Australia's Transport Accident Commission has defended its decision to use cricketer Shane Warne to front a road safety campaign less than a year after the spin king was engaged in a road-rage dispute with a cyclist.
Warne fronted the press conference to launch the new #homesafely campaign for the Victorian-based TAC on Tuesday, in his role as the captain of the Melbourne Stars Twenty20 team. He was joined by Melbourne Renegades captain Aaron Finch and TAC chief executive officer Janet Dore.
The launch came just eight days after Melbourne cyclist Matthew Hollingsworth dropped his lawsuit against the cricket legend over an alleged road-rage incident in January.
Mr Hollingsworth claimed Warne hit his bike with his car on St Kilda Road earlier this year, causing more than $1500 damage to his bicycle, which was the catalyst for the legal action.
Warne denied the claims and accused Mr Hollingsworth of hitting his car. Neither Warne nor Mr Hollingsworth were charged over the matter.
The TAC refused to comment on the alleged road rage incident and backed its decision to use Warne as an ambassador for the campaign.
"In regards to the driving behaviour of the team representatives, the TAC believes everyone should be a road safety ambassador and show respect for all road users," read a statement issued by the TAC. "We urge all road users to be aware of each other and show consideration on the roads."
The TAC said the decision to use the cricketers was part of its plan to try to engage young male drivers that are over-represented in road trauma.
But the decision didn't go down well with the members of the cycling community, who are clearly still angry with the January incident.
One Twitter user labelled Warne a "hypocrite", while another labelled the decision to use the cricketer "a joke".
Another user tweeted: "Safety for ALL road users this summer hey Shane? [sic]".
David Lee from the Amy Gillett Foundation - an organisation established after the Australian cycling representative was killed during a training ride in Germany in 2005 -- was not surprised by the backlash from members of the cycling fraternity.
"I can understand that there would be minority groups in the cycling community that would take exception to [his role in a road safety campaign]," Mr Lee said.
But he added he was hopeful that Warne would make a public statement to try to calm the situation, to make the road safer for both drivers and cyclists.
"At the end of the day everyone, either on two wheels or four, deserves to get home safely," Mr Lee said.
Fairfax Media has contacted Warne's management for comment but is still awaiting a response.
- Sydney Morning Herald
Is cricket still NZ's top summer sport?Related story: Rain can't save Black Caps from big defeat