Of all road users, cyclists are the most likely to die or be injured when they are involved in a road accident.
A examination of ten years’ worth of road fatality and hospitalisation data from the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) covering 2007 to 2017 showed that cyclists are bucking the downwards trend that’s occurring in other groups, with the risk for cyclist fatalities doubling in 2017.
While cyclists make up a tiny portion of the overall number of fatalities on Victorian roads – 12 out of 259 in 2017 – they are most at-risk group, followed by pedestrians who have also seen a small rise in their risk. However, pedestrians are still on a downwards trend overall while cyclists have experienced the opposite.
The news isn’t any better when it comes to hospitalisation due to a road accident.
Women’s elite cycling is a sport whose star has been on the rise in the last few years.
Unfortunately, like most female sports, sexist and out-dated attitudes are well entrenched which can make life difficult for the female athletes competing and those who aspire to compete at this level.
One such issue is a minimum wage for female professional cyclists.
Tina McCarthy with some of her ‘wheel women’ at the 2018 Tour Down Under. Photo: Lyz Turner-Clark
Tina McCarthy has a simple goal – to get as many women as possible riding bikes. It’s why she started Wheel Women in December 2012.
In the last five and a half years, Wheel Women has won multiple awards for its work in making cycling more easily accessible for women. McCarthy was awarded the 2018 Cycling Luminaries Award for Leadership and Wheel Women won the Best Outdoor Active Recreation Initiative at the 2017 Victorian Sports Awards. McCarthy was also selected to be an ambassador for VicHealth’s This Girl Can campaign.
Tina McCarthy. Photo: Lyz Turner-Clark
She has achieved much since starting Wheel Women and the social enterprise has helped over a thousand women get on their bikes.
McCarthy had a long and successful career in design and advertising as a graphic designer and art director. She decided to set her own design business in 1996, working with fashion clients as well as small start-up businesses.
However, things changed when she fell pregnant with her son in 1998.
“The plan was that I’d work from the home office as always, look after him and take on what work suited me while he was young. But absolutely nothing went to plan!” McCarthy said.
Since January 2014 tens of thousands of upholstery tacks have been thrown on Yarra Boulevard in Kew by an unknown individual in what appears to be a vendetta against cyclists.
A handful of the thousands of tacks that have been thrown on Yarra Boulevard in Kew. Photo: John Christidis
Yarra Boulevard is a picturesque six and a half kilometre stretch of road that follows the Yarra River in Kew, surrounded by parklands and luxury houses.
The road is popular with cyclists because of its constant rolling hills and low traffic, making it an ideal training ride but since early 2014 it has become a nightmare for those who use it.
Over the past four and a half years, cyclists have experienced thousands of punctures with many being tacked multiple times which led cyclists to report what was happening to Victoria Police.
If you asked someone to picture a cyclist, odds are they would imagine a middle-aged man in lycra with an expensive bike but there are women who ride and they are just as passionate about it as any MAMIL.
In 2012 Tina McCarthy decided to throw in her successful career as a designer and chase her dream of getting as many women on bikes as she possibly could by establishing Wheel Women, a social enterprise which focuses on teaching women usually aged between 33 – 55 how to ride confidently and safely on the road alone and in a group.
Tina McCarthy having fun on her mountain bike. Photo: Tina McCarthy
McCarthy said she has been in the privileged position of watching women gain confidence on a bike and achieve things they thought were impossible.
“There’s a lady who’s joined in September who hadn’t ridden a bike in years, years and years and she’s coming up for 60 this year and she’d been riding for six weeks before I said ‘why don’t you come do Ride Daylesford?’ which was a 65 kilometre ride.” McCarthy said.
Stuart Tripp enjoying a quiet moment at the South African round of 2015 Para-cycling World Cup. Photo: Stuart Tripp
There is a sinuous motion to Stuart Tripp’s pedalling style. It’s almost hypnotic. His torso sweeps back and forth smoothly as his arms move in perfect harmony to turn the pedals of his hand-cycle.
Tripp is an Australian Paralympic road cyclist in the H5 category and a silver medalist. His events are the road race and the time trial. He recently returned from the first round of the Para-cycling World Cup in Belgium where he won the road race and came third in the time trial. He is currently preparing for the Para-cycling World Championship in Italy and the August round of the Para-cycling World Cup in Canada.
Stuart Tripp winning the men’s road race at the first round of 2018 Para-cycling World Cup. Photo courtesy of Stuart Tripp.
Tripp’s journey to becoming an Australian Paralympian began in 1994 when he was in a horrific car accident in rural Victoria. The accident left Tripp comatose from significant head trauma, with kidney failure and serious crush injuries to both of his legs, including a compound fracture that tore through his right calf leading to an amputation below the knee and serious nerve damage to his left.
After a four and a half month stay at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Tripp moved to the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Hospital to learn how to live with a prosthetic leg.
“I’d never injured myself like that before and with no frame of reference to fall back on, I said you just get back on with life again, like you just jump back into life,” Tripp said.
Women’s professional cycling has struggled to attract the same level of media coverage the men’s. Then in 2015, Ella came into being – a female specific website that offered coverage of women’s professional racing as well as articles designed to catch the attention of the recreational cyclist. I spoke with Wade Wallace, founder of Cycling Tips and Ella about why he decided to start Ella, the difficulties the site has faced and the future.
It would be safe to say that most people have heard of Tour de France. Some would have heard of Cadel Evans. But if you went up to someone in the street and asked them to name a women’s cycling race or an Australian woman currently racing in the professional cycling scene, the majority wouldn’t be able to.
Female criterium races are often more aggressive and better to watch then the men’s. Photo: Lauren O’Keefe
Traditionally, women’s sport hasn’t gotten coverage in the media because it wasn’t perceived as being of interest to the public. This is slowly changing with the success of the AFLW and soccer’s Matildas. Even women’s cricket is getting a run on TV these days. But other sports like women’s cycling? They’re still in the shadows, only making it onto the evening news when someone wins a world championship, a gold medal at the Olympics or breaks a world record.
One of the major issues for women’s cycling is that it’s a niche inside a niche. However, what cycling does have is a loyal, enthusiastic and passionate following. It was this following that allowed Wade Wallace’s blog, Cycling Tips, to go from being a hobby that he started in 2008 to one of the best known cycling websites in Australia.