IN 2017, 257 Victorians lost their lives on the state’s roads and while this represents a decline of 33 deaths on the previous year, the number of fatalities recorded will always be too high.
That provisional road toll and includes local cycling star Jason Lowndes, a former Australian representative rider whose career and life offered so much potential, and his untimely passing has hit many in our community hard.
While the circumstances of Jason’s death remains under investigation, his family, friends and fellow riders mourn his death, which came as a result of a collision with a car travelling in the same direction about five kilometres from Bendigo on the road to Sedgwick and Sutton Grange.
For many of them, and for the driver of the car that struck Jason, life will never be the same.
On New Year’s Day, when our small bunch rode past the site of the crash that claimed the talented rider’s life back on December 22, there was silence among our group as the high spirits and comradery that had been our constant companion on a superb morning’s ride to Castlemaine was suspended for a moment or two… Nothing needed to be said.
Further up the road and in the last few kilometres back into town we talked a bit about safety, about riding single file on the more narrow sections of road, and especially where there’s double lines – not because this is the legal thing to do, but because it is less likely to frustrate motorists, and therefore, it’s more likely to be safer.
All road users – that’s drivers, motor cyclists and bicycle riders share a responsibility to themselves, their families and to all other road users to be as safe as possible when we share the privilege of driving or riding on the road.
Mutual respect, awareness and responsibility are paramount.
You are extremely vulnerable as a cyclist sharing the road with other vehicles, a sentiment not likely to be shared by drivers.
But it’s disappointing to see the seemingly endless procession of keyboard warriors willing to challenge the rights of cyclists to even exist, let alone ride on the road.
When I see those idiotic polls on social media asking whether cyclists should be allowed on the road, I am often tempted to instead ask whether some people should be allowed on social media.
I suspect few, if any of those calling for the removal of cyclists from the road, or worse, have any friends or relatives who ride a bike.
If they did, they probably would not make the insensitive, intimidating and inflammatory remarks that they do.
In the search for answers to such a tragic loss of a life that held so much promise, we owe it to Jason Lowndes and his family, and to the other 256 people who died on Victorian roads last year, to make 2018 a turning point.
And to do everything we can to make sure this never happens again.
We can all do better when it comes to road safety and we share an obligation to do so.
Bendigo wants to be known as a cycling city and as one of the pre-eminent cycling cities in Australia.
For that to happen, it must also be a far more cycling friendly city.