Safety concerns prompts change of annual south-west charity ride

Ride switch: For a decade, Warrnambool's Tony Bull has played host to a team of cyclists raising money for Doctors Without Borders. After 10 years, the ride is taking a different course this weekend.
Ride switch: For a decade, Warrnambool's Tony Bull has played host to a team of cyclists raising money for Doctors Without Borders. After 10 years, the ride is taking a different course this weekend.

A few close shaves with motorists on the Princes Highway is one reason Dartmoor cyclists have chosen a different route for their charity bike ride this year.

After 10 years of riding from Melbourne to Mount Gambier to raise money for Doctors Without Borders, Dartmoor’s Greenham family has opted for a change of scenery, change of date and a safer roads.

The annual 500km fundraising bike ride has been switched from the March long weekend to this weekend and will run a shorter 300km from Dartmoor to Coonawarra and back.

Ride co-ordinator Michael Greenham said he was looking forward to supporting the medical aid organisation Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) again but this time on some quieter regional roads with less traffic. 

“It is probably a case of quitting while we are ahead,” Mr Greenham said.

“We have had a few close shaves on the Princes Highway over the years, despite our small number of riders and correct cycling road use.

“On a couple of occasions, we have had objects thrown at us from passing cars, and dangerously had overtaking vehicles almost brush our elbows.”

He said he wondered if drivers knew of their charity nature of the ride whether they would be more tolerant.

Mr Greenham said that while most drivers had been accomodating, it was the few bad ones that stick in your mind. 

This year Mr Greenham expects about 12 cyclists from Dartmoor, Casterton, Portland, Naracoorte and Mount Gambier to join his family on all, or sections of, the ‘Cycling Across Borders Ride’ on 17 and 18 March.

The route will be 160km from Dartmoor to Coonawarra via Penola and Bool Lagoon on the Saturday, and 140km back via Mount Gambier and Kalangadoo on the Sunday. 

“It is always a challenge to cover those distances especially if the winds aren’t favourable,” he said.

“But that’s nothing like the crisis challenges facing the people that Médecins Sans Frontières Australia field workers deal with around the world.”

The family started their south-west fundraising ride in 2007, and have also completed other cycle-tours to raise awareness of MSF Australia such as Bairnsdale to Beechworth, Devonport to Dover, Rotterdam to Rome, Ankara to Athens, and Lisbon to Lyon. 

“We like the cycling…and the alliteration,” Mr Greenham said.

“There are still 20 letters in the alphabet to go, so to tick some more off we might have to call this ride ‘Casterton to Coonawarra’ and later in the year we plan to ride from Hamburg to Helsinki.”