There are so many reasons why I ride a bike: fitness; the speed compared to other forms of transport; the sheer joy of feeling the wind on my face and the energy in my legs.
But yesterday I rode for Alberto ‘Albi’ Paulon. Albi, a 25-year-old chef, was killed last week as he rode down Sydney Road in Brunswick with his fiancee. A driver opened her car door onto Albi, propelling him into the path of a passing truck. He didn’t stand a chance.
Every urban cyclist has a story to tell about doorings. If they haven’t been a victim themselves, they know someone who has. Near-misses are alarmingly frequent. Drivers presumably don’t mean to put cyclists at risk, but they do, every day.
Thousands of cyclists turned up to a memorial ride for Albi along Sydney Road last night. We gathered at the top of Royal Parade, a sea of green – Albi’s favourite colour – and headed north. As we passed the spot where Albi died, we rang our bells. It was a beautiful sound.
At that time of day, Sydney Road is a clearway, so we filled the two northbound lanes. From the middle of the group, all I could see were bikes. Cars trying to enter Sydney Road from side streets had to wait; any driver caught trying to push in was warned by our police escorts. Traders and local residents lined the road – in support, I hope.
After the ride bikes were locked to anything that looked remotely secure. They formed a mural on the fence by the railway line that runs parallel to Sydney Road. The cyclists headed into Brunswick’s many bars, to raise a glass in memory of the friend most of us never met, but who was one of us.
This tragedy has once again highlighted the need for everyone to share the road safely. And change will come, hopefully in the law as well as behaviour.
Albi, your death will not be in vain. Rest in peace.