Last year I was cycling early one morning on my way to meet up with some friends for a pre-work ride in the Adelaide Hills. It was dark, the sun yet to rise, my front and rear lights were flashing. Travelling on a straight road an oncoming car failed to give way when turning right. My helmet and collarbone took most of the impact. Suffering a concussion I do not remember the incident, but a misaligned shoulder blade is a reminder of how close I came to becoming a statistic. Others are not so fortunate.
This week a fellow cyclist was killed on his way to work. I had rode with him countless times over the past few years, his knowledge of Adelaide’s roads and trails was unparalleled. He was quite a bit older than me, but he could go faster, he could go longer, he was a diesel train on two wheels. You’d quickly learn that riding with him probably meant getting dragged up some hill for which you were ill equipped. As you hammered the pedals, struggling to hold a straight line, he’d come rolling down with a smirk on his face wondering what was taking you so long.
If you complained about your commute he’d tell you that’s why they made bikes. I often found myself mesmerised by the lights flickering on the car radar attached to his seat post, he didn’t take chances; riding like all cyclists must, as if every car is trying to kill them.
His death is the 105th on South Australian roads in 2019. This has led to the South Australian Police changing the language describing road fatalities from “road toll” to “lives lost”. A step in the right direction, but not nearly far enough. These preventable deaths need to be burnt into the Australian consciousness. They are a scar, a black mark, for which every road user bears some level of responsibility.
There were 1,137 fatalities on Australian roads in 2018. With a population of 25 million that is a 1 in 21,987 chance that you, or someone you love, didn’t come home that year. To put that in perspective, you are more likely to be killed on an Australian road than winning the Oz Lotto 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th division prize.
No one gets behind the wheel expecting to become a killer, but the odds are not in your favour.
To those affected by road fatalities and injuries, words cannot express your pain. I am so sorry.