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Last Saturday morning it was a confronting sight to see one of the more experienced riders in Melbourne laying on the ground curled up with a broken collarbone beside another guy who was face down with blood everywhere and his leg convulsing. Cyclists were everywhere on both sides of the road while traffic was brought to a complete halt at Black Rock.
I won’t deny that I participate in the Hell Ride once in a while. It’s a ride I do out of convenience more than anything. I like catching up with some guys I haven’t seen in a while, getting a good hard ride in and being home by 9am. It’s as simple as that.
The past four times I’ve ridden the Hell Ride there have been four nasty crashes, and a few more that I wasn’t there to see. Most of these crashes occur in the final approach to Black Rock where the “sprint” takes place. I prefer to back-off at about 1 km before Black Rock since I have better ways to spend my Saturday than in an Emergency room. A bunch of A graders sprinting against inexperienced riders is asking for trouble – the end result is usually the same.
I’m not some uninformed armchair critic speaking out against the Hell Ride. I completely get it. It feels like competing in a race and everyone treats it as such. The problem is that these are open roads with traffic, parked cars, other cyclists, pedestrians, etc. All the work that advocacy groups do for cycling is hindered and completely negated by this ride alone. If someone can come up with one good defense for the Hell Ride I’d like to hear it. “It’s fun” is not good enough. I’ve become to feel ashamed that I’m part of it.
So, what to do? We’ve already established that when groups this large get together the concept of respect and responsible riding goes out the window. It’s just a matter of time before something horrific happens [again]. Even so, numbers will start building and then by next summer it’ll be back up to 200 riders. Most clubs and and CSV have made their position clear on their riders attending the ride, yet many still do it. It’s not going to die without intervention from the police. That’s what I see happening since the riders themselves are not doing a single thing to make it better. It’s unfortunate because I think that if the Hell Ride was cleaned up it could be a part of Melbourne’s amazing cycling culture. Instead it’s become an embarrassment.