“A METRE matters.”
They’re the three simple words which form the basis of the Amy Gillett Foundation’s safety campaign on behalf of road cyclists across Australia.
And it’s the same message Bendigo’s Graeme Lowndes is keen to drive home in the wake of his son Jason’s tragic death in a road accident, two days before Christmas.
On Thursday, Graeme joined more than 300 cyclists from across Australia on a ‘Lap for Lowndesy’, a casual, roughly 12-kilometre ride around the Australia National Road Championship at Buninyong, near Ballarat.
Jason was entered to ride at the championships, but was tragically killed after he was struck by a car during a training ride at Mandurang on December 22.
His father participated in Thursday morning’s ride on the same bike Jason had won a Tour of the Murray on. He was joined by Jason’s sisters Rebecca and Meaghan.
Lowndes said his immediate impression when he joined the assembled cycling throng, whose ranks ranged from Olympic, Oceania and national champions to friends of Jason and the odd recreational cyclist, was “Wow.”
“Just the names of all the elite people on the course; some of the top cyclists in Australia were riding,” he said.
“No one was racing, it was just a general roll.
“They all passed me going up the hill,” he laughed. “But you get that.”
Lowndes said the family, including his wife Trudie, had been overwhelmed by the kindness, sympathy and support in the wake of Jason’s death.
“It’s been very tough, but the thing that has helped us get through is – and I’ve never been a big Facebook and social media fan – but Facebook has been brilliant in this situation,” he said.
“The media coverage and acknowledgement from all around the world has been fantastic and made us (the family) stronger.
“The communication from people everywhere has been amazing.”
Lowndes revealed that only two weeks before his son’s death, he too had been involved in a road incident near Torquay that could have as easily had potentially fatal consequences.
The father of three was forced to take evasive action when a motorist deliberately opened his door in front of him as he rode across a bridge.
“He gave me about 600 millimetres to get past, with a one and half metre drop from the bridge,” Lowndes said.
“It was just stupid road rage – that sort of stuff is ridiculous – there’s no need for it.
“I’ve had car doors open up regularly – people just don’t look.”
Lowndes hoped his son’s death might be the catalyst for a change in government thinking to road laws and improvements and cyclists.
“I really want to push ‘a metre matters’,” he said.
“A couple of minutes won’t change your life if you are in the car behind someone on a push bike; you run him over and it can change your life too.
“The day after Jason’s incident there was up to 300 riders on the same section of road and for the amount of cyclists, the roads aren’t suitable.
“We ride that same circuit every Saturday and the cars that pass us on double lines and on the crest of hill, abusing us.
“I’ve said for a long time someone is going to get hurt, (but) I didn’t know it was going to hit home as it did.”