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.