By Michael Doran
Amy Gillett, an olympic athlete and world class cyclist, was tragically killed in 2005 while on a training ride in Germany.
The Amy Gillett Foundation, formed after her death, has a vision of zero cyclist fatalities and brought its message to Healesville Primary School on 16 October, as part of its Share the Road Tour.
The tour involves 24 riders going from Albury to Melbourne over six days and bringing the message of safe cycling to selected primary schools along the way.
At the morning in Healesville one of Australia’s greatest cyclists, Phil Anderson, spoke of the need to improve how roads are being shared.
He said that getting the safe-cycling message out to young children is an effective way to shift community attitudes to sharing the road.
“This is vital, we are talking about the protection of our younger generation,” he said. “We need to instill in them the need to share the road and what they see and hear in their family car is just so important.
“Things are getting better on the road, mainly through awareness and the foundation’s work but there is so much more to do and so many ways to do it.
“Victoria is the only state in Australia that has not adopted the one metre laws. I know that it’s a very difficult law to enforce but its not only about enforcement.
“Sure if the odd person gets a ticket or its publicised that’s great but what is really needed is a change in the culture of how roads are used by everyone, cars, motorbikes, cyclists and pedestrians.
“There is a huge difference between Australia and Europe, where
cities are built around cycling for transport and recreation for all ages.
“They make it a lot easier for people to use bikes to get around but there is not the friction between drivers and riders you see here.
“I was doing a right hand turn the other day, standing in the middle of the road indicating and a guy pulls up and starts swearing and abusing me. That doesn’t happen when I am in Europe.”
Cycling Australia Chief Operating Officer, John McDonough, also stressed how important it is to target schools in this campaign.
“Coming to schools is critical to help educate kids in how to ride their bikes safely and that cycling is a fun way to keep fit and healthy.
“We want kids to understand cycling is fun in whatever form you choose, a sport, socially, a family activity or a way to get to work.
“On the cyclists side we are also here to talk about how to actively manage the risks, because they are there. It is things like helmets, lights, bright clothes and following the road rules, those are the messages we are bringing here today.
Amy Gillett Foundation CEO, Phoebe Dunn said that the issue is all about respect and responsibility.
“Our goal at the foundation is to create respect and responsibility amongst all road users and that’s the message we want the kids here to take home with them.
“I drive a car, ride my bike and walk and I think it is about having mutual respect for other users but also taking responsibility for what I do on the roads.
“Most drivers do the right thing as do most cyclists but the consequences of either not doing the right thing can be horrific.
“We would like to see Victoria adopt the one metre law like the rest of Australia but if no fines are ever issued that would be a great outcome for us.”
Simon Gillett, who co-founded the foundation after his wife’s death, also said that kids are an important ingredient in cyclist safety.
“Coming to schools is a very important part of what the foundation does and it’s great to be able to get our message out there to these kids today.
“I think around 95 percent of drivers are okay with sharing the road but we still need to keep chipping away at the other five percent.
“It’s a process and we are getting there with more messaging and focus on the young who become the cyclists and drivers of tomorrow. We will get there.”
The AGF Chair, Andy Sheats, took on the lead educator role and kept the students attention in a way any of the teachers watching would have been proud of.
“I have been an cyclist since I was five and have seen people hit by cars and lost a number of friends who were just out for a bike ride.
“My message is about the lifetime of joy cycling can bring and how you can do it safely. It’s a cultural shift that’s needed on the roads and people really just need to care about each other a bit more.
“The more you talk about sharing the road the more people start to understand the message and that’s why we are here. To be honest we all really enjoy coming to schools and this has been fun.”