28 October 2011

By Bi Lee 

MARK Symmons, 41, presented his navy blue cycling helmet in exchange for a Subway sandwich at the Berwick campus of Monash University.


To celebrate the Ride-to-Work day on Wednesday, 12 October, Monash University Department of Sustainable Transport provided free breakfast in all campuses to anyone who cycled to school.


Monash University Office of Environmental Sustainability Director Paul Barton said that the University hoped to promote bike riding to campus as a sustainable transport option to staff and students.


“Monash University has been a strong supporter of the national Ride-to-Work day. We want to increase awareness of the benefits of riding to campus and reward those who are already doing so,” said Mr Barton


At 9 a.m. in the courtyard of the student lounge, Dr Symmons waited for other cyclists to join him.


“There were four other cyclists who registered for this event,” he said.


After an hour, no cyclist appeared.


“I don’t know why people are not cycling more. Incentives such as better health and lower transportation cost are enough to encourage people to cycle. Free breakfast is like a bonus.


“The roads of Casey are fairly flat anyway. Last year, there were only two of us for the Ride-to-Work day,” Monash University Psychological Studies Lecturer Mark Symmons said.


For international student, Adrian Xavier, saving money on transportation and the opportunity to exercise amid his busy school schedule are exactly the reasons he cycles.


Mr Xavier, 24, lives in Brunswick and studies Landscape Architecture in Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.


“I cycle to school daily except when the weather is bad. It takes about 20 minutes. Sometimes I take the bicycle for groceries shopping too,” Mr Xavier said.


There has been an ongoing debate whether the compulsory helmet law should be ditched to encourage more people to cycle.


Sydney University researcher Dr Rissel said that although helmets protect heads, they also discourage casual cycling, where people use a bike to get milk or visit a friend.


Scrapping compulsory helmet use, he believes, would reverse that, improve health rates and reduce injury rates because getting more cyclists on the roads would make motor vehicle drivers better at avoiding them.


“I personally think helmet is a necessity,” Dr Symmons said.


The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, from 2009, show bicycles are a marginal form of transport in Victoria: only 1.3 per cent of trips to work or school are by bike.


Before the compulsory helmet law was implemented, statistics show that 1.75 per cent of Victorians commute on bicycles during trips in 1986.


Marilyn Johnson, a research fellow at Monash University's Accident Research Centre, has looked at accidents on Victorian roads involving cyclists for four years. She said governments could not keep promoting cycling as a healthy pursuit without improving road safety.


Injuries to cyclists have more than doubled in eight years, with cyclists now 34 times more likely than an occupant of a car to be seriously injured, new research shows.


The study, published in the Journal of the Australasian College of Road Safety, found that serious cycling injuries reported by police had increased by 109 per cent from 2000 to 2008.


Senior Sergeant Dale Huntington said four cyclists had died on Victorian roads this year, and in recent months several cyclists had been injured after riding into car doors on St Kilda Road.

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