Olympic rider: ‘Aggression I’ve seen nowhere else in the world’
Olympic champion Emma Snowsill lost her then-boyfriend Luke Harrop to a bike-car crash and fears she could have lost her husband on Saturday after he was nearly collected by a truck and then hunted down by the driver.
Snowsill, who won triathlon gold at the 2008 Olympics, describes the attitudes of some drivers as "barbaric", even out on quiet country roads around where she rides on the Sunshine Coast.
But Saturday's incident has so shaken her husband, fellow 2008 Olympics gold medal winner and two-time Ironman triathlon world champion Jan Frodeno, he has been forced to train on a stationary bike in their home garage.
Instead of doing the regular 120km training rides he does alone and on quiet roads to keep out of the way of motorists, Frodeno yesterday spent four hours in the garage pedalling in front of an electric fan.
"A big truck was coming out from my left and he ran over a stop sign basically as I was coming past. All I could see was these capital MACK letters coming at me. He wasn't going to stop.
"I let out of scream wondering if this guy had not seen me. He missed me by not much more than a centimetre or two. I was thinking I wasn't going to see my family again.
"The guy then had the time to stop and wind down his passenger window in order to talk to me and abuse me and basically saying he was aiming for me and that I was, I quote, 'a faggot' for riding around in Lycra and I wasn't worth the air I'm breathing.
"I'd never met this guy. Who does that? It was so weird. It's this level of aggression I've seen nowhere else in the world.
"This is my job. This is what I do to feed my family. I have two cars on which I pay tax and a scooter on which I pay tax. That someone dislikes the clothing I wear to do my job is the worst argument ever.
"You don't go to a workplace and throw a wrecking ball at a building because you don't like hi-vis clothing. It's ridiculous.
"I just haven't quite got over it. I've got a young kid and another one coming. Every time they aim for somebody it's essentially manslaughter. People die.
"There are bad cyclists who swerve and do all these sorts of things and run red lights. But there are never any arguments to say 'I'm happy to commit for manslaughter or murder, if it's intended, because somebody cut me off'."
Snowsill's former boyfriend and top level triathlete Luke Harrop was killed on a training ride in 2002 and she believes attitudes have only grown worse.
The cycle war has been in sharp focus since The Courier-Mail published an appeal by Bicycle Queensland boss Anne Savage for motorists to give "terrified" riders some room and respect.
In a blunt message to motorists on Monday, Ms Savage said it was time for drivers to start behaving after eight cyclists were among the 240 people killed on the roads last year.
"Drivers, I have a message for you. Ordinary Queensland bike riders - our mums and dads and kids - are terrified of you," Ms Savage said.
While she admitted "cyclists also have responsibility for their behaviour on the road", she said the attitudes of drivers made people too scared to ride.
Snowsill, a mum of one with another due in weeks, and her husband are now among those cyclists who weigh up whether to ride on the road, a fear that could hamper Australia's chances of finding champions in cycling as well as triathlon, as well as driving children from a form of healthy exercise.
"There is no way I would want my son (Lucca) riding on the road here, and that is so sad because it is part of a sport I love and provided me with so much," Snowsill said.
Snowsill said would-be drivers should be required to ride bikes on the road before being given their vehicle licences to learn to respect cyclists.
"If you want a drivers licence, you should have to ride on the road," Snowsill said.
"If I come off and go under your car, it's life or death."