I have been putting off writing this post because I feel confronted by the subject matter. Car addiction has reduced Australians to voting for politicians who promise cheap petrol even if that means killing Iraqis. We continue to remove pedestrian crossings to help traffic flows, even if that means killing our very own children walking to school. Lesser crimes are committed for heroin.
Another crime is the “punishment pass”.
A month ago I wrote about the suspended sentence given to Timothy Wayne Yole after he killed Lewis Hendey. It happened near where I live, so affected me more than similar killings. Yole was driving. Hendey was cycling. (It is never the other way around). Fellow cyclists who know the stretch of road where it happened remain totally baffled as to how a driver could have hit a cyclist when visibility was clear, there were no other cars complicating his task, and he wasn’t drunk or using his phone.
Someone left a comment under my post that still turns over in my mind. He said he suspects Yole deliberately set out to pass Hendey very close and at speed, like a farmer shooting a bullet over somebodies head to warn them off of his farm. I had never heard the term “punishment pass” but I knew right away what it meant. I’ve had it done to me at least twice that I can be sure of. The driver deliberately misses you by mere inches, usually revving their engine. It is incredibly dangeous. There is a real chance the cyclist will look around to see the source of the revving and in so doing swerve a few inches onto a bonnet. There is an even greater chance the driver will miscalculate the width of their car. Understanding that punishment passes are a very real thing helps me appreciate why many regular road cyclists are such passionate advocates for laws around minimum passing distances.
It’s just as well I’m not a judge. I would have taken Yole’s address as a motive: you know, one of those dormitory suburbs where house prices would double if it wasn’t for those bloody cyclists adding 10 seconds to peoples’ commutes. Noting Yole’s string of related offences I also would have called for a polygraph test, even if evidence could not be accepted. But he has been found innocent of any great crime and let to go free, leaving all of us feeling as helpless as ever.
We’re not helpless at all. We can rally together and stop the punishment pass. Here’s how.
First, share this post, or rephrase the argument in your own way. Second, talk about punishment passes with people you ride with. Because these close swipes tend to be inflicted on cyclists riding in pairs, sooner or later a driver will do this to someone among us who has the means to pursue the matter in every court in the same way they would pursue a farmer who fired a rifle over their head. Not only that, but the rider on the curb side will be prepared to go to court as a witness.
Remember, if you set the precedent, you get to have it named after you!