Sydney Waste Services and dangerous driving

Sydney Waste Services: Responsible driving? What's that?

Sydney Waste Services: Responsible driving? What’s that?

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”.

Nice, huh?

(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.

5 Thoughts on “Sydney Waste Services and dangerous driving

  1. Bernie carpenter on 25 March, 2014 at 2:40 pm said:

    Do a web search and find the name of the company director. Refer the director to the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act. Make special note of the part of the act that states a company vehicle is considered a “Workplace”. Mention the directors Primary Duty of Care is to ensure the safety of ALL persons at their workplace. Ask them what action they will take to eliminate the risk and the re-training they will provide the driver.

    Copy the letter to Workcover NSW and ask them to investigate the company.

    A traffic fine is a slap on the wrist for a place like that. A Workcover investigation on the other hand …

  2. Yeah pretty much same thing happened to me 2 weeks ago while I was visiting my brother in Karratha WA. I was riding In Dampier Rd on the white line (was no shoulder so can’t get any more left) when a Cleanaway garbage truck missed me by 15-20cm. Garbage truck drivers seem to be hellbent on buzzing cyclists for some reason, have seen it many times.

  3. forward to City of Sydney Council. I’m sure Clover wouldn’t approve of such behaviour.

    • admin on 26 March, 2014 at 8:11 pm said:

      Funny you should mention that, GH. I just so happen to work at a large Local Government organisation in metropolitan NSW. And yep, I’ve already put the word out to the appropriate people 😉

  4. Hello,

    I am the GM of this waste company.

    Please note, I would like to start by saying that Sydney Waste Services takes pride in our Safety records (No serious incidents to date since beginning of our operations other than your basic accidents) & ultimately take road safety & OH & S very seriously. Please note I personally apologize on behalf of the company for any misunderstandings.

    I would like to be heard as opposed to the business being defamed due to one comment by a driver regarding a red light. Yes it was a stupid comment, however lets be clear about the incident. The truck was over a metre away from the cyclist, in fact halfway across the other side of the road as he himself did not feel comfortable next to the bike. Please also note our GPS shows that the driver was well under the speed limit requirements on this street.

    There was no danger to the cyclist, no danger to oncoming traffic (as there wasn’t any) this being confirmed by a witness who was a new employee riding in the passenger seat of the truck. He was interviewed in confidence, regarding the driver and the alleged incident. The wave out of the truck was definitely NOT what the blog stated. It was quite the opposite.

    Our drivers are well aware of cyclist zooming in and out of the traffic. They report issues everyday about unsafe riding. Unfortunately they have no registration plates to ever be reprimanded.

    Trust me, toolbox talks are done continuously to ensure our drivers are reminded of the hazards within their work area. The majority of incidents reported are involved with taxis due to their negligence.

    The driver and passenger are well aware of the road rules and notes have been placed on their files regarding this incident for future reference. At no point since these employees have been with the company has there been any complaints. We will take on board this alleged incident and have toolbox meetings as mentioned above.

    I would also like to mention that I am a regular bike rider myself & thus the last thing I want to do is work for a company that apparently endangers them.

    I believe it is completely unfair to be blamed when only one side of the story has been heard.

    Once again, I apologize on behalf of our Company & believe it is completely fair for us to disclose our side of the story.


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