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Cycling with care
AMA (NSW) is working with the Amy Gillett Foundation to make cycling safer.
As a specialist oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Dr Peter Aquilina sees the trauma caused by cycling accidents quite regularly.
The injuries range from relatively minor facial lacerations, to cyclists with broken jaws, noses or eye sockets and occasionally more serious injuries, such as skull fractures.
And while many doctors witness these road trauma accidents in their professional lives, Dr Aquilina is also quite familiar being on the receiving end of treatment.
A keen cyclist, Dr Aquilina has been cycling for almost 40 years – taking up the sport more seriously about two decades ago. And while he’s avoided actually getting hit by a car, he’s had quite a few close shaves. Late last year he broke a bone in his hand after a car passed within inches, forcing him into the gutter and off his bike.
“I think most of the accidents are caused by ignorance. I don’t think most people go out of their way to intimidate cyclists, but there is certainly a subset of people that – for whatever reason – find it entertaining to buzz cyclists.
The latest road fatality data reveals there were 32 cycling deaths in Australia in 2016. Cyclists comprise 3% of all road fatalities and 15% of all road hospitalisations. These proportions are higher today than five years ago. Almost 85% of reported cyclist casualty rates involve another vehicle.
In NSW, figures show participation in cycling is growing – particularly in Sydney. The sport has also grown in popularity among medical professionals.
While many joke ‘cycling is the new golf’, anecdotally there does appear to be a swing in favour of biking on weekends, rather than hitting the greens.
“Even the doctors that used to play golf are taking up cycling,” Dr Aquilina says. “I think it’s a combination of things – it lets you do some exercise, so from a health point of view it’s good, but it’s also a networking thing. So I regularly ride with lots of different types of doctors, and you get to network and talk to people outside your specialty.”
Unfortunately, the number of medical professionals who have collided with cars, or suffered other cycling accidents, has grown in step with the popularity of the sport.
The tragic death of Dr Ann Formaz-Preston last December was a shock to all, and a reminder why we need to participate in cycling safety programs.
In light of Dr Formaz-Preston’s death, and several other very serious injuries suffered by doctors while cycling, AMA (NSW) has embarked on a collaboration with the Amy Gillett Foundation.
The organisation was established in 2005 following the death of Amy Gillett, who was killed by a driver while cycling in Germany with the Australian women’s cycling team.
The foundation works with all levels of government, road authorities, corporate, motoring, cycling and community safety organisations and the public to create a safer bike riding environment in Australia. Its key safety campaigns are ‘A metre matters’ and ‘It’s a two-way street’.
The ‘A metre matters’ campaign targets motorists, urging them to provide at least one metre of space when overtaking a cyclist in speed zones under 60 km/h and a metre and a half in speed zones greater than 60km/h. Legislation has been implemented in Queensland, South Australia, and Tasmania. It is also being trialled in ACT, Western Australia and NSW. It is not yet in place in Victoria or Northern Territory.
The campaign, ‘It’s a two-way street’ is aimed at both drivers and cyclists and highlights that sharing the road responsibly can reduce bike rider serious injuries and fatalities.
The Amy Gillett Foundation’s goal to make cycling safer is in line with other AMA (NSW) public health advocacy campaigns, particularly obesity, climate health policy and doctors’ mental health and wellbing. Despite the road tragedies that sometimes occur, cycling is an enjoyable activity that has many health benefits, including cardiovascular fitness, increased muscle strength and flexibility, and improved stress levels among other things. And the more we can do to make cycling safer, the more people will be inclined to take part in this activity.
In addition to supporting the Amy Gillett Foundation’s safety campaigns and programs, AMA (NSW) has also put a team together to ride in the 2017 Wiggle Amy’s Gran Fondo. The event takes place on fully closed roads along the Great Ocean Road. Participants will raise funds to help the foundation create a safe bike riding environment in Australia.
AMA (NSW) team sponsored by