Recently I attended the funeral in Canberra of Kath Ho, who was killed by a driver in a van while on a training ride on a quiet country road just outside the national capital on June 3rd.
Within minutes of the collision, two registered nurses who’d been passing in different cars stopped to treat her. Her husband arrived on the scene shortly after, having ridden ahead of Kath and being told by a passing motorist of the crash behind him.
He stayed with her and held her hand. She was semi-responsive, breathing with difficulty, and didn’t talk. Paramedics arrived, and due to the extent of her injuries, an air ambulance was called to airlift her to Sydney. It landed on the road. Despite splinting and every possible precaution, as the paramedics tried to move Kath she went into cardiac arrest. They infused her with two units of whole blood, intubated her, applied CPR and used the defibrillator several times. By that time there were at least eight trained medics including one doctor from the chopper, all working to keep her alive.
They did everything they could but she succumbed to her injuries and died at the scene.
Kath’s funeral notice read “In lieu of flowers, a donation in Kath’s memory to the Amy Gillett Foundation would be appreciated. A metre matters.”
That request has appeared in too many funeral notices. I wish it wasn’t the case. But it does say something about the people who have been killed while cycling, and the heartfelt desire their families have to honour their love of cycling in memoriam. In the midst of grief and sorrow these families are moved to want to effect change so that no others will have to endure the loss of lives cut tragically short.
And that’s why we do what we do, here at the Amy Gillett Foundation. I didn’t know Kathy. Nor did I know the other 22 people who have died in crashes with vehicles while cycling this year. It could have been any one of us, a friend or a family member. Every time someone is killed or injured in a crash with a vehicle is another reason to continue our important work.
We are focused on building the evidence base for cycling safety interventions, including through research and professional partnerships and scholarships. We conduct academic and consumer research aimed at reducing the road toll for cyclists, and we educate and advocate across the nation to make our roads safer. We also support women’s cycling through scholarships for young women cyclists aspiring to national representation but who also have academic aspirations.
Our signature achievement has been minimum overtaking distance legislation – better known as “a metre matters”.
Today there is legislation in five states (QLD, NSW, SA, Tasmania, WA) and the ACT, with a commitment from the Northern Territory to legislate within 2 years. Only Victoria remains the outlier, which remains our focus, as does continuing education, promotion and enforcement of these laws.
Our ongoing work includes training to make other road users aware of how to safely share the road with cyclists, such as heavy vehicle operators involved in transport such as Toll, and major infrastructure projects such as the Melbourne Metro Rail Project. We work with professional driving organisations like cab companies and with state and territory governments to introduce minimum vulnerable road user training and testing requirements for new drivers.
And we are working with technology providers and government towards a cycling environment where no vehicle will be able to crash into a cyclist, because technology will prevent it.
We are never short of people and organisations to work with to change culture and behaviour – we are only limited by budget.
We don’t receive any ongoing government funding and fundraising is tough because we don’t pull at the heartstrings. We’re not trying to fix a disease or poverty that exists today, we are trying to prevent death and injury in the future, tomorrow, next week and in the years to come. We rely on income from our events and private donations to continue our work.
How can you help?
Participate in an event, fundraise with your friends, family and workmates, or make a tax deductible donation right now, right here: amygillett.org.au/donate
Every bit counts towards our work to improve road safety and keep our cycling loved ones coming home safely.