Saturday, July 28, 2007

A letter to Dr John Reid

Dear Dr John,

I am a cycling safety advocate and a committee member of the Bicycle Federation of Australia.

I read the ABC news briefing today on your statements re: the death of James Gould and the Hell Ride.

I am concerned by your ( or is it their) assertion that hundreds of riders partake in a “race” known as the Hell Ride.

I am not sure what research you have on the current recreational and commuting use of Beach Rd ( or other Melbourne roads like Kew Blvd etc), however it is a fact that no longer do hundreds of riders partake in the ride known to the media as the Hell Ride. Up to 8000 recreational riders ( moms dads, grandparents, sons and daughters all) ride Beach Rd each Saturday and Sunday morning between 6am and 12noon ( more than the number of vehicles at that time).(Bicycle Victoria Figures, VicRoads & Bayside City Council). These are recreation riders either in groups riding together two by two for safety ( and legally) or in small groups or individually. Some groups are organised by cycling clubs as regular gatherings for training or social activity.
On occasions triathlon events are conducted with a riding component under supervision of VicRoads, Councils and Police.
Predominately the riders of beach Road are not competing in anyway and are enjoying the outdoors on a bicycle. This number of riders is growing each week and with fuel costs rising, more riders will commute to work on bicycles rather than in cars in the years to come. Each year more bicycles are sold than motor vehicles (source: Cycling Promotion Fund)

In context, the so called Hell Ride is a group of riders who voluntarily ( it is organised by no one) gather to ride to Frankston to Mt Eliza each Saturday morning from 7am to approximately 8-30 am. It is ridden at high intensity compared to many recreational riders, due to the level of fitness and competence of the riders ( mainly club level and pro-riders).
This ride in its history has some notoriety because of bad habits of some riders not stopping for red lights, however in recent years due to police action and a voluntary code of behaviour these incidents have been removed largely.
The sad death of James Gould was not indicative of current Hell Ride “behaviour” as you put it. The Coroner has full information on how the ride played out that day, and it is on record.
The ride occurs at a time of low traffic intensity, it is over before most Saturday drivers and riders are on the roads. It however does reach riding speeds of 40klm ph and on some descents 50-60 klmph. St Kilda Cycling Club and the Amy Gillett Foundation have met with the riders and made sure they are aware of their obligations to all road users to obey the law and ride responsibly. The Police air arm is monitoring current rides and did so today . (Sat 28 July) There was a rumour among the cycling forum readers last night that some people planned to flour bomb the riders this morning. This is a dangerous suggestion, alarming and no doubt a product of media incitement and misinformation.

What is being confused by the media and is a clear perception put forward by you is that the ride is a race. It is not a race.
What is a race, is drivers aiming to get to work each day in their cars and competing on the road way for every available space. In fact the activity of dangerous drivers, distracted, speeding or drug affected drivers is more dangerous to vulnerable road users ( including commuting and recreational cyclists) than this one unofficial ride could ever be.
The rare death of James Gould is certainly not acceptable by anyone. However you must keep it in context and properly explain your thesis. You may have been taken out of context, however the perception is that every rider on Beach Road is a “racer” that these riders are blatantly ignoring road rules, that they are exhausted and distracted and thus place themselves and all other road users in peril. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I trust you will offer an explanation for your thesis, that you have research and responsible information to support your assertion and the context in which you make it. If you have been taken out of context then I trust you will make such a statement.

You must be clearly aware that responsible recreational and commuting cycling is a desirable community activity, that bicycle riding is a valid transport choice and a lifestyle activity that brings benefits to participants that can be measured in enormous community contribution. To mis-state facts about on road usage of bicycles is irresponsible in this day and age.

We live in an age of driver insulation and distraction, you make no mention of this. We have huge damage to our society by the pollution of motorised commuting transport, you make no mention of this. Society suffers from Obesity, Cardiac & Arterial Disease, Diabetes and Cancer, all able to be reduced by regular active exercise and diet, co-activities of a normal bicycle rider.

I do not support any abuse of the road rules by anyone and advocate for safe responsible on road activity by all road users. However all “newsy “items must be taken in context and your responsibility when quoted is to ensure your “message “is truthful, not misleading and can be validated.

If we can assist you in your research into the psychology of driver/rider distraction please let us know as we firmly believe many road users require a change of attitude, not just some bicycle riders.

Best regards

Rob Eke
Wheels of Justice

No comments: