This morning on my ride to work I was subjected to a very dangerous close pass in a door zone by a garbage truck carrying the logo and contact details of Sydney Waste Services. The incident happened on Harris Street, Pyrmont, between Miller Street and John Street, heading North.
This is a mixed commercial/residential zone with a long strip of short term parking on the left, already a potential danger zone in and of itself.
I’d just turned left out of Miller Street on the green arrow and was heading along Harris at perhaps 30km/h when the garbage truck I’d passed at the Miller Street lights thundered past me at close range. The truck was maybe 15cm from the end of my handlebar as it appeared, and it felt like I was squeezed towards the parked cars as it passed along.
I yelled out, naturally, “Too close!”. The left-side window was open and a dismissive hand emerged, accompanied by what sounded like a “fuck off”.
(post updated 27-3-14, see footer for detail)
So I had a crack at memorising the number plate – NSW Plate BF 36 JL -and continued onwards, noting that the truck was taking the route I was going to do anyway – round Pyrmont Point, past the park and up towards Channel 7 and The Star.
I’m fairly fast through this section, and I was on the tail of the truck before reaching Doltone House. It indicated left for the roundabout, so I figured that rather than memorising the rego number and possibly getting it wrong, I’d best get a picture.
So when the truck stopped to reverse into a building on, I believe, Fyfe Street, I pulled out my camera and took a shot.
Of course I was greeted with a tirade of abuse.
The driver of the truck, a bearded individual whose face is clearly visible in the picture, advanced the idea that I deserved what I got, and that he wouldn’t have done it “if you hadn’t run that red light”.
Rather nonplussed I asked “what red light?” I haven’t run a red light since getting stuck with a road sensor that refused to change a light crossing Parramatta Road in Croydon last winter. In the rain, at 11pm. I remember it pretty clearly*.
I rewound my mental tape a little. The only red light this guy could possibly be referring to was the Miller/Harris turn arrow. But that had been green. And I told him so.
“Your light was red” he insisted.
It seems he was referring to the bike lantern, which controls bike traffic heading straight on, through the pedestrianised section at the top of Union Street.
But I wasn’t going straight on. I was turning left onto Harris, and besides, when the green bike lantern is displayed for bikes going straight ahead, left turning traffic has a very clear red arrow. To turn left then, when the red arrow was displayed, would certainly have been jumping the red arrow.
I’ll repeat: Traffic turning left, bikes included, is controlled by a red signal while the bike lantern is green. There is no turning left at this point. None. Bikes should turn left on the green arrow, like all other left-turning traffic.
This is pretty basic stuff.
I explained this, or attempted to, but friend beardy was having none of it. Like most people who are factually wrong but whose line of argument relies on them being right, he was digging his heels in. But that wasn’t what was worrying me most. What was worrying me most was the implication that he wouldn’t have done it if I’d not annoyed him by running a red light.
This driver had just told me that he’d buzzed me because I’d broken the law, in some kind of twisted, half-witted attempt at vigilante justice.
So I said “Let’s imagine for a minute that you’re right, which you’re not. But let’s imagine. Does that give you the right to then endanger my safety?”
He didn’t seem overly keen on this line of questioning.
“Are you a poiliceman?” I asked him. “Do you think you have a right to hand out justice on the spot?”
This was just met with a stream of semi-coherent abuse, so I left it at that, and rode off, closing with, “I’m reporting you, bitch”.
And I am.
What we have here is a driver that first of all doesn’t know the road rules. OK, big deal. Millions of drivers are hazy on the road rules – especially where it comes to indicating and giving way and so on – and anyway this is a bit of an edge case, right?
Yeah, sure. Whatever. Bad drivers are ten a penny. But the most disturbing thing is that here we have a driver who believes that he’s right to take action in revenge for a perceived breach of the road rules by endangering the safety of another person with his vehicle. And not only his vehicle, but a vehicle belonging to his employer, whose reputation he just brought into disrepute.
This is the problem. The idea that he can take the law into his own hands and use his vehicle in a potentially deadly manner to ‘enforce’ a rule which, to be honest, he doesn’t even understand.
Raw, unmoderated arrogance coupled with a contempt for the safety of others.
And that’s why this blog post is being sent to his employer Sydney Waste Services, as well as New South Wales Police and the Sydney Morning Herald. Oh, and anyone else who might care to read it and might, oh, I dunno, have a say in handing out lucrative waste collection contracts.
Was it worth it, garbage guy? Was it really worth it?
Update: 27-3-14 6:00pm
Elon, General Manager of Sydney Waste Services, has added a response comment below, including an apology from the company, and noting that Sydney Waste Services is committed to safety. For my part, I’d like to make it clear that I don’t – can’t – blame the company itself, which may not be entirely apparent from the above post. I also accept that the wave from the passenger side could well have been benign – after all, with a large heavy vehicle there’s a lot of noise, and I suspect neither side could hear what was said very well at that point.
* Referring to the last time I ‘ran’ a red light. I was cold, wet and there was no traffic, unusually, on Parramatta Road. I rolled over the sensor a few times and the light refused to budge. So I rode – carefully – across the junction. Sue me.