24 June 2022

Road rage widow pushes for Bega Valley cycleway and road safety events

| Claire Fenwicke
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Louise and David Brand. Photo: Supplied

Louise and David Brand. Photo: Supplied.

A Merimbula widow has used the fourth anniversary of the road rage incident that killed her husband to advocate for the safety of cyclists in the Bega Valley.

On 23 June 2018, Louise Brand and her husband David were cycling along Mount Darrah Road west of Pambula when David was intimidated by a driver.

The actions that followed left David in a vegetative state and his life support was turned off 11 days later.

In a letter to local, state and federal government officials, Mrs Brand voiced her “strong support” for the re-introduction of the Community Ride from Bega to Tathra in 2022 and the completion of stage two of the Bega to Tathra off-road cycleway.

“It is an unfortunate fact that road rage and hostility to cyclists is still very much a reality in our Bega community,” she said.

“The vision of a safe community, where all users of our road are safe to move freely is one to aspire to, to value and to be proud of.”

She said completion of stage two of the cycleway and supporting the Bega Tathra Safe Ride was “sending a positive message” to the community that such a vision was possible and that “harmful cultures can be shifted”.

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A community consultation report and feasibility study into stage two of the cycleway was recently completed for Bega Valley Shire Council.

Stage one saw the cycleway built from Tathra to Kalaru, which is about a third of the entire project.

Bega Tathra Safe Ride secretary Doug Reckord said the riding route offered “glorious scenery” which would provide a lure to tourists.

“There’s a lot going on in the mountain biking sector, but there are also heaps of grey nomads and families who don’t want to do that, who want a safe place to ride,” he said.

“It’s a chance to tap into that economic potential but also change the culture around road safety.

“We’re working our backsides off to present an alternative case to council to get them to sit up and notice, and get this project underway.”

The Bega Tathra Safe Ride Community Ride has a strong focus on road safety and is currently planned for 18 September.

It would be the first time the ride could take place since the pandemic and Mr Reckord said it would again honour David.

“Road safety is always a critical part of what we do … we are very grateful to Louise for her courage and for taking the time to support our campaign,” he said.

“Louise has made an outstanding case for the value of safe cycling infrastructure and how respecting all road users must be everyone’s priority when behind the wheel – drive so that others survive.

“We cannot articulate the road safety education case more eloquently than Louise and we are humbled by her support.”

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The ride would start at the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre and cyclists would ride 21 km to Tathra Hotel.

There’s also a fundraising aspect to the event, with hopes to purchase two mobility assistance e-trikes.

“It’s so older people and those with mobility needs can enjoy cycling, as well as get them out and about in the great outdoors,” Mr Reckord said.

“We’re also wanting to buy a ‘wheelchair platform’ trailer you can attach to a bike to take them for a ride.

“I hope one day, when the path is finally finished, [these items] can be used to take people for an adventure between the two towns.”

More information about the event will become available once the last arrangements have been finalised.

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