Police officer 'pushed cyclist off his bike'
An Australian police officer has been accused of pushing a cyclist off his bicycle at a major intersection in Sydney's CBD during peak hour, in a situation described as aggressive and "totally unacceptable".
Different accounts have emerged from the police and witnesses about the incident, which occurred about 8.25am on Wednesday at the intersection of College and William streets, beside Hyde Park in the city.
One witness to the crash claimed the police officer, who was on a motorcycle, rode up alongside the cyclist and "just pushed him off his bike in the middle of the intersection".
"He fell on the road. It wasn't like he got pushed and sort of wobbled and kept rolling, and sort of [went] into a death spiral or anything. He just went bang," the witness, Marcus De Giorgio, said.
However, after conducting an internal investigation, including a review of police helmet vision, the New South Wales police rejected this version of events in a statement released on Thursday afternoon.
"The vision indicates contact between the motorcyclist and the cyclist did not involve a pushing action," the statement said.
In an earlier statement released after the incident on Wednesday, police said the man had "fallen from his bicycle," but did not detail any circumstances about how the cyclist fell or whether the police officer made any contact with him.
On Wednesday, police said that officers from the Motorcycle Response Team were patrolling near the intersection of William and Yurong streets in Darlinghurst when they allege the 30-year-old cyclist, who was not wearing a helmet, disobeyed a red traffic signal there.
On Thursday, police said helmet vision confirmed this version of events.
"The cyclist subsequently failed to respond to following police, in spite of lights and sirens being activated on the police motorcycle immediately behind him," Thursday's statement said.
De Giorgio said he had cycled north along College Street and was stopped at a red light at the intersection with William Street as he waited to turn left when the crash occurred.
He estimated he was three or four metres from the rider when the crash occurred.
He said the cyclist was travelling about 15kmh when he rode through the intersection of College and William streets on a green light.
"I don't know what led up to that situation. The only thing that was visually evident was that he wasn't wearing a helmet," De Giorgio said.
"The guy wasn't running a red light or anything [at the crash scene]. He was just riding along.
"The motorcyclist came up alongside him. There wasn't a siren that I heard, and it's not like he rode alongside him and asked him to pull over. It was literally like he came up from behind, then alongside and just pushed him over."
He said the motorcyclist's lights were flashing.
Di Giorgio said the male cyclist fell onto the road, and suffered abrasions to his leg.
"He was lying in prone position, and kind of screaming and yelling in pain," Di Giorgio said.
"The guy was saying 'You pushed me! What the hell? What the f***? You pushed me! ... He was angry and appeared to be in pain.
"The police officer essentially said: 'No I didn't.'
"It was like the guy [the cyclist] wasn't even aware he [the police officer] was there. When he was on the ground, he was saying 'I didn't even know you were there. I didn't hear you.'"
The police motorcyclist stopped immediately and was joined a short time later by another police officer, Di Giorgio said.
It took about 10 minutes before the crash scene was cleared.
Police said the cyclist was treated by paramedics and taken to Sydney's St Vincent's Hospital. He was discharged later in the day after being cleared of serious injury.
Police said the cyclist "will be issued with infringement notices for not stopping at a stop light and not wearing a helmet".
Another person who said he saw the incident, Tom McNamara, said he was on a bus beside the rider when he crashed.
"The cyclist was crossing College Street, the cop rode alongside him and knocked him down pretty hard. From where we were it looked very excessive," McNamara wrote online.
Bicycle Network chief executive Craig Richards said the police officer had pushed the shoulder of the rider, according to witness accounts.
"This use of force against a rider moving on the street is totally unacceptable, and could have resulted in serious head injuries or worse to the rider," Richards said.
"NSW Police are very fortunate that they are not having to explain the incident to the family of someone who is seriously injured.
"We know that NSW has strict protocols around the interception of vehicles on the street, with a high priority given to public safety.
"Police can make a vital contribution to safety on the roads, but there is no need to be aggressive and forceful in this way.
"There needs to be a full explanation of why the rules were not followed [on Wednesday] morning."
Police said the circumstances surrounding the incident would be the subject of an internal review.
- Sydney Morning Herald