FORMER TT cycling star Gene Samuel said stricter penalties must be meted out to drivers who break laws and drive recklessly. He was speaking in relation to the deaths of two Slipstream Cycling Club members on the Beetham Highway on Saturday morning. Popular chef Joe Brown and bpTT employee Joanna Banks died when a car drove into a group of cyclists. Brown and Banks are both British nationals.
Brown, 63, and Banks, 40, were on the eastbound lane of the highway near Beetham Gardens with 12 other cyclists around 6.30 am when the incident happened. Banks died at the scene and Brown at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex in Mt Hope.
Initially, the driver told police his tyre blew out and he careened into another car before hitting the group. However, CCTV cameras revealed that while trying to switch from the far left to the centre lane, he collided with a car, lost control and then ploughed into the cyclists before crashing into a wall.
Samuel, 58, said educating people on driving laws and having stricter penalties for offenders will help. He said, “We are such a lawless society, we are so far gone, you have to go to the extreme. As we have been discussing, a lot of people have money in this country (so fines won’t hurt people). What needs to be attached to the fines is jail time, because nobody wants to spend even a day in jail.”
Samuel said his club, the Braves Cycling Club, recently had a close encounter, also on the Beetham Highway.
The four-time Olympian said the country has made small steps in showing more respect towards cyclists.
“I think we have made really minute strides, so we can’t come and say nobody has changed their attitude. A lot of them have, but as we know, all you need is one or two idiots, and we have quite a few ‘one or two’ idiots driving on the road today.”
Samuel said cyclists are allowed to use the highway, but unfortunately some people are not aware of the laws.
“The fact is, anybody who could say that (we can’t use the roads) obviously did not pass regulations and do not understand the law, because we are entitled to ride on the road. It is only the Solomon Hochoy Highway we are not supposed to ride on without (police) permission.”
Funeral arrangements for both Brown and Banks are still being arranged. The funeral for Brown, who has been living in TT for decades, is expected to be held in TT. His daughter is in Australia and making arrangements to get to Trinidad. It is uncertain if the funeral for Banks will be held in Trinidad.