Victoria Police, institutionalized ineptitude, and a silver lining

Victoria Police, institutionalized ineptitude, and a silver lining

So a couple of days ago, Victoria police made it publicly known that they accept and even expect a substandard level of competence for those who drive motor vehicles, themselves included, and that they don’t really understand the difference between being allowed to do something and being forced to do something. Oh, and that, whatever the problem is, the answer is always more cars.

There are examples everywhere, but this is a pretty bare example of institutionalized ineptitude. This is an official, respected, government body responsible for the care and protection of our communities, openly and officially taking the stance that cyclists are on their own when it comes to their safety, even by current legal standards, and that motorists have better things to worry about than driving with even the most basic skills required of a learner, or even a human with two eyeballs and a brain.  More to the point, they don’t understand how it could be otherwise.

Here’s a report (and another if it’s behind the paywall), and here are the salient points from the article:

Victoria Police members gave evidence at a public hearing, saying they opposed the laws out of safety concerns.

Oh, the irony. By safety concerns, what they really mean is that drivers shouldn’t have to be forced to wait for a safe opportunity to pass if what they are passing are cyclists. The only actual safety concern here is the unsafe pass, as instigated by the driver, and entirely down to the actions of the driver doing the passing.

Police fear that a proposed law that would require motorists to give bicycle riders at least a one-metre buffer when overtaking would increase the risk of death and serious injury on the road, while being virtually impossible to enforce.

OK, so there are two issues here: the apparent passing problem, and the enforcement. The first issue even a single cell organism could figure out the solution for, which we’ve already covered, and the second point is actually valid. That is it valid, however, doesn’t matter. This is throwing the baby out with the bath water, and because the bath water isn’t as warm as we would have liked. The laws are somewhat difficult to enforce, but not impossible. Besides, the idea that the law would be too hard to enforce because it relies on subjective judgements sounds an awful lot like they’re suggesting that there are no other laws that rely on an officers personal judgement, which we all know is a huge load of crap.

Victoria police thinks that there is no evidence to suggest that a safe passing distance leads to safer passing. I’ll just leave you to ponder that one.

One of their reasons that particularly bothers me is this:

The TAC’s senior manager of road safety, Samantha Cockfield​, also argued that compelling motorists to give cyclists a one-metre buffer when overtaking would increase tension on the road.

Tension for drivers, that is. Tension for cyclists isn’t a concern for them.

Recent market research by the TAC identified real tension on the road, Ms Cockfield said, with cyclists concerned about being hit at intersections or targeted by an angry driver, and motorists concerned by cyclists who run red lights and ride unsafely.

Firstly, the research merely confirms what everyone already knows. Secondly, motorists are concerned with cyclists running red lights and riding unsafely? C’mon. That is the biggest load of crap I’ve ever heard. Only a small proportion of cyclists run red lights, and a tiny proportion of those do so without due care. And “ride unsafely” sounds to me like an impossibly generic description of a problem that stands a very good chance of having been a very leading question on the multiple choice survey that generated these results (just a guess). What we have here, in this tension, is one party being tense about being hospitalized and potentially killed, while the other party is all bent out of shape over merely witnessing something that almost never materially affects them, and even when it does, is extremely temporary. The struggle is real.

The solution, according to Victoria Police? It’s textbook, really. Screw safety – convenience and the careful fluffing of motorists is the primary concern.

Victoria Police – The case is deeply flawed

This case happens to merely be a smaller version of Australia’s legal relationship with cycling vs. the rest of the worlds. Whereas the rest of the entire planet doesn’t believe bicycle helmets are important enough to make mandatory, Australia sees things differently. Somehow we are special. The mountain of proof simply doesn’t apply here. Here, we are led to believe that helmets are the magic solution to safer cycling, rather than safer conditions in which to cycle. Likewise, while most of Australia has already reasoned that motorists should pass cyclists with enough space so as to be sure that they don’t accidentally hit them, Victoria thinks they know better, and sees things differently. In both cases, it’s really just a case of the last one to the table not really being all that interested in what’s being served. Vegetables? F#@k that, where’s my Maccas?

So Victoria has things as backwards as Australia in general does about mandatory helmet laws, and to perfectly illustrate this, Acting Senior Sergeant Ryan Burns has this to say:

Acting Senior Sergeant Ryan Burns said at the hearing that the law would require motorists to cross white lines, potentially putting them in the path of an oncoming vehicle. It would be particularly dangerous on roads shared with trams, and on narrow rural roads with 100km/h speed limits, Mr Burns said.

Acting Senior Sergeant Ryan Burns needs to learn the difference between passing when safe and passing when not safe. Acting Senior Sergeant Ryan Burns needs to learn the difference between doing something voluntarily and being forced to do that thing. Sounds like he’s not got the required knowledge to pass a basic driving test, or perhaps any number of basic life choices.

We are talking about passing a law requiring motorists to pass cyclists safely. It doesn’t matter what the context is – trams, narrow roads, curvy roads, really fast roads. If it’s not safe, you don’t pass. How is nobody bothering to mention the fact that at no point is anybody forcing anybody to pass anyone? How are these people getting drivers licenses?

Robyn Seymour, VicRoads’ director of Vehicle and Road Use Policy, said while that had long been the recommendation, there was not yet enough evidence to change the law.

So then why recommend it? What is the recommendation based on? Nothing? Were they just messing around, having a bit of fun, or was there maybe some sort of reason why they thought passing with inches to spare was perhaps not a good idea?

Silver lining – we can totally kick them in the nuts with their own argument

This could very well be the perfect opportunity to mention the solution to this problem: better, segregated infrastructure. We need to use this outrage over passing safely to suggest that no one has to pass anyone if the bikes are completely out of motorists way (except for where bikes have priority at junctions – yeah right!).

Are you angry that you aren’t the centre of everyone’s universe? Do you hate it when other people don’t know that your every whim is the most important thing at all times? Would you like that special class of buzz-killers out of your way? Do you find it fair that cyclists literally force your car into blind, oncoming corners and into the icy grip of a slow and painful death? Good news! We can solve all of these problems and more! With just a few easy payments of a road-diet here, a re-design there, plenty of segregated bike lanes, and slightly slower speed limits designed into the physical landscape, you’ll never have to worry about cyclists forcing you to nearly kill yourself and others with you ever again!


Header image: source