Weapon of Mass Construction.

30 April 2005 at 16:45 (General)

On November 30th, 2003 Eugene McGee was driving on the Kapunda to Gawler road when he hit cyclist Ian Humphrey in his Pajero 4WD. He immediately fled the scene of the accident leaving Ian to die.

McGee’s blood alcohol was never tested and two witnesses who saw him driving erratically (at ~160kmh-1) were told by the court that they weren’t needed to give evidence. In the trial McGee’s Psychiatrist explained that he was unable to stop because he “disassociated” himself as a result of the trauma caused by accident. There was no expert witness provided by the defence to rebut this. On Thursday (28/4) the Adelaide district court handed the high profile criminal lawyer a $3100 fine and 12 months suspended drivers licence.

Like many people, I was deeply angered at this outcome. I hope the inquiry into the trial proceedings goes ahead. I find it outrageous that they are only going to make Eugene McGee forfeit a few weeks wages and catch taxis for a year [edit: probably a lot less than a few weeks wages for a criminal lawyer].

This anger throughout the community inspired some of the cycling-activists to take to the streets on friday night. Critical Mass is world wide event run on the last friday of each month, but for at least six months it’s Adelaide contingency has critically been lacking mass.

Critical mass is a protest against cars. It means different things to different people but the centre of it’s ideology it is about reclaiming public space. Cars don’t own the streets, they just dominate them, congesting, polluting and making them dangerous for other road users. Some car drivers are elitist, they think that they can treat cyclist however they want because they are invincible wrapped in over a tonne of steel. Some cyclists in San Francisco were tired of the lack of respect so in a protest against the overuse of the private motor car they reclaimed the streets, taking up a lane and riding slowly on the last friday of each month with their friends. In response to the angry motorists they voiced their opinions about smelly, inefficient, environment killing, greedy, war supporting cars.

So, last night I rocked up in the southwest corner of the intersection in Hindmarch Square. I waited. I waited. I really hoped it would happen tonight, not only was I angry about the recent chain of events but I’ve moved back home so riding into town just to get stood up costs me about forty more minutes and I perceive the ride home is a lot more dangerous.

Things weren’t looking good, but then I saw a group of four cyclists waiting on the lawn behind me. I went over and we waited around for a while, a few more people came. There was talk that about six police on bikes had pre-emptively been waiting for us in Victoria square but unfortunately we were unable to join them. Just as we were preparing to leave another group of cyclist came by, they’d departed from Victoria square minutes before.

A group of a dozen or so cyclist rode down Pulteney street and then Rundle street. When we reached east terrace someone up the front of the pack decided to do a u-turn at the lights. I don’t know of the legalities, it isn’t something I would do but it was safe enough, it was between the light cycles when no traffic was going through the intersection. The cop car behind us also did a quick u-turn and the testosterone filled policeman jumped out and informed us that we couldn’t act like that. It looked really nasty, this cop looked really angry but nothing eventuated and we continued on our way.

As we rode there was a fair bit of bell ringing and one group member in particular yelled various slogans at the public. -“Bikes not cars! Bike logic! Bikes for life, Cars Kill! Your car smells so bad, bikes smell so good! Bikes mean ecologically sustainable transport! You fumes are killing me, I’m in need of some oxygen, turn your car off!”- Some people looked guilty, others moved to rebuke these allegations, a lot of people cheered us.

We circled back on ourselves, down to Hindmarsh again where we turned west onto Grenfell St. We rode down to light square, on the way being educated by one motorist that it was illegal to ride two abreast on the road and that cars have right of way. We went south down Morphett Street till about 100m before Gouger street when we ducked down a back street that runs near the back of MARS. It was nice to get away from the noise pollution for a little bit. Turning east onto Gouger street we waited for the traffic to clear but we would have been there all night. We started weaving through the traffic, riding at about 10kmh-1 which was about 10kmh-1 faster than anyone else on that road. After passing the central market car park we were finally able to accelerate to our preferred speed of about 15kmh-1 and ironically we pissed many motorist off who we’d just overtaken because they couldn’t pass us. We told them to beep if they supported unsustainable transport.

We turned into victoria square, riding past the District courts. Our town crier cyclist yelled loudly that “this is where Eugene McGee was fined $3100 for killing cyclist Ian Humphrey while driving drunk in his SUV.” We continued through the square as commodores and a BMW Z3 beeped and screamed abuse. A young lady also offered her opinion screaming, “Go you hippie cyclists!”

We continued north down King William Street. A few departed and we noticed our numbers had dwindled to six as we embarked on our journey west down Hindley Street. On the footpath a male pedestrian, about 17 years old told us that bikes suck. Another member told him that we were striving for sustainable transport. He told us we were blocking traffic. I told him, “we are traffic!” to which he relied “no you’re not!”

He continued to baffle us with such logic telling us that cars cause less pollution, that they are faster and cheaper than bikes. By the time we lost him the most vocal member of our group admitted that he was only returning comments to egg him on.

At this point we were entering light square again and the group decided it was time to depart. It has been a successful night. I went to the apple store and played with tiger for at least half an hour and then rode home, getting home just after 20:30.

Critical Mass should meet again on the 27th of May at 17:45 near the fountain in Victoria Square or at a city centre near you! Bring your lights and a bell. From experience, I’d recommend something warmer than Lycra.

More importantly though it the protest on next saturday.
Wheels of Justice – the Alliance of SA cyclists

….Just letting you all know that a group of fellow cyclists had a meeting on Thursday night and formed a group to be know as “Wheels of Justice – the Alliance of SA cyclists”. Present were members from most cycling groups in SA and Mr Graham Humphries, brother of Ian Humphries and representatives of the media. It was overwhelming decided to hold a “protest” rally for cyclists rights on Saturday May 7th at 9.30am leaving from Victoria Square to the steps of Parliament House. We need all the cyclists/bike riders we can get to this rally, to show our strength of numbers to the government and to let the courts know the events of the recent weeks have not gone unnoticed.

What exactally are we protesting? I point to Peter’s comment on this forum:

It may well be something to do with the level of action (inaction?) taken by SA Police in their investigation of traffic infringements against cyclists re. the failure to pursue evidence in the recent McGee case.

Nothing new in this – report an offence in most states, even with witnesses, and if you’re on a bike it gets filed in the circular file. Just that this case is so blatant that it demands a response. Most cyclists are sick of the ‘blind side’ of our police.

I agree. I collided with a car when a motorist cut me off late last year. She walked me across to the hospital and then ran off. The cops got her licence number and my blood test and then sat on their hands. Every few weeks I went to them to ask what was being done and I was told they were “following it up”. Six months later they gave me the details of the case and told me there was nothing more they were going to do. It’s total bullshit.



  1. Nimeton said,

    “I went to the apple store and played with tiger for at least half an hour” I was slightly baffled by apple for 30 seconds because I was thinking fruit but then I finally got it. Tiger however is still confusing me… I’m thinking obscure pet shop but that can’t be right.

    As for the case of the most probably drunk arsehole hitting the cyclist and getting a slap on the wrist. I wouldn’t blame the courts and I would be reluctant to blame the cops. My one term of very amateur legal studies points me in the direction of the oh so innocent and outraged Mike Rann. It is most probably his inaction in passing any decent legislation through parliament that has resulted in a flawed justice system where the judge can probably do very little and an under funded police system that can in fact do pretty much nothing. As was the case in your case. I mean it would require some more research on my part to find out where exactly the blame lies but people should be focusing their anger in the right direction before they protest.

    So basically I’m saying look at the people who control the justice system and not the justice system its self. So yeah marching/riding in the direction of parliament is probably a good move.

    I’m glad the whole critical mass thing went well. Sounds like fun.

    Oh and also….

    In my completely un-bias opinion… I do not support the co-existence of bikes and cars, pedestrians or elephants on the one strip of road in many cases. It is purely unsafe and like it or not cars dominate at the moment. In many cases I think the cyclist (and the person) is a stupid idiot for being on certain pieces of road in the first place. This does not mean I am in favour of cars and not bikes. I’m just looking at the practicality of the situation. So yeah what is the solution? Decent bike infrastructure basically. Protest to your local council (or the Adelaide City Council) to implement bike paths on all streets and to the state government to increase education campaigns about the benefits of public transport or indeed bikes. Everyone should be allowed equal freedom of movement and at the moment cars and pedestrians generally do… Bikes should have their own infrastructure also.

  2. toto said,

    Tiger is the name of the latest update of OSX

    OSX 10.1 was called puma
    OSX 10.2 was called jaguar
    OSX 10.3 was called panther
    OSX 10.4 is tiger

    kind of like how microsloth come up with names like XP and then SP2 and SP3 (aka longhorn)

    onto cycling/legal issues: yes, there was probably very little the judge could do once the jury delivered their verdict. I believe that McGee landed the maximum penalty. However in the words of independent MP Nick Xenophon, “What has happened has made a mockery of our justice system.'”

    There is a feeling that the courts are looking after lawyers, I’m unsure how accurate this is, that why they should have an inquiry.

    Similarly, as the second blockquoted passage hints, there is a perception that the police and society treat cyclists with a bit of a blind eye. As cfsmtb says: “This incident in South Australia only serves to reinforce negative connotations that cyclists are solely to blame in ANY altercation, that the act of cycling on the roads is somehow both an excuse and incitement to injury or murder another human being.”

    I think this has helped to motivate the protest. These conceptions need to be dealt with.

    Oh, and in my completely un-bias opinion… :)
    you say you think cyclists and people are being idiots by being on certain pieces of road? Isn’t the road public space? We have the right to ride on the roads, in fact, the law often forces us to ride on the roads.

    the council and your ideas of bike infrastructure don’t really work in practice. Sometimes they get us to ride along our own portion of the foot path which is broken by side roads and dangerous due to cars entering and leaving property. Bike lanes are okay, but they don’t work near intersections or roundabouts (where they usually just mysteriously disapear) and all too often they are put right next to parallel parking. While this is better than nothing you end up riding through the airspace of opening car doors. My dad hit one of these car doors about a decade ago, damaging his bike and breaking his left arm.

    Then there are the shared paths such as the linear park. Much better than riding on the road, but here we are the weapon. It is a park meaning you have kids riding along the path and running across the path (visibility is often poor and there are many trees and blind corners for kids and dog to appear from). You get packs of people walking five abreast and all of a sudden I understand the frustration of the motorist trying to commute when a critical mass is blocking my way (except decelerating and accelerating actually costs me energy that I can appreciate). Once on my way home, I was stopped on a bridge blocked by six mums with prams who were standing there having a chat. And between the city and Klemzig dog owners don’t have to have their dogs on leashes so you get stupid mutts running wherever they want and equally stupid owners who don’t understand the concept of keeping left.

    acchhhmmmm, *cough cough* (clears throat)

    “While this may obstruct the regular users of these spaces such as car drivers and public bus riders, the philosophy of Reclaim the Streets is that it is vehicle traffic, not pedestrians who are causing the obstruction, and that by occupying the road they are in fact opening up public space.”

    I guess this is the same argument that critical mass runs under. Cars block our way 29 days of the month, on the 30th we reclaim some of this public space for ourselves. Our form of transport is much more logical than a single driver circling the city trying to find somewhere to park their SUV. During a normal day of cycling you have to put up with cars infringing your rights. A single cyclist has very little power, screaming at a car probably produces 1/10th of the noise of a horn. Your lack of muscle power and size against a car makes fighting for your rights dangerous and requires a lot of bravery. Plus some cars seem to think that they are a higher priority than a person on a bike and that they have more right to use the road.

    You suggest we should go to the councils and push for greater bicycle space? That would be fine, and there are large organisations such as bicycle SA who are already doing this. But there is only slow and limited success. Another lobby group isn’t going to speed up the process, it will probably just bog the system more so. But we don’t only want greater cycling space, perhaps even more importantly, we want more cyclists! There are plenty of excuses that people drive cars and then there are people who just don’t know any better.

    As we protest we promote safer, better smelling, more considerate, ecologically sustainable transport. We encourage people on the sidewalks to join us and motorists to consider cycling. It bothers the motorists because we are in their way but it is their choice to be bothered by us. If they were smart and logical about their transport the vast majority of them wouldn’t be driving in the city. We try not to block the path of busses and we don’t get in the way of cyclists (they are more versatile than to let a bunch of cyclists slow them down). If reclaiming the streets cramps a cars style, maybe the driver should jump on a bike.

  3. cfsmtb said,

    Excellent article, you’ve articulated well on several aspects of this irrational bullshit that cyclists (if not all road users) have to contend with on a daily basis. Great to see Adel CM kicking off again, several cyclists on last nights Melb CM had printed up “Wheels of Justice” signs. I’m attempting to get a Melbourne Wheels of Justice ride up & going for next Saturday. cheers, c:)

  4. toto said,

    nice. I want to come and experience your CM some time. Yeah, I read a forum somewhere about people asking whether nation wide protests were a good idea. They’ve just changed the laws in Victoria for ‘hit and runs’ to attract 2-10 years prison right? Hopefully lots of people will turn up next Saturday and we can get some changes made.

  5. nimeton said,

    Just thought of something sort of related and kind of funny… What if there was a mass movement by people who wanted to ride their horse to work. Would the same arguement apply? Its interesting to note that on a few occasions i’ve actually seen signs saying no horses on this bit of road. i’ll have to look out for them as i cant remember location.

    but its an interesting factor in the who has a right to use a public road debate.

    I don’t think you are reclaiming the streets as they were never yours in the first place. Australian cities were designed around the idea of cars amd long distance travel and using cars to get places. this is how they are designed. its probably one of the fundamental issues that need to be addressed and changed in the future.

    still you are considering the practicallity of public attitude and working on changing that i suppose. a good step all considered…

    oh, i also wasnt saying critical mass in particular should go and lobby councils. i was just saying in general terms someone should be putting a lot of effort into this. bike paths are a fantastic and absolutley needed thing in my opinion. as you say some bike paths are crap….. indeed councils should be forced to make bike paths that actually work rather than just making a token effort.

    but hrmmm changing the building blocks of western society could be an interesting thing if anyone actually managed to succeed.

  6. toto said,

    I disagree, we are reclaiming the streets. Even if the streets were designed for use with cars they aren’t for the sole use of cars (unlike the footpaths which are for the sole use of feet). The roads are to be shared, transport SA runs their share the road campaign.

    Cars have power over a single bike and we are shoved off the roads literally or in fear for our own safety. We are participating in “sharing the road” by taking the initiative to take our piece of the pie rather than just ending up with what’s left over. Even in a car you have to take the initiative when it comes to taking what is yours; if you wait too long at an intersection people who should be giving way to you will ignore the rule. This (re)claiming of space isn’t something that just exists on the last Friday of the month, it is something that I experience whenever a motorist gives way to me.

    We are claiming what is ours (road use) and it is a reclaim because imho we don’t always receive the freedoms our rights grant us, even within reason.

  7. Mr Plow. said,

    Hello fellow cyclists.

    Regarding the “rally” this coming Saturday, I just wanted to inform you all that it has been decided to make the rally a “Silent” protest, as it is felt this will add a more significant impact in terms of imagery etc. Also as a mark of respect to those cyclist that have been killed on our roads.

    Keep the passion.



  8. Critical Mass Adelaide (no such thing as an 'official' website) website said,

    Thanks for your comments on the ride. I’ve posted them on our website, hope you don’t mind.

  9. toto said,

    No problemo, thanks for the link :)

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