Like most days, yesterday started with my girlfriend and I riding our bikes to work together. She doesn’t feel safe riding St Kilda RD in peak hour alone and after the near misses I’ve had over the years I like to be able to keep an eye on her too. So I escort her to her work and then continue on another 8kms or so to mine.
At 5:25pm I began my usual daily commute from Gardenvale to Richmond (near the MCG) and at about 5:45pm I arrived and waited at the red lights on St Kilda Rd at the Toorak RD intersection. Once the lights changed to green on St Kilda RD there was congestion from the right turning traffic from Toorak RD, as there always is, blocking the city bound traffic from passing.
So same as every other day I and the other 10 or so cyclists at the intersection began the precarious weave through the stationary traffic to bridge the gap to the bike lane on the other side of Kings Way.
Though yesterday I couldn’t get through as easily as usual because a grey Mercedes Coupe in the centre lane was very close to the left turning traffic and allowed almost no space for cyclists to pass through.
As the traffic was stationary I unclipped my right foot and squeezed through the small gap. The driver in the car on my right, the Mercedes – possibly concerned I might damage his car – yelled out to me. Once I was through the gap I moved back into the centre lane, stopped and looked back at the driver, who was still yelling, to hear what he was saying.
“What are you doing? You don’t own the road! Get out of the way” he yelled repeatedly. I shook my head and probably yelled something similarly inane back. Now even more agitated the driver continued to yell, “you don’t own the road”. I looked more closely and recognised him as Shane Warne, laughed and asked, “What are you doing?” and began to get ready to clip into my bike to continue the ride home.
But before I could the driver lurched his car forward forcing my bike wheel and almost my leg under the front of his car. Dumbfounded at how overtly aggressive the driver had been and aware that we were now holding up the traffic, I pulled my bike from under the car and attempted to continue riding. My wheel was jammed against the frame of my bike and the chain was tangled so I had to carry it to the footpath to fix it.
At this point a pedestrian witnesses were yelling, “Get his rego” and some even yelled out his registration. One woman approached me offering assistance and asked, “Are you OK? Are you going to follow it up? I have the rego ” as she held her phone. I thanked her told her it wouldn’t be necessary – partially because I was in shock but also because I hadn’t yet realised the extent of the damage to my bike and I knew who the driver was anyway.
My girlfriend who had witnessed the whole thing from the adjacent corner now came over to ask if I was OK and what happened. “Shane Warne just ran into me with his car” I replied.
We carried my bike to the nearest police station and I recounted the incident to the constable in hope that he could get in touch with Mr Warne and I could get the damage he caused to my bike repaired.
The constable took pictures of my damaged bike, gave me a card and informed me that he would follow it up and get in touch when he has something to report. He also noted that the driver legally should have exchanged details with me after being in an accident.
My girlfriend walked the 4kms home and jumped on twitter on the off-chance someone had mentioned it. It turned out Mr Warne had mentioned it. In fact he’d written a long anecdote as he saw the incident.
Reading through his account I was surprised that such a public and identifiable person would be so eager to publicise a pretty unpleasant an embarrassing incident.
I immediately called the constable I’d spoken with and told him that Mr Warne had tweeted about the incident and asked him to review it; noting that I disagreed with his version.
To quickly address Mr Warne’s statements:
• At no point did I ‘thump’ or ‘whack’ your car
• At no point did I hold on to your car or use it ‘pull myself through traffic’
• I wouldn’t describe your behaviour as ‘polite’ nor ‘careful’
• If you were aware that you had ‘clipped’ me then why didn’t you stop to exchange details or see if I had been hurt?
• I think the pictures show that my wheel is more damaged than a clipping (attached)
• I did not ‘ride away’. I had to carry my bike after you’d bent the wheel, lock it up and come back and get it in my car later
Thank-you to the witness that came forward and gave their account of the event. I encourage other witnesses to likewise.
I’d had no intention of making any of this public – I simply wanted deal with it privately and ask him to repair my bike. However Mr Warne, the public man that he is, seemed to want the whole thing in plain view. After reading his twitter account I discovered the comments he’d been making about cyclists in the previous days. I was surprised by how angry and frustrated he seemed to be.
I commute about 100km a week on my bike and have done so for a few years so I’ve come across my share of road rage, recklessness, inattentiveness and aggression by those inside and outside of the green lane.
So I can agree with Mr Warne on a few points:
• Cyclists should “obey the road rules and keep it safe for everyone”. As should motorist and pedestrians.
• I too would like the government to do something about the situation. I think they have made positive changes and continue to do so. There is of course a lot more that could be done.
• It is a serious issue and we should be able to get along. No one, not motorists, not pedestrians nor cyclists should feel unsafe or anxious getting to and from work.
Shane, please acknowledge that you made a mistake and pay for my bike. I’ll be donating yesterday’s pay to the Amy Gillett foundation to do my bit – it would be great if you did the same.