The recent tragic death of a young cyclist has renewed warning calls from truckies and event organisers to riders braving the Nullarbor on two wheels.
Leif Justham from Scott Creek in South Australia died last Tuesday after a collision with a prime mover travelling in the same direction on the Eyre Highway near Caiguna in WA.
A 37-year-old truck driver, also from South Australia, was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death and is set to appear via video link at Kalgoorlie Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, April 15.
Truckie Ben Stamatovich, the creator of the popular Facebook page The Drone Way, and a regular driver along the narrow highway, said the road is simply unsafe for cyclists.
“When there’s a truck coming at me and I’m coming at a truck, we’re not far off clipping mirrors as is,” Stamatovich told ABC News this week.
Organisers of the Fremantle to Sydney cycle race discontinued the event in 2018 after a coronial inquiry into the death of participant Mike Hall in a crash in the ACT in the previous year. However, riders have continued to make their own race, with the frontrunner arriving in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon.
Stamatovich said the higher numbers of cyclists, as well as the competitive nature of the race, put riders and drivers at risk, especially when riding at night.
“Last week I came across two of them at 2:30 in the morning,” he said.
He said some cyclists pulled over to allow trucks to pass, but this was rarer for racers.
“You’re in for an 80, 90, 200-hour ride anyway. An extra couple of minutes can be lifesaving.”
The Indian Pacific Wheel Race has also passed through in recent weeks, putting more riders in harms way.
CEO of WestCycle, Western Australia’s peak body for cycling, Wayne Bradshaw told the ABC that events like this put cyclists at risk.
“Where riders are required to stay on the road for extended periods of time at all hours of the day and night under fatigued situations, it would seem that there is a significantly increased risk associated with those rides,” Bradshaw said.
He said WestCycle would caution riders from participating in an event like the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.
“Based on the coronial inquiry and the inherent dangers, we wouldn’t be sanctioning an event of that nature,” Bradshaw said.