The Australian Capital Makes It Illegal to Throw Objects at Bicyclists

Apparently common decency isn’t enough of a motivator.

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fallen over bicycle

Photo by Dominick

In a textbook case of needing to pass laws for what should just be common sense and decency, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) recently made it illegal to throw objects at bicyclists. Apparently the ACT, along with many other regions in the country, is having a bit of an issue with this ridiculous and dangerous behavior.

“Throwing objects at cyclists is unfortunately a relatively common practice,” Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury told the Canberra Times. “Many regular cyclists will have a story of being hit or nearly hit by an object thrown from a car.”

Under the new law, anyone found guilty of tossing an item at a bicyclist, or placing an item in their path, will face up to two years in jail. The new law also applies to throwing objects at cars and trucks. The law was passed on the heels of other legislation to protect vulnerable road users, such as a minimum passing distance when overtaking bicyclists.

Cycling ACT president Lisa Keeeling told the Times her support of the new legislation is a “no brainer,” as she has on numerous occasions had objects ranging from eggs to milkshakes thrown at her as she was riding. Nathan Edwardson, president of the Canberra Cycling Club, was targeted by a motorist who hurled two half bricks at him and his crew while they were out on a ride.

Two half bricks.

If you’re out for a drive and you decide to throw a milkshake at a person riding a bike, you might be misguided enough to think it’s funny and ignorant enough to not realize you could cause that person serious injury. If you’re out for a drive and you decide to throw two half bricks at a person riding a bike, you’re at best dangerously unintelligent and at worst criminally violent, and I’m not sure two years in jail is even sufficient.

Just a few months ago, a man cycling in an off-street bike path in Vancouver, BC was killed when he was struck by an object that had been thrown by a man rooting through a nearby garbage can. The incident, both tragic and bizarre, highlighted how easily one can be killed or seriously injured being hit by projectiles riding a bike. And in that case the man who threw the object was standing, and did so inadvertently.

At the speed cars are capable of driving, with two bricks aimed intentionally at a group of cyclists, anyone should be capable of understanding that those bricks could very, very easily kill the cyclists. That’s not a failure to shoulder check, that’s not forgetting to use your turn signal, that’s a very decisive action fully intended to cause harm.

All because some people are riding some bicycles.

While we applaud the ACT’s efforts to protect vulnerable roaders with this new legislation, what does it say about us a society when these kinds of laws needs to exist? And I say ‘us’ as a non-Australian because in North America we’re often subject to, and part of, the same outrageous behavior. Most people would not kill another a person on purpose in most circumstances, but somehow we’ve let the division between road users become so emotional, so polarizing, that otherwise ethical citizens somehow find it acceptable to hurl objects at bicyclists in the full understanding that they could literally kill them by doing so. I struggle to think of an instance in which I would casually attempt murder because somebody decided to take the bus when I thought it seemed like a nice day for a bike ride.

It should go without saying that we should not be trying to kill, maim, or injure each other, not for our transportation choices nor for any other reason. But apparently it doesn’t, so here we are saying it again and being forced to pass more laws about it.

Don’t throw stuff at other road users, folks. Can we all grow up now?

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1 Comment

  • Tim

    My friend had some sort of plastic pipe thrown at his wheels. He fell, then he got an infection and has had trouble healing from that. It has now stopped him from riding.

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