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Cyclists and Taxis

05 January 2013, 13:16

The accident in which Burry Stander was killed is extremely tragic.  I think what it makes it worse than a “normal” accident is that there is a huge amount of potential that will now never be fulfilled.  My heartfelt condolences to his wife and family.  I remember being in awe when watching the Olympic mountain bike race – Burry was 19th after the start and came through the field to lead at some stage with a very nice 5th place finish.  If he started better he likely would have had a medal - coming through the field probably took too much energy.

What bothers me about the accident is that everybody now wants to make an example of the taxi driver – before any facts of the incident has been confirmed.  It would appear though that Burry hit the side of the taxi (not sure it is the taxi’s fault), the driver did not leave the scene and was clearly distraught about what happened according to an eyewitness (Kevin Govender).  In seeking retribution people are willing to do more damage and destroy someone else’s life as well. Wait for the investigation and let justice prevail. Top call it murder is a bit premature don’t you think? It certainly does not seem clear to me that that the taxi driver was at fault.  Of course the investigation may show that he is guilty, but then at least one got there through a decent process and justice can run it’s course.

I attended an advanced driving course a year or so back – remember the instructor claiming all accidents can be foreseen.   This is clearly not true – hindsight is a perfect science.  Sometimes bad things happen.  Cyclists in particular are vulnerable – you are cycling with virtually zero protection amongst objects that are heavier and much faster than you (sometimes on very narrow roads) – in my book that equates to significant risk.  Elite cyclists spend a lot of time on the road so statistically they are at higher risk (reduced somewhat because their awareness and skill is obviously higher than that of amateurs).  But at the end of the day Burry is not the 1st elite cyclist that is killed in an accident and he will unfortunately not be the last – google “elite cyclist killed accident”.  There are obviously other very good, but not elite cyclists, that are killed in accidents as well that you never even hear about.

Regarding taxis:  I have a lady helping me in the house.  There are 2 options – I pick her up a few kilometers (10 minutes drive) from my home or a taxi drops her 500m from my home from where she walks.  Clearly it is beneficial to me to have her arrange her own transport – taxis are her only option.  If she had to get to my house on her own without taxis it would cost her (and therefore me) significantly more (time and/or money) – am I willing to invest more time and money to reduce the number of taxis on the road or am I happy that she can get to and from work on her own with an affordable means of transport?  For her to be dropped close to my house you need a flexible system – the taxis provide that.  The real problem is that the infrastructure for the taxi system is not sufficient (i.e. enough places where they can stop safely to maintain flexibility and therefore not having to stop in the road) – if that infrastructure was there the whole situation would be a lot better.

I do agree that taxis in general do not obey the rules of the road – do you obey the rules of the road?  I remember a discussion with a very smart chap (Ph. D. in scientific discipline) – he reckoned that people doing 160 km/h on the highway were dangerous, but 140 km/h (like he did) was safe.  Is this maybe a mindset that more of us have?

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