Three cyclists were injured and one remains in hospital after a delivery truck plowed into the back of a peloton south of Sydney on Saturday.
The incident occurred at 6:15am on Southern Cross Drive at Eastlakes with the bunch of 30 riders travelling around 40 to 45kph. It was the same road where 7 riders were hit by a 4-wheel-drive two years ago. The latest involved members of the same Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club who were enjoying a regular weekly training ride when a delivery truck hit the two riders, at the back of the pack, from behind.
“I was in a white jersey, we had rear lights, it was a clear and calm morning. How much more visible do you have to be?” These are the words of 55yo Michael Long – the worst injured of the riders.
“The only warning was a beep of the horn then the sound of metal crunching and I was on the ground,” he said from his hospital bed in Sydney. “I’ve been riding for years, I’ve fallen before, but it felt like I was picked up and thrown straight down. It was like I was slam dunked into the tarmac which is why my injuries are so severe – broken ribs from 1 to 7 – the whole side.”
Michael said conditions on Saturday were absolutely perfect – it was 6:15 in the morning and a beautiful sunny day.
“It was a straight section of road, we were riding two abreast, not doing anything silly, then bang,” he said.
Two Bikes Under The Truck
“There were two guys behind me – their bikes went under the truck and they (the riders) were catapulted forwards,” he said. “One of them catapulted into me and knocked me clean off my bike.”
With seven shattered ribs, a broken collarbone and punctured lung, Michael said doctors remain most concerned about his lung.
“There is air leaking around my lung,” he said. “They don’t even want to look at my collarbone at this stage, not until they have sorted out the lung and breathing. I’m on heavy pain medications. Rehabilitation will be a long road ahead.”
Bicycling Australia spoke with a representative from the transport company DHL, who expressed concern and sympathy for those involved in the incident. In a statement the company said they ‘take road safety very seriously’.
“The matter is under investigation by the police to ascertain what the circumstances are resulting in this unfortunate accident,” the statement reads.
“The police so far have declared the accident was not caused by mobile phone usage or road rage. The RMS also visited the accident site and inspected the truck, and deemed the vehicle was in excellent running order. DHL takes road safety very seriously and has been cooperating with authorities in their investigations of this unfortunate incident. After the police complete their investigations and share their findings we will ensure we review those findings fully and take all necessary actions and recommendations. We hope the cyclists involved make a quick recovery and are thankful that no one was more seriously hurt.
“We will continue to work with our partner organisations as well as Roads and Maritime Services to ensure safe driving standards are adhered to without exception.”
“I just ask why? It’s so completely unnecessary,” said Michael, who spent years recovering from another terrible crash after being hit by a car while cycling four years ago.
“It’s all about driver education,” he said. “A small decision that may delay your trip by 30 seconds won’t bear any relevance at all to your life but could have life-changing consequences for another person.”
Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club President Colin Iremonger, who’s son was in the same bunch at the time of the incident, said the Club will assess whether to continue including Southern Cross Drive in training rides.
“We looked at this 2 years ago after that awful crash when 7 of our guys were taken out by a 4 x 4,” he said.
“There are alternate routes we can take but that’s on back roads and through lights – it’s not a training ride. We don’t want to wait until something more serious happens that forces us to make the decision. Safety has always been an issue but we are in one of the lanes and we are entitled to be there.”
“It’s driver awareness, it’s a Sydney thing,” he added. “Cyclists are seen as the bad guys on the roads and we need this to change.”