I used to be a strong advocate in defence of the North Road Ride (NRR) and The Hell Ride. As late as last evening when I mentioned to a mate I would be riding it this morning, I found myself defending his assumption that I (or the bunch) would be going through red lights in the morning. “No… they are very well behaved,” I said, “despite the general opinion out there.” How wrong I was.
I’m not normally one to judge other rides or other riders; God knows I take some risks and may have broken the odd road-rule myself - but today I couldn’t help but judge.
My very in-form brother-in-law and I got down to The Hell Ride today just for something a bit different. I haven’t been for over two years. I was met at Black Rock with greetings from a number of old mates who I used to ride with two or three times a week… but I couldn’t help notice the number of young kids ready to go – really young. I felt like an old man… I guess I am. ; )
As we rolled off towards Mordialloc, Neil approached me whilst he was busy giving a full mouthful to the cops we’d just passed… just for my amusement (nothing unusual in that!) and he assured me nothing had changed on The Hell Ride… “It’s as fast, mad and crazy as ever” he said. I was also given this assurance when I chatted to Forbesy and others as we screamed towards Frankston.
The thing is, it has changed. For starters, I couldn’t believe the number of participants. I estimate 200 riders in the bunch and I felt like it was the start of the Warny. Brakes, nerves, twitchiness, warnings, pushing and shoving. It was impossible for the bunch to stay in one lane and at times there were riders riding in the oncoming lanes. As we passed slower riders, some of the bunch went to the left of them in the parking lane – creating nerves and a lack of confidence in those slower riders, not sure of who was going to pass them on which side. There were two occasions going down where the majority of the bunch went through lights that had turned very red (a few seconds worth), causing drivers to wait at their own green lights so riders could pass. I stopped at the second of these and only got back onto the main bunch through a bit of luck and some severe pain.
On the way back, the whole bunch could have stopped at a red light… the very first rider could have stopped quite safely. But idiots near the front decided they would continue through, which then sent most of the bunch through almost until it changed back to green again. I stopped with about 15 other riders and observed near crashes as others struggled for a line through an intersection which was red for them and green for the cars sitting perpendicular. Absolutely ridiculous and yes… I judged.
“What sort of example are we setting for all those young riders in the bunch?“, was one thought I had at that point.
It was really bad. And that coming from a past strong defender.
A reminder to those who may chose to read this. A few years ago, an innocent pedestrian was killed crossing the road with a green light at a ped crossing. One stupid cyclist crashed the red and ran him off his feet. Don’t forget about that. On what I saw this morning – unless someone takes control to do something about the behaviour I observed – someone else is going to get killed.
Something else new for me… I never disclose on this blog the fact that I’m a cop. Today I do. I’ve seen the carnage and picked up the body-parts off the side of the road after someone has done something stupid. I – nor my colleagues – do not want to be picking up the pieces of some young cyclist on The Hell Ride nor the person he cleaned up at 50 kilometers an hour as he screamed through a red light just so he didn’t get dropped from the bunch.
Get the message?