On the 17th February 2013, Steven Jarvie, 62, was cycling along the Old Pacific Highway with a group of four friends. A motorcycle rider, Ben Smith, now 27, and his father, rode past the group at such speed and close proximity that Mr Jarvie came off his bike. He later died having suffered severe head injuries from the bicycle accident.
Ben Smith was found guilty of manslaughter in May this year, and was sentenced to at least 5 and a half years in jail on Monday.
Justice Buscombe of the Penrith District Court heard evidence that Smith, who didn’t stop to help Mr Jarvie, had later boasted to a cyclist at a nearby café that “the c— f—ing deserved it”.
Smith had previously been known to yell abuse at cyclists while passing them on the road, as well as posting a warning to cyclists on his Facebook account in 2012, stating: “Start paying for using the road or keep copping abuse and 2inch [sic] flybys.”
While Justice Buscombe was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Smith deliberately drove too close to Mr Jarvie because of his apparent hatred of cyclists, His Honour noted that Smith and his father rode past the group “in a manner that was grossly negligent”.
While cyclists become a more regular sighting on the roads of NSW, legislators have had to reconsider laws regarding the space drivers must leave when passing cyclists. Drivers in NSW must now leave at least 1 metre when passing a cyclist in speed zones of up to 60km/h. In higher speed zones, the distance increases to 1.5 metres. A $319 fine and a penalty of 2 demerit points applies to those who do not obey the new laws.
In order to maintain a safe distance, drivers are now exempted from crossing the centre dividing lines or continuous lane-dividing lines in order to overtake a cyclist when it is safe to do so.