[YarraBUG-list] In Carolyn's name
Yarra Bicycle Users Group
enquiries at yarrabug.org
Tue Oct 14 10:44:50 AEDT 2008
Timely article in todays Age:
In Carolyn's name
Jeremy Rawlins, husband of Carolyn Rawlins, the cyclist killed on
Swanston Street last month. Photo: Michael Clayton-Jones
The death of Carolyn Rawlins has rallied many cyclists to demand safer
road conditions. Heading that charge on Ride to Work Day tomorrow will
be her husband Jeremy.
HE READ about his wife's death online. The horrific story of a cyclist
hit by a bus and killed on Swanston Street.
When hearing the news that September morning, many Melburnians contacted
their friends and relatives who cycle to the city, to check that they
But for Jeremy Rawlins, there would be just devastation.
"I read the story in The Age, online, but it didn't even occur to me it
would be Carolyn; you never think it is going to be someone close," he says.
"I sent her a quick email, thinking she would get back to me. Then I got
a phone call from her work saying `Carolyn hasn't come to work yet'. I
basically just ran down the street at that point."
Carolyn Rawlins was 12 weeks' pregnant when she died. She had just
qualified to practise as a solicitor.
She was hit on her bicycle at the corner of Bourke and Swanston streets
about 8am as she was riding to her workplace in St Kilda Road.
In what appears to be an accident (though a final report on the incident
is still pending), one of the scores of tour buses that line Swanston
Street each morning hit her. She died instantly.
Tomorrow, when Australia's annual Ride to Work Day gets under way, many
thousands of Victorians will take part. Because of Carolyn Rawlins'
death, there will be a special poignancy for many.
Before his wife's accident, Rawlins usually rode into work. He returned
to work this week, but hasn't ridden yet. Tomorrow, he will take part in
He and some friends - and all riders taking part in Ride to Work Day are
welcome to join them - will meet at 8am at the State Library and ride
down Swanston Street to the corner of Bourke Street, to lay flowers.
They will then continue on to the Town Hall and Federation Square.
Jeremy Rawlins is determined that his wife's death not be in vain, and
that the city be made safer for cyclists. He and a group of friends -
all architects or planners - wrote a letter this week to Melbourne City
Council demanding it make Swanston Street safe for cyclists.
"Carolyn rode every day. She mentioned several times to me over the
course of the last eight months that it was dangerous," says her
husband. "She always intended to write ... she mentioned it to her mum
less than a week before the accident."
Jeremy is meeting Lord Mayoral candidate Catherine Ng tonight to discuss
what the council can do to improve conditions for the growing number of
cyclists riding into the city centre, and down Swanston Street in
"Carolyn Rawlins' death was a tragedy," Ng said yesterday. "We need to
make it safer, by getting delivery vehicles out at peak times, by moving
on the buses, and by making the tram tracks better so that cyclists
don't get caught in them."
For many cycling activists and policy makers, though, the time for such
small changes has passed. More has to be done now to make the streets
safer for the growing number that ride the city streets.
"In many ways, the growth (of cycling in Melbourne) is happening back to
front," says Cycling Promotion Fund spokesman Eliot Fishman. "We do the
marketing and then the infrastructure is a lot slower coming behind."
Other less diplomatic transport experts say this practice has another
RMIT senior transport lecturer Dr Paul Mees supports encouraging cycling
by making it safer for cyclists. But he doesn't believe this is what
Victorian local and state governments do.
"Governments and city councils that want to distract attention that
their main agenda, which is facilitating car use, will often say nice
things about cycling, and they run Ride to Work days. They will put on
breakfasts and barbecues for people that do the right thing, because
it's a lot easier than actually substantially changing transport policies."
Ride to Work Day, which attracts 30,000 cyclists nationally, is about
attempting to get more people riding more often.
But it is hard not to speculate that there is an element of greenwash in
the event, given its sponsorship by, among others, VicRoads and the RACV.
Its organiser, Bicycle Victoria, gets some of its money from Melbourne
City Council, VicRoads and the State Government - which it rarely
criticises, even in extreme circumstances such as earlier this year when
bikes were banned - albeit briefly - from trains during peak hour.
Melinda Jacobsen, who finished as general manager of the Amy Gillett
Foundation last week, says much more needs to be done - and constantly -
to educate road users on cycling.
And more needs to be spent on improving infrastructure, to make cyclists
safer, and the make them feel safer. "One of the major barriers to more
people riding is their fear on the roads," Jacobsen says.
The growth in cycling in recent years had happened at a much faster rate
than governments had anticipated, she says. "In the past couple of
years, I've seen some major changes in on-road infrastructure, but we
need to (keep rolling that out). If it is in place, people are prepared
The things that will make more people cycle, says Mees, are simple:
restraint on the construction of new freeways, integrating cycling with
public transport, and lower speed limits for cars.
"And you also need proper segregation of cycling lanes - and lanes that
don't start, go for one kilometre and then disappear," he says, in
reference to Melbourne City Council's "Copenhagen-style" bike lanes at
the northern end of Swanston Street.
The bike lanes funnel riders into the city's main arterial street, and
then leave them without a bike lane - and to contend with buses,
delivery vans, tour buses and thousands of trams a day.
For Jeremy Rawlins, the existence of those Copenhagen lanes may have led
to his tragedy: his wife used them every day.
The Greens' candidate for Lord Mayor, Adam Bandt, has already proposed
making permanent bike lanes on Swanston Street, and a range of other
measures to make cycling within the city centre safer.
"The number of bike trips to the city has tripled in the last five
years, and it is only going to increase," Bandt says. "Sustainable
transport is about more than just lip service; the way to avoid tragedy
is to separate bike traffic from other traffic. You shouldn't have to be
a road warrior to get to work on your bike."
Other candidates for Lord Mayor have not yet said what they would do,
but Jeremy Rawlins hopes all will have safer bike lanes on Swanston
Street "at the front of their minds as a concrete policy".
Michael Frazzetto, an architect who cycles down Swanston Street every
day to get to work, was a friend of Carolyn Rawlins for 14 years (in a
sad irony, Rawlins was a former town planning student).
Frazzetto is a signatory to a letter sent to the council yesterday by
architects, planners and urban designers, in a bid to get them to make
the street safer for cyclists. "The council has a duty to provide safer
conditions," he says.
The group wants buses, vans and taxis removed from Swanston Street, and
dedicated bike lanes put in. They also want a central tram median strip
that discourages bicycle encroachment.
"In Swanston Street, they have constructed Copenhagen lanes that funnel
you into the main (part of Swanston Street) and then you have to run the
gauntlet until you get to St Kilda Road. It is such an ad-hoc approach."
The council, for its part, has agreed to get tour buses out of Swanston
Street by November 24. Eventually, after an interim location at
Federation Square or outside the Old Melbourne Gaol, they will be
relocated in mid-2009 to near the corner of Bourke and Exhibition streets.
Commuting to work on a bike has surged in recent years in Melbourne's
city centre, but it has remained stagnant or even dropped in outer
suburbs. The 2006 census shows that the number of cyclists entering
Melbourne's CBD each morning had increased from 4137 in 2001 up to 7169.
In many outer-suburban councils, however, trips to work by bicycle
Jeremy Rawlins says he will lay a flower for his wife tomorrow as a way
of encouraging the council to do the right thing, and to send a message
to the State Government as well: that rhetoric is no longer enough when
it comes to looking after cyclists.
"We need to do this in Carolyn's honour, to ensure there are no other
Growth in cycle journeys to work
* Melbourne city centre:
2001: 4163; 2007: 7225
* Inner Melbourne, excluding Melbourne city centre:
2001: 3981; 2007: 5981
* Non-Metropolitan Melbourne:
2001: 6098; 2007: 6250
Trips by bicycle into Melbourne's CBD grid:
* In 2007, cyclists accounted for 8% of all trips into Melbourne's CBD,
up from 4% in 2006.
* On-road cycling increased by 10% in 2007, and off-road by 20%.
* Cyclists make up 22% of traffic on St Kilda Road.
SOURCES: Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006 Census; Melbourne City
Council 2007 Bicycle Account
Clay Lucas is transport reporter.
Yarra Bicycle Users Group Inc.
PO Box 253
Clifton Hill VIC 3068
Abbotsford, Alphington, Burnley, Carlton North,
Clifton Hill, Cremorne, Collingwood, Fairfield,
Fitzroy, Fitzroy North, Princes Hill, Richmond
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