Queensland Police Senior Sergeant Ian Park became a social media sensation when he posted on Facebook about arriving at the scene of a motorcycle accident not knowing a friend was the fatal victim.
Now he speaks for the first time about his experience, what he and others can learn from it, and his views of the motorcycle community from an outsider’s perspective:
Like all ‘communities’ or groups of like-minded people, you would have to agree the biker community has its own sets of intricacies and viewpoints. That’s not at all a criticism, it’s just an observation that could be made about any group.
It’s not a world that I’m naturally a part of, but one that I have found myself in – largely by my own choice and doing.
Some may recognise my name as ‘the copper’ who put a post on Facebook that went viral on the first of January this year. It was called #ridesafely4me and it told the story of a fatal motorbike crash I attended on Boxing Day 2015. I knew Dave, the guy who was killed, not closely as I was more friends with his wife Sarah. I had been to their wedding only two months before – and from that I knew how in love Dave and Sarah were, and how much his death would crush her. But Dave’s death, as well as too many other fatal crashes I had attended led me to share my story in the hopes that just one person may read it and reflect on the priorities in their life and in particular how their choices affected others close to them.
I didn’t necessarily mean for the post to be targeted at the biking community, but I suppose it’s origin meant it would always have that flavour. I thought (and still think) that anyone who commutes or travels could take something from it.
The post was shared, reproduced, tweeted and retweeted and reported upon both locally and internationally to the point where it was read by literally millions of people. Something that was quite surreal to me – because at the end of the day, all I did was put a post on Facebook, like so many of us do every day.
I received lots of support and encouragement both outside and inside the biking community that my post had impacted on people; that it had done as I hoped – made people think and reassess what really is the most important things in life.
I was told that the message was too important not to follow through with. This made me incredibly apprehensive, as I, like lots of people, am a busy person. Did I really have the time to give this thing what it deserved? I’m the kind of person who doesn’t like starting something that I’m not prepared to do properly.
I began to meet with people – mostly within the biking community. We talked about some things I already knew – and many things I didn’t. Like they say – you don’t know what you don’t know. With their encouragement, I started a Facebook page called ‘Hashtag ridesafely4me’. (I had to decide what to call it because Facebook won’t let you name a page starting with ‘#’.) It has a lot of loyal followers, who I really appreciate, but is still quite small in comparison to many other pages around. I try and think of creative ways to keep the #ridesafely4me message alive. Sometimes I succeed, but I’ve found there’s a lot of ‘forthright’ people in the biking community who are more than happy to let me know when I could have done better, or perhaps even that I’ve stepped just a little too far outside of my technical expertise.
I always have to remind myself that this thing we call social media is a very unusual beast – a species that the human race has never encountered before. As such we often don’t know how to attack it, defend ourselves from it, or tame it to work for us. At no time in history has so many had an instant ‘voice’ that can be heard so loudly. This includes people who may never before have been heard at all now have the chance to let them share their view of the world. I’m not complaining about it – I exploited it to get the message I wanted to be heard out there. It’s just the nature of the beast.
So do I know a lot about bikers and motorbikes specifically? No, not really. Safety is really what I’m about. But I do believe that my life experience means I understand people. I understand each one of us has a unique point of view – as unique as a fingerprint or DNA. I understand our point of view is shaped and moulded across our life experience. I understand some of those experiences are within our control, and some are not.
I also understand we can choose whether or not to expand our view of the world, and to be open to the fact that our personal life experiences may be different to others. Perhaps a bit like I’ve done by stepping into the biker’s world – unfamiliar territory for me, but something I know I’m the richer for.
When we encounter people trying to look from their world into ours (whatever world that is), we have a choice about how we react. We can put up the ‘Berlin Wall’ to keep them out because we’ve decided if they weren’t already here, they don’t belong. Or we can take the time to hear what they have to say and try and understand things from their perspective.
And maybe by doing so, our view of the world might change just a little bit, and we might actually be a better person for it.