrow our traffic and safety guys will visit the site with an officer from Subiaco council to look at the location and see if there is anything we can do to improve safety for cyclists.
“We might be able to put up some safety signs.”

Our Response to the Subiaco Post:

The section of path where the accident happened has poor sight lines as well as a change in elevation and should only be used at slow speed. Commuters who use this underpass regularly report near misses with pedestrians even at 20 km/h (slow for a cyclist).

The collision featured in the Post article would appear to be mainly due to a cyclist travelling at inappropriate speeds – the article implies that Sam was an elite cyclist and was lagging behind (and trying to catch up???) to a group of friends. Sam’s extensive injuries and damage to helmet and equipment suggest substantial impact forces. What happened to the other cyclist? One of the two would have been travelling on the wrong side of the path …

Perth does not have ‘cycle paths’ but a network of ‘principal shared paths’, which cater for pedestrians, gopher carts and a wide range of cyclists. For a cyclist to travel at the 40 km/h quoted in the article on a PSP, particularly where sight lines are short and there is extensive cross traffic, is dangerous. At these speeds it is more appropriate to use the roads.

There are undoubtedly issues with parts of Perth’s extensive cycling network, there are known “black spots” and this is just one of them. And there seems to be no money to fix them? WA has a road safety strategy called “towards zero” aiming to reduce crashes that result in serious injury or death. The strategy is based on the recognition that there are limits to the physical forces a human body can cope with and that we all make mistakes. A similar policy and funding is needed for Principal Shared Paths.

It is tragic when a person making a mistake falls victim to a road or path design that does not allow for human error.

Heinrich Benz

Bicycle Transportation Alliance

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