REFLECTING on it now, Castlemaine resident Maurice Kennedy could have seen the collision that cracked his shoulder coming.
He had been concerned about two small dogs that used to rush at him while he cycled at the Castlemaine velodrome for some time.
But it wasn’t until one crossed the path of his bicycle tyres that the perils of unleashed dogs and cyclists sharing the multi-purpose sports precinct was realised.
He was hopeful sharing his story might raise awareness of the danger a decision to allow animals in a venue like the velodrome posed.
“I don’t want it to befall somebody else,” Mr Kennedy said.
It has been almost two weeks since the collision.
Mr Kennedy had been cycling at the velodrome, part of the Wesley Hill Recreation Reserve, for a year or more.
“I believed it was a much safer place to be because I didn’t have to dodge traffic,” he said.
“But pretty early on I started to notice there was a lot of dog activity at the velodrome, that people were bringing their dogs off leash and either playing with them or sometimes training them, but generally letting them have a wander around.”
The appeal for dog owners was clear – it was an enclosed space.
“I met people with a variety of dogs there,” Mr Kennedy said.
“There was a particular person that I would bump into occasionally that had two small dogs.”
When the dogs would see him on the bicycle, Mr Kennedy said they would rush and bark at him.
“I would make attempts to catch the eye of the person whose dogs they were,” he said.
But the dogs’ owner, whose identity is unknown, never seemed to take notice.
“Looking back now, I was unaware of the actual danger I was in,” Mr Kennedy said.
“I didn’t really bring the matter to a head, which I regret very much now.”
On the morning of July 28, he found himself sharing the velodrome with the dogs and their owner.
Mr Kennedy said the dogs were barking and charging at him while he was riding around.
“At the very last moment one of them suddenly turned 90 degrees and went straight across the front of my bike,” he said.
“I didn’t have time to do anything… I was just suddenly thrown off my bike, onto my shoulder.”
The pain was so intense, Mr Kennedy said he struggled to stand.
At no point does he believe the dogs’ owner apologised for what happened.
He asked if he could use their telephone, but was told they didn’t have one.
The dogs’ owner offered Mr Kennedy a lift, which he declined.
“Then she walked off with her dogs, got in the car and drove away,” he said.
It was only after walking himself to a neighbouring home, across a paddock, that he was able to get help.
His partner, Lucinda Young, picked him up and took him to a clinic for medical attention.
Mr Kennedy was unsure what became of the dog involved in the collision.
Though his emotional state has improved with time, it will be a few weeks yet before he can expect his shoulder to fully mend.
Mr Kennedy sustained multiple fractures, and underwent surgery the day after the collision.
His shoulder has been pinned and plated.
The 49-year-old said the injury reminded him of the ordeal from which his love for cycling had grown.
Many years ago, Mr Kennedy sustained a chronic back injury.
Cycling was among the recommendations to help with his recovery.
“I found that bike riding was a terrific panacea for what I was experiencing,” he said.
Mr Kennedy was worried about getting back on his bike, when the time came.
But he didn’t see that he had any other option, given its benefits for his back.
“I must get on the bike,” Mr Kennedy said.
At the heart of the issue is responsible dog ownership, and facilities that foster safe practices.
Mr Kennedy said some dog owners would keep their pets on a lead if a cyclist was using the velodrome, or would opt to come back later.
Others let their dogs roam free, regardless.
Ms Young and the Mount Alexander Shire Council have met to discuss what could be done to improve the situation for both dog owners and cyclists.
The council is investigating the incident.
“We aren’t aware of any other recent incidents with dogs at the facility,” a Mount Alexander Shire spokesperson said.
They said dogs could be walked off-lead in most areas of the shire outside the Castlemaine and Maldon central business districts, the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens and Campbells Creek Community Park.
Dogs are allowed at the Wesley Hill Recreation Reserve.
“It is the pet owner’s responsibility to ensure their dog is under effective control at all times,” the spokesperson said.
The reserve is being redeveloped – something the council expects will increase its usage.
“It is timely for council to review the existing arrangements regarding animal control at the reserve to manage the needs and safety of different user groups,” the spokesperson said.
The identification of an appropriate site and construction of an off-lead dog park are actions in the new council plan.
“Council will locate an appropriate site in the year ahead, as outlined in the draft 2017/2018 Annual Plan to be adopted at the council meeting next week,” the spokesperson said.