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...and Louise is still campaigning for safer streets

Note: This story may upset and distress some readers

Five years ago Louise lost her husband of 40 years in the most unnecessary and tragic of circumstances

In 2018, Louise and David Brand were doing what they loved best, cycling with friends along the quiet Mount Darragh Road in Merimbula. Ten days later David was declared dead from severe head injuries sustained during an altercation with an angry driver. After deliberation, the court found the driver responsible for contributing to David’s death by stopping his car and approaching him. The perpetrator then received a 12-month Intensive Correction Order, a $5,000 fine, and 200 hours of community service. 

Louise and David Brand sharing a moment in Merimbula (Credit: Louise Brand)

A slap on the wrist

The 37-year-old driver close-passed David by 6 inches. After receiving a 2-fingered wave for dangerous driving, he waited 500 metres up the road. He then left his car and approached David on the road expressing strong anti-bike sentiment. During that encounter, David flew over the handlebars and never got up. 

“If the offender had kept his opinions about the rights of all road users to himself, Mr Brand would still be alive today,” commented Police Prosecutor, Sergeant Liza Brown. (About Regional)

In the aftermath, Louise made the following statement: 

“The court and our legal system chose to charge this man with grievous bodily harm but not manslaughter. I did not consider this charge adequate at the time, nor do so now. Upon advice from the police I wrote to the NSW State Coroner about this injustice, requesting further investigation. And recommendations as to how we as a society can grapple with the increasing prevalence of road rage.” (About Regional)

David Brand (Credit, Louise Brand)

The State Coroner concluded their investigation and rejected Mrs. Brand’s request for a public inquest. 

Louise and their son’s worlds were changed forevermore

David was a huge part of Louise and their sons’ lives - a skilled pianist, mathematician and farmer. David was also an active mentor and supportive friend. As a result of the incident, Louise suffered years of PTSD and never rode again. But she has taken up hiking and continues to advocate strongly for a safer culture for all road users.  

Bega Tathra Safe Ride supported Louise throughout her ordeal and her appeal for justice:

“We are inspired by Louise, who has experienced such a devastating loss, working so hard for justice. While also constructively advocating for road safety improvements that will benefit all road users, not just those on bike,” says Bega Tathra Safe Ride.

Mrs. Brand is now an active hiker and advocate for better streets and a safe road culture
(Louise Brand at Uluru, 2023)

Louise still advocates for road safety, increased education for drivers and cyclists and stricter enforcement of minimum passing distance.

She describes a pervading toxic road culture that continues to be dominated by cars. And it urgently needs to change:

“We need proper enforcement and awareness of Minimum Passing Distance legislation. Because most drivers wouldn’t even know that they can cross the yellow lines when it’s safe. There also needs to be proper enforcement of the law with hip-pocket incentives such as Presumed Liability.” 

Presumed liability laws have been operating in Europe since the mid-1980s

“Because it makes sense that when a car hits a pedestrian or cyclist, the driver is presumed liable. And not the other way around,” says Louise Brand. “Canada and NZ, whom we like comparing ourselves to, have Presumed Liability. And road culture is safer and more respectful in those countries.  Better driving is also supported by safer streets, and more infrastructure for walking and cycling.”

We have to change the culture to encourage more exercise and less driving. Because Australian kids are the least active on the planet!

(image Bicycle NSW)

In the 1980s 75% of kids walked or rode to school. But now it’s only 25% which is a public health disaster. With 25% of kids and 67% of adults considered overweight or obese. As a result, the UN now ranks Australian kids 140th out of 146 nations for physical inactivity.

“People need to get behind campaigns like Better Streets and Bega Tathra Safe Ride. Despite facing political ignorance and setbacks these organisations and Bicycle NSW are advocating for safer, healthier streets”, says Louise.

“We need to be building environments around people, not cars, and properly enforcing the law.” Louise Brand

We thank Louise for her courage and support. Because, despite suffering the worst effects of toxic car culture, she remains a powerful advocate for Better Streets. And healthy, active kids.

“If you care about the environment, health, cost of living, social equity and childhood independence, consider supporting our bike advocacy,” says Bicycle NSW CEO, Peter McLean. “Bicycle NSW has been campaigning for safe, accessible bicycle infrastructure for almost 50 years”.

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