An American tourist involved in a near-fatal collision with an e-bike was issued with a fine while in a coma.
Father-of-two Rod Maroney suffered devastating brain injuries after he was hit by an e-bike riding down light rail tracks on Sydney Australia’s George Street, where e-bikes are not permitted.
The 64-year-old retired aerospace engineer was crossing the light rail tracks in September 2023 and did not see the e-bike coming, with the collision causing him to fly into the air.
He needed emergency brain surgery and spent weeks in a coma, and even today is still struggling to recover after the devastating accident.
His heartbroken wife Barbara Maroney, 61, stayed by her husband’s side as the couple, from Phoenix, Arizona, struggled to comprehend how their dream holiday turned into such a nightmare.
As her husband recovered in St Vincent’s hospital, she was shocked to see a fine of $56 being shoved into the mailbox of her Airbnb by New South Wales, Australia police.
The letter stated that Rod had committed the offense of “moving into rider’s path”, although riding a bike along light rail tracks is not permitted, NSW Transport confirmed.
Barbara, who is a semi-retired lawyer herself, decided to get help from a lawyer who contested the fine, and as a result, it was withdrawn.
She was interviewed by police at the hospital, while her husband was undergoing tests, and then found the fine at her Airbnb accommodation.
“Him serving me while my husband is in the hospital in a coma was outrageous,” she told 9News.
“In the US, that would not be good service of process because my husband never lived at the Airbnb.
“If he really wanted to serve the citation, he should’ve gone to the hospital and dropped it in my husband’s unconscious lap, I guess.”
Authorities confirmed riding in that part of George Street is banned.
“E-bikes and bicycles are not allowed to be ridden on the footpath on George Street in front of the Queen Victoria Building and are prohibited in the Light Rail corridor,” Transport for NSW said.
“You can’t ride a bike along George Street between Hunter and Bathurst streets unless you’re accessing a private driveway,” the City of Sydney Council website states.
The couple was at the very start of their “bucket list” trip when the devastating crash occurred, just outside the QVB light rail stop.
The pair crossed the road after dinner to return to the Hilton hotel where they were staying at around 7:30 pm.
George Street is meant to be traffic-free apart from the light rail – therefore he did not expect nor see the “very fast” bike coming his way.
Barbara recalled that she shouted to warn him but he did not hear.
“Right before the bike hit him, I hear the biker yell ‘Hey!’” she said.
“I will never forget seeing the collision, and seeing Rod flying through the air.”
Her husband was knocked unconscious and was rushed to hospital.
The rider of the e-bike had also been knocked to the ground but did not appear to be hurt and remained at the scene.
When her husband woke up from his coma, he lost all of his short-term memory and regressed to the past.
“He would call the nurses and doctors by the names of people he used to work with,” Barbara said.
“He would ask them when they were going to have their part of the airplane project done.”
After spending a grueling seven weeks in the hospital, he was able to fly back to the US on November 8 accompanied by two nurses.
Travel insurance covered most of the medical costs.
Rod has been left with a large bulge on the side of his head from the accident and surgery and still struggles with memory loss.
He also finds it difficult to understand complex sentences, has lost some of his vision, and is unable to drive.
Doctors do not know how much further he will improve at this point.
After their ordeal, the couple wants authorities to take action over e-bikes in Sydney.
“We shed a lot of tears at night together, both of us grieving for our loss of the man he was,” she said.
“Why is Sydney’s council allowing silent, deadly bikes? Given the speed of the bike, Rod could have been killed.
“Why are e-bikes not regulated like vehicles?”
NSW Health does not have figures for the number of people hurt by e-bikes. Still, Victoria has reported a 454 percent increase in injuries related to e-bikes since 2019, and a 64 percent increase in the past year, according to the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit.
Transport for NSW outlines that riders need to follow the same road rules as for standard bicycles.
Permitted e-bikes are allowed a combined maximum power output of 200W, cannot be propelled exclusively by the motor/s, must weigh less than 50kg, and have a maximum continued rated power of 500W.
The power output must progressively reduce as the bicycle’s speed increases beyond 6km/h and cut off when it hits 25km/h or when the rider stops pedaling and the travel speed exceeds 6km/h.
E-bikes should not be ridden “negligently, furiously or recklessly”, with fines up to $514 in place.
“Officers from Sydney City Police Area Command investigated a crash between a pedestrian and an e-bike rider on George Street, Sydney, on 28 October 2023,” NSW confirmed to news.com.au.
“Following an investigation, police issued infringements to the pedestrian for the offense of ‘pedestrian move into drivers path’ and the E-bike rider ‘bicycle rider disobey no entry sign’.
“As a result, a caution was issued by Revenue NSW to the pedestrian.”