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How to save Australia’s next road cycling champion.

Submitted by on May 11, 2010 – 1:51 pmNo Comment

Cadel Evans. Michael Rogers. Robbie McEwan.  Australia’s cycling elite. Evans won the 2009 Elite Mens Road Race World Title. Rogers won the World Time Trial three times in a row – a first for any cyclist. McEwan has won the Maillot Vert the sprinter’s jersey in the Tour de France three times.

But where do these guys train? On bike lanes alongside roads. And the conditions of many of these bike lanes are appalling. ‘Punctures and crashes are a regular occurrence,’ said elite cyclist Daniel Thomson. ‘If that’s not bad enough, most lanes randomly start and stop. It’s almost as if they were an afterthought.’

Statistics from the Amy Gillett Foundation show that approximately 2500 serious injuries and 35 fatalities annually involve cyclists.
Thomson himself was one such statistic. He was struck by a car riding home from a race. The driver was not paying attention and it was luck that he was not seriously injured.

With bicycle sales exceeding car sales for nearly a decade it’s not just top athletes who are spending a lot of time cycling our roads. So given the growing attraction of the sport why can’t we all act to make road conditions safer?

A good example of the death traps that need attention from the RTA is the bike lane on Windsor Road, Windsor, NSW.

Images © Marianna Thomson

Bridge on Windsor road

The bike lane vanishes on approach to the bridge

Bike lane disappearing again

Another example of bike lanes disappearing on Windsor road

As the photographs show, the bike lane comes to an abrupt end and there is no option for the cyclist but to ride on the road. There is no safe exit from the bike lane to the road and drivers are not given any indication to slow down.

As if it’s not enough to contend with dangerous road conditions, cyclists also have to fight to claim lanes from cars and trucks. Although the RTA has its ‘road is there to share policy’, Brian Crawford of Cycling NSW thinks otherwise. ‘Many drivers simply underestimate the speed at which cyclists travel at,’ he said. ‘Also many drivers do not seem to understand that the cyclist is putting his body on the line.’

And it’s not as if cyclists are a marginal lobby group. Cycling NSW, the governing body for cycling competition in NSW, has nearly 6000 members with 20 per cent in the elite racing category.

Elite cyclists need somewhere to train that mimics the racing conditions they face. As races can last from three to six hours with distances ranging from 110 to 220 kilometres and more, training on a cycle path in a park, such as Centennial Park in Sydney, at 3.9 kilometres a lap, would drive any cyclist to boredom and not give them the proper preparation for races.

Next time you pass a cyclist, don’t think about what an inconvenience they are. Instead think that they could be Australia’s next sporting champion. And leave them plenty of room. After all cyclists are people too.

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