We moved to Northeast Victoria for many reasons, one of which was the great cycling on offer. There are enough road riding, mountain biking and rail trails here to get the blood pumping, the wheels spinning and to drum up an appetite - and long story short: that’s how Café Derailleur was borne. Our small cafe is an active place with lots of folks doing the usual café thing, and as it’s cyclist-friendly it’s also a popular destination for bike riders.
There are plenty of people in the Northeast banking on our region pedalling itself to prosperity. We already have the southern hemisphere’s longest rail-trail and soon it will be complemented by a new cycling trail linking Wangaratta, the Warby Ranges and Winton Wetlands. Only last week the Andrews’ Government announced that an extra $3 million will be allocated for bike trails around this spectacular wetlands, and Tourism North East has just launched a promotion called Ride High Country. Closer to home, the Wangaratta Bicycle Reference Group is drawing together diverse bike groups and enthusiasts to work on practical ways to improve local cycling.
So, when bike riders visit our cafe we welcome them, because we know that cycling’s as healthy for the waistline as it is for our local economy. We also want them to be safe so we point out the best rides, roads and routes and highlight other cycle-friendly eating places.
That's what I did with Jim Freeman and his friend when they dropped into Cafe Derailleur for lunch a few Fridays ago. I was blown away with the places they had travelled to on their cycling trip: Euroa to Mt Buller, and then down a 4wd track to Whitfield and on to Wangaratta. Their final destination was Benalla. Getting them there for the 6:30 p.m. train would be a cinch - up and over the Warbys via Taminick Gap, around the Winton Wetlands and maybe time for a quick coffee at the Mokoan Hub Cafe before they cruised into Benalla for the train.
A few hours later, at 4:30 p.m., on a clear day and a straight stretch of the Yarrawonga-Benalla Road, Jim was hit from behind by a car and died at the scene.
Ironically, Jim’s death occurred in the same week that the Andrews’ Government refused to legislate the minimum passing distance (A Meter Matters) law.
We’ll never know if A Meter Matters would have saved Jim, but you can bet that if Victoria had safe cycling legislation, more drivers would leave a wider berth and the road would be safer for people who pedal.
Great things will happen when the government passes the Meter Matters laws in Victoria. Lives will be saved. Parents will find it easier to wave their sons and daughters off to school. Novice cyclists will feel less intimidated by cars and more encouraged to get moving, knowing it’s safe. More people will join the cycling community and discover its social benefits.
So c’mon Premier Andrews and all our parliamentarians, A Meter Matters. It matters to us, our kids and our community. It matters to our economy. It would have mattered to Jim. Please reconsider and legislate to make Victoria’s roads safer for cyclists.