The Hell Ride: Time to stop the tradition?

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Over Victoria’s Labour Day long weekend thousands of cyclists enjoyed themselves at the Peaks Challenge in Falls Creek, while others stuck closer to home and rode Melbourne’s most popular route, Beach Road. Unfortunately the infamous Hell Ride was at the centre of an accident on Saturday morning where many people were seriously hurt.

I am sharing this terrible photograph to raise awareness about an incident that happened on beach rd this wkd. There has bn a lot of untruths going around about what happened. Here are the facts: My group of tri alliance cyclists were travelling 2 abreast, another small group were overtaking us safely. The #hellride approached and instead of waiting for this manoeuvre to be completed, they stormed past, sandwiching the middle group. Because there's obviously not enough space for 3 groups wide (when one of them has about 5 across, the hellride) they got too close and knocked one of the cyclists into our path, bringing down 6 of us. They did not stop despite the loud noise a crash like that makes. Iv got a fractured skull, fluid in my ear and a bruised lung but I will recover. This could so easily have ended my life. I want to make an appeal for the #hellride to be brought under control. I'm not calling for it to be stopped but the leaders need to step in if they want it to continue. Set yourselves some rules, organise a kit so that you can identify incompetent hangers on that I have seen so often blamed for hellride incidents. Stop riding in packs of 50+ and 5 or 6 across, split up into abilities. And STOP AT THE SCENE OF AN ACCIDENT. We are all humans before we are cyclists. Let's have a reality check. Please tag any cycling friends below who may be able to influence. Somebody is going to die if something doesn't change @triathlonalliance @triathlete_motivation @skcc1 @caferacer_stkilda @alrtubb #hellride #change #share @sbrbacon @challengeaus @leknicks_cycling_outfitters @livcycling_aus @runningfit_aus @triaustralia @geelongperformancecoaching @triathlonclaytonfettell @cbdcycles @effortlessswimming @triathlete_motivation @giantbikeshampton @teamjaggad @petekerr_ @krsiddle @lukemckenzie @charmcshane @northsidewheelers

A photo posted by Annie (@amcooke83) on

I spoke to a couple people who were at the Hell Ride on Saturday, but didn’t see the incident themselves. However, the reason for this post isn’t to put blame on anyone. It’s an accident waiting to happen when thousands of cyclists are riding on the same stretch of road at different speeds. What happened on Saturday was an absolute tragedy and regardless of who’s at fault, many people were seriously injured and it highlights the need for everyone to show some respect towards each other, and even more so, take some responsibility towards our own riding.

I understand the “guilty pleasure” that going on the Hell Ride brings. I get the thrill of it, I know why people do it, and I almost even understand the group mentality of why nobody (UPDATE: some apparently did stop) even stopped. I’m not saying that it’s right, but I get it, and I won’t go on trying to explain it.

I suspect that a large portion of the people on the Hell Ride feel no responsibility towards the accident because it wasn’t them who physically did anything. Nearly everyone on that bunch will be carrying on today without giving it a second thought. Meanwhile multiple people are either in the hospital with serious injuries or dressing their wounds. We all know how it feels and wouldn’t wish it on anyone.

It’s not a malicious thing. It’s the mindset of riding in an adrenaline filled bunch. But it’s not a mindset to bring to open roads. We as cyclists love our bunch rides, especially in Australia. However, we’ve already seen one innocent man killed (James Gould in 2006) and this weekend someone else could have died.

I know many of the regulars on the Hell Ride and they’re good people. Yes, there are certainly a few jackasses, but you’ll find them on many other rides around the city throughout the week and those rides don’t cause problems. The problem with the Hell Ride is that they’re travelling faster than everyone else, and that it takes place during the busiest time on Beach Road. The riders at the pointy end of the bunch are riding safely, meanwhile the masses who are hanging-on are spread all over the road following wheels assuming the conditions up front are safe and clear.

So what’s the answer? I wish I had one. I’m not going to be changing anyone’s behaviour by writing a rant because the problem goes much deeper. The Hell Ride has been going on since the mid-80’s and it’s not likely to go anywhere. It’s not something that anyone controls, leads or takes responsibility over. For lack of a better word, it’s an institution. Unfortunately there are only two solutions: Have a police escort on the Hell Ride every week (which would be a waste of public resources), or don’t go anywhere near it.

My point of writing this is for everyone to see the people who were the victims of these accidents over the weekend and for you to think about that when you decide to join a bunch ride that you know is getting out of hand. This goes for any bunch ride. The next accident could be your wife, your father, your mother, your sibling, or even you. Think about it, and most of all, do something about it.

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