Champs lead NCXS after Melbourne rounds

NCXS DDCX round 2 2014

Reigning national cyclocross champs Lisa Jacobs and Allan Iacuone lead the 2014 series after Melbourne’s opening rounds on 21-22 June.

Round one featured the Victorian championships at Cranwell Park, but the weekend wrapped up with the usual noise and laughs at Darebin Parklands on Sunday, hosted by Dirty Deeds CX.

Sunday’s course had little mud but plenty of slippery grass, climbing and big fields with over 320 riders.

All the CX promoters have done a great job with events in just a few years, but Dirty Deeds earns extra kudos for growing its juniors events. An amazing 60 kids raced three events on Sunday – boys, girls and balance bikes – taking ‘fun on bikes’ way beyond hard core sport.

Riders always don their Sunday best for Dirty Deeds so we saw the new women’s Fondo kit, the usual offerings from Attaquer, the muscles skinsuit made famous by Cipo and various sponsor kits. Focus skinsuits everywhere!

Round 1 results are at Cycling Victoria and Round 2 results at Metarace.

Check out the calendar for the rest of the NCXS rounds.

Thanks to riders for the entertainment (especially the interstaters), organisers and crowd for bringing the noise and fun.

Photos are from round 2, starting with elite women (who knew cx racing was so popular as injury rehab?):

women's elite start
Elite men

IMG_8269 IMG_8261IMG_8266

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B grade
C grade/open, cx women’s B, and some fun

The tackinators

Melbourne is a great place to ride a bike – mild climate, agreeable topography (yes easties, we hear you), two international velodromes, a long and picturesque bayside training route, and mountains, rail trails and excellent mountain biking an hour in every direction.

IMAG1237-002There’s also imperfect shared paths but they’re welcome refuge from local drivers.

It’s the cycling tribes that really make it though – the mountain bikers, crossers, roadies, commuters, tourers, trackies, hipsters, shoppers, bmxers, path-dwellers, advocates and the kids getting to school. Many tick several boxes, ‘enthusiast’ above all.

I know people from all those tribes and I never cease to be amazed at their diversity and willingness to help others. They are professionals, creatives, IT (lots of IT), retail, tradies, bus drivers, media, mums, granddads, whatever. They do stuff. These are the people who build trails, fix your bike, run events, share knowledge, write about cool stuff (from their races to their sewing projects), help newbies buy a bike and answer questions at parties. They’re also the designated office ‘bike dude/dudette’, explaining the road rules and copping the complaints. Maybe your state has the same, but ours are awesome.

I was reminded of this as the tribes gathered last weekend at Brunswick velodrome – the local home of cyclocross – for another riotous display of skillz and laughter. And by a local forum thread on the ‘tacking’ of a popular and safe training route on the city fringe – Yarra Boulevard in Kew, aka ‘the bouli’. Here we have a 12 km undulating loop with parks, city views and no through-traffic. It’s generally hassle-free commuting and training.Cycling Melbourne

But since mid February, riders on the bouli have suffered hundreds of punctures, plus crashes, due to repeated drops of tacks and other objects. Beyond cyclists, it’s affected runners and dogs. It’s culpably stupid. There’s been some dodgy reporting and some good reporting.

Road authorities have swept the area a few times but the tacks return. Police have stepped up patrols but sporting body Cycling Victoria has taken the unusual step of hiring investigators. Whether that’s to pressure local police for more action, a vote of no confidence or simply a necessary outsourcing of resources to make it stop, I’m not sure.

But I am sure that the riding community’s response makes me really proud to share the roads with Melbourne cyclists. Three riders have built magnet arrays to trawl the bouli to remove tacks. The IT crowd is smashing old hard drives to source magnets for mega arrays. Riders are reporting tackings to VicRoads and Boroondara council to help target new hot spots. And many continue to ride the bouli in defiance of the tackers (but I understand others going elsewhere for the duration too).

It’s so heart-warming it might see me through another Melbourne winter. Thank you all.

Good Friday, #bestfriday

 

ddcx 2014 prologue, #bestfriday

Girls just wanna have fun …

Dirty Deeds Cyclocross turned Good Friday into #bestfriday with its annual twilight prologue to open the Melbourne cx season at Brunswick velodrome.

Early showers cleared for dry racing in the infield under lights, as hot laps gave way to kids and 10-lappers for the women and men, before the finale of three-lap giggles shootout handicapped by height. Love it.

There was food, laughs, great commentary, noise and coffee as the sun went down, but good racing too.

Amity McSwan dominated the women, seemingly faster every lap to finish clear of Phillipa Birch. Third was new Jayco VIS recruit Tessa Fabry, who had barely warmed down from topping the A grade podium at Hawthorn Cycling Club’s Good Friday crits (and recent top results in the National Road Series).

Men’s A was on from the gun, with crowd-sourced holeshot cash snatched by reigning UCI Cross Country Eliminator world champ Paul van der Ploeg – a #vanderholeshot! Vandy and national cyclocross champ Allan Iacuone diced for the lead for several laps until split by young Liam Jeffries.

Keep an ear out for victor van der Ploeg at the UCI World Cup in Cairns next week.

Pro results live on the night and now at metarace.

Hawthorn’s crits at the teardrop circuit in Kew was another first for Good Friday. All entry fees, and from what we hear most of the prize money, was donated to the Royal Children’s Hospital Good Friday Appeal. The crits scored a live cross in Channel 7’s annual appeal’s fundraising telethon. Nice work Hawthorn!

Good Friday has definitely turned into #bestfriday.

More pix here, by baudman.

Go Mel, Go Lisa!

Cyclocross doesn’t get much more exciting than today. Our first national team races at the UCI World Championships in Hoogerheide this weekend and it includes two chicks! Who would have imagined that three years ago?

Local crowd fave Lewis Rattray represented in 2012 in his usual crowd-pleasing style but 2014 sees our first national team.

CX has a long history in Europe and it’s strong in north America but it’s not even four years since the Dirty Deeds CX crew started ‘getting riders muddy and smiling’ in Melbourne in 2010. They followed up bigger and better in 2011, which also brought a winter series to Port Adelaide CC. And then a summer series. Back home we scored a Vic Open.

By 2012 we had regs and a national series raced in Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide (with equal prizemoney!) thanks to lots of work by DDCX, PACC and in NSW, Manly Warringah MTB, plus support and goodwill from the state and national bodies. The 2012 Adelaide courses are still my favourites; they made my bike so very happy.

By 2013 we had an official national championship, and now in 2014 we have a national team from three states at the world championships:

* Elite men: Nick Both NSW
* Elite women: Lisa Jacobs and Mel Anset, Vic
* U23 men: Alexander Meyland Vic and Tom Chapman SA
* U19 men: Nick Smith NSW
* Team manager: Greg Meyland

The action starts Saturday morning (Dutch time) with Junior Men, followed in the afternoon by the Elite Women. Local hero Marianne Vos will be lining up against World Cup champ Katie Compton, along with Sanne Cant, Helen Wyman, Nikki Harris, Aussies Jacobs and ‘smiling assassin’ Anset and the rest of the world’s best.

Sunday starts with the U23 Men and ends with Aussie Nick Both taking on the world’s elite men: Sven Nys, Niels Albert, Zdenek Stybar, Jeremy Powers, Lars van der Haar …

Thanks to UCI Channel, we can watch the whole lot live. The streams should start as follows:
* Junior Men Saturday 8.50-10pm
* Elite Women Saturday night (Sunday morning) 12.50am-2am
* U23 Men Sunday 8.50pm-10.50pm
* Elite Men Sunday night (Monday morning) 12.50-2.30am

If you’re not staying up, you’ll find full replays at those links later.

How did we get here?

For those new to the cyclocross party, Lisa Jacobs won the 2012 inaugural national  women’s elite cx series and backed up with the 2013 inaugural women’s elite cx championship. She’s an ex-full time roadie, still with the Victorian Institute of Sport. There’s an insight to her worlds preparation here.

Mel Anset leads Lisa Jacobs in the final national series race in 2012

Mel Anset leads Lisa Jacobs in the final national series race in 2012

Mel Anset took silver in the 2012 national series, winning the final two races in Sydney. She was the clear winner in round five on the Saturday, but had to hold her nerve for an hour error-free as Jacobs worried her wheel all race on the Sunday. There’s a good piece on her road to the worlds here.

That same Sydney weekend (the only cyclocross series with sunscreen?) also produced moments that start to build our local folklore as Tasmanian mountain biker Sid Taberlay – fresh from Cross Vegas – rode the ‘unrideable’ death pit each lap.

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Mountain biker Adrian Jackson won that inaugural elite men’s series from Lewis Rattray.

In 2013, the elite women also raced to the wire, with the title decided only in the final minutes of the final race, as Rowena Fry finished fourth to win the series from Sarah Holmes, with Anset in third.

Paul Van Der Ploeg terrified the barriers to take the 2013 men’s elite series from Adrian Jackson, while Allan Iacuone won the 2013 national cx championship – 19 years after his national road championship. You couldn’t script this stuff.

Over time, we’ve seen the national rounds become more serious and pros and ex-pros like Iacuone and Danny Hennessy lured from retirement for spectator pleasure: Robbie McEwen rode a couple of national races last year and loved it, and track star Anna Meares swapped the boards for Adelaide’s grass and dirt in her post-Olympics down-time. But there’s still lots of laughs and pain to be had at the back of the nationals races, and in club events.

Hope you enjoy cx worlds. Best of luck to all the Aussies, especially Mel and Lisa.

And if you think it looks like fun, think about dusting off a beater or beating a cow bell in a park or a paddock near you this winter.

Cyclist fatalities up 51% in 2013

I was wary late last year that reporting of the annual road toll would mask an alarming increase in cyclist deaths nationally.

The provisional road toll in Victoria was down, and that’s great. And given the level of traffic offences, a result hard won on many fronts.

But as mentioned New Year’s Day, it’s better than lousy if you consider that ‘the road toll’ is nearly 1200 people a year nationally (in a ‘good’ year) and it seems to raise little community angst. There’s usually more noise about being caught by speed cameras.

The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has just released the December numbers so we now have an official result for 2013 Australia wide. The total and trend are both down nationally – except for cyclists. After a bad year in NSW and Queensland and a bad December, 50 cyclists died on the roads in 2013 – up 51.5 per cent. Condolences to all involved.

BITRE 2013 road deaths screencap

Source: BITRE Road Deaths Australia December 2013 monthly bulletin

There’s still fewer cyclists in the road toll than any other type of road user so it remains a great way to get around, smell the roses and work off sedentary lives. I can’t think of a single ride I’ve regretted.

But let’s hope we see some noise about this result, to help make 2014 better.

Women’s TDF within five years: Gilmore

Bay crits 2014 women

Team owner Rochelle Gilmore watches Giorgia Bronzini roll through in Geelong

A women’s Tour de France is a near certainty within five years in some shape or form, according to Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling team owner Rochelle Gilmore.

“I’m nearly 100 per cent sure of that. I don’t know on what level, how many days, what courses, what length of stages – but there’s definitely demand for it,” Gilmore said.

Gilmore was speaking at the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic – the bay crits that she won in 2010 and 2011 – in Geelong.

The idea of a women’s TdF drew negativity last year*, but Gilmore’s take on it now that the dust has settled is encouraging.

“I personally think that maybe some comments have been misconstrued but I think that a lot of people involved in cycling – even the ones who say it can’t be done – want it to be done.

“But the reality is that it can’t happen overnight. The men’s Tour de France is obviously built from something; it’s just not like ‘bang’ and it’s there. So I think people being negative is just to say ‘Look, you’ve given us a bit of an impossible task to put a women’s Tour de France on overnight’.

“Within one year it’s not going to happen. But I do believe that there are people around in women’s cycling now that will help make that happen in the future.”

Gilmore’s Wiggle Honda team opened its 2014 account at the bay crits with the team classification, the series with Giorgia Bronzini and the sprint jersey with Peta Mullens. Mullens then backed up with silver in the elite national criterium on Thursday. It’s an impressive start to the year after a strong debut for the team in 2013.

Signing Bronzini looked like a coup for a new team but the pair go back to 2003 as neo pros and share a similar story. Gilmore was a successful junior in BMX to Bronzini’s mountain biking, but both have ridden track and road to success.

Gilmore dipped a toe in the team management water with the Honda Dream Team, then launched the pro team at a time when sponsors were deserting men’s cycling. It wasn’t the easy option, so why?

Gilmore said, “It was a challenge in a world where the economy was struggling and women’s cycling really needed people like me to step in and take some really big risks. I took a really big risk and put my life savings in to building a women’s cycling team and ensuring that the women who joined the team would be looked after well, no matter what happened with sponsorships.

“So I had to get myself into a position over the last 10 years where I could financially back the team myself in case that was to happen. I would never want a situation where people are out of jobs, so it was a really big risk and obviously it took a lot of courage to do it. I’m really glad I did.

“Things went quite smoothly for me. I think the year was probably less challenging than I thought it would be; or more challenging in some areas that I guess I overlooked. The psychology side of it, when you’re managing 16 athletes from nine different countries and 10 to 15 staff members, is not an easy task. A big part of this business is people management so that was a bit of an eye opener for me but it’s a part of the job I really like.

“Now the team is well established and running quite well, almost by itself. I’m just the problem solver. So I’m looking for new challenges already, in life and business and career wise.”

In setting up the team, Gilmore was determined to take a different approach to what she’d experienced as a pro rider. “There’s two sides of it. One is the sponsorship – bringing the money in to the sport and ensuring return on investment. I’ve used a completely different approach to what women’s cycling team managers have done in the past, in ensuring that our sponsors get return on investment and getting hard facts to prove it.

“In terms of giving the athletes what they haven’t had in teams before, the fact that I’m still involved in the sport on a physical level and an athlete myself means I understand the needs of an athlete and that small things make a really big difference.”

In Geelong, for example, she hired adjoining townhouses so riders could socialise in living areas rather than being isolated in hotel rooms.

“Also, involving the athletes in the running and business of the team is something that other managers would never ever consider doing but it’s worked really well with our team to make the athletes accountable for decisions that are made.

“I’ve heard from other team managers that I’m crazy in the way that I work in that the athletes have so much input to decision making but I think that in a lot of businesses now they’re shareholders in the business. To have your employees work hard for what you want they need to be involved in the profits as well. I involve my athletes in the business and I think everyone then feels a part of it and has a feeling of ownership in the team. And that’s working really well.”

Like many others, Gilmore is confident about the future of women’s pro cycling following the changes delivered already by new UCI president Brian Cookson.

“I mean, this could have been done 10 years ago but it’s so satisfying that somebody has really bitten the bullet and said, ‘Look I’m going to be the guy that really pays some attention to women’s cycling’. I’m really appreciative of what he’s already done and I think there’s more that can be done and will be done in the next five to 10 years.”

Top of her wishlist for the near term is TV coverage. “The first thing that I wanted to see happening is happening and that’s the UCI funding TV coverage. So they’ve put their hand in their own pockets and said ‘We want women’s cycling on TV and we’re going to fund it’. So there’s no discussion any more about that; there will be women’s cycling on TV – 52 hours of coverage will be funded by the UCI next year.

“That’s going to be an exploding market for a lot of people. It makes a really big difference to the sport because obviously then sponsors can get direct returns on their investments, and guaranteed returns.

“And the second big thing is obviously for organisers of big men’s races to put on women’s races. So the more of those organisations that can be influenced by the UCI to put on women’s races, the better.”

Gilmore used the camera well as a pro so perhaps it was no surprise to see Wiggle Honda making the most of its media opportunities to deliver for sponsors in Geelong – better than some of the men in fact. The kit graphics are strong, riders perfectly turned out on the podium, and they filled the lens behind Bronzini in interviews (bonus points to Chloe Hosking’s Roxsolt teammates after stage two for this too). They turned heads in Geelong just crossing the road to the podium in formation.

That’s the sort of professionalism that warms a sponsor’s heart – and prompts men in the crowd to share their observations unprompted; thanks guys ;-).

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Gilmore said 2013 exceeded her expectations on every level, on and off the bike. “It was hugely successful for many reasons. Obviously I have some really good assets in my athletes.

“They had been briefed really well before they joined the team about my ambitions for the team which revolves a lot around the professionalism of women’s cycling and the promotion of women’s cycling. So they’re two things that I’m very passionate about that and that I’m wanting to do properly and the athletes that I’ve chosen to join the team complement my ambition in women’s cycling.

“To come here in 2014 and win the first race on the second of January is really special. I think it sets the season up. Obviously we’ve got a really tough task ahead to exceed what we did in 2013; we won so many races. If we could even match that it would be a fabulous year.”

It’s going to be worth watching.

2014 bay crits

The Wiggle Honda team at Portarlington

* UCI rules limit women’s road races to a maximum of eight days and 130 km stages, but can be over-ridden. Or changed. Under Brian Cookson, the UCI has shed the requirement that most riders on women’s teams be under 28, which arose by grouping them with men’s Continental squads.

A women’s Tour, the La Grande Boucle Féminin, ran from 1984 to 2009 (most years, later truncated) – concurrent with the men’s tour in the early years but without the media coverage and therefore sponsor interest.

Marianne Vos, Emma Pooley, Kathryn Bertine and Chrissie Wellington last year set up a petition seeking a women’s Tour de France in 2014. The petition, now with 96,944 signatures, seeks the same distance and dates as the main (trademarked) event but the manifesto recognises a potential pilot or inaugural tour of three to 10 days.

I’m not sure we need three weeks of ˜200 km stages for women. But we need to make a start.

Bronzini kick starts 2014

Bay crits 2014 women series podium

The GC champagne, with UCI vice president Tracey Gaudry (hiding right).

The excitement about women’s cycling was palpable at the finale of the Mitchelton Bay Cycling Classic – the bay crits – in Williamstown on Sunday.

It crystallised on the podium. First up, doing the honours was Commonwealth Games gold medallist and UCI vice president Tracey Gaudry.

Bay crits 2014 series podium

Bay crits 2014 series podium

She was handing the silverware to dual road world champion Giorgia Bronzini of Wiggle Honda Pro Cycling, while South Australians Nettie Edmondson (Orica-AIS) and Tiffany Cromwell (Specialized Securitor) rounded out the series podium. Bronzini’s teammate and national mountain bike champ Peta Mullens was sprint queen, and the women’s field was a record.

For both Bronzini and Wiggle Honda owner Rochelle Gilmore, there was added symmetry. Gilmore won the bay crits as rider in 2010 and 2011 so you could expect some pressure for a team win to kick-start 2014. She exceeded expectations.

And for Bronzini, her first appearance at the bay crits marked a happy return to Geelong where she sprinted to perfection in 2010 to take her first road world race title ahead of Marianne Vos. She did the same in 2011.

The bay crits have seen world class riders before – Robbie McEwen, Mark Renshaw, Kathy Watt, Kate Bates and Gilmore – but never a dual road race world champion like Bronzini with 70 road wins and another rainbow in the points race.

So she was the focus of surprisingly little media coverage in the first couple of days, perhaps reflecting awareness and coverage of a minority sport and women’s sport in general, plus the filtering of Euro-centric cycling through an English-speaking media. It’s hard to follow such riders if you don’t know they exist.

Happily, by the time Bronzini cracked the champagne in Williamstown the crowd seemed to appreciate her quality as a rider.

bay crits 2014 women

Bronzini in action in Geelong

Tracey Gaudry noted this year’s women’s field was the most international, as well as the biggest. “It just shows how strong women’s cycling is, it shows how important Australia is as a destination for women’s cycling and it shows the calibre of racing and competition that we’ve got.

“The Mitchelton bay series is the kick-start to the summer season for racing here in Australia and the good thing about it is it provides a stepping stone for up and coming riders and it keeps the experienced elite riders honest. It shows us in the early part of the year who’s actually taking the year seriously and it sets up our riders for competition for when they go overseas.

“And Giorgia is just a great example of an elite female athlete – a great personality, a wonderful level of commitment and a team that’s going from strength to strength,” Gaudry said.

Gilmore knows such early form in Geelong may cost Bronzini later in the season, but the Italian has been perfecting athletic performance for a long time.

She said, “My father brought me to a race for young girls and kids and he asked me if I want to try – for play, with the other kids – and I said yeah. I was a gymnast which was really disciplined. So I would like to change and go back to be a kid, no (laugh) – to try it for play. So I tried a bike and I was good from the start.”

She certainly was, taking junior national titles on road, track and mountain bike. “I won every single discipline in the bike, because (smiles) I like bikes.

“After (that) I must choose a max of two of them because the season is long and it is impossible to do everything as a professional. So I chose to stay on the track and the road, because I was competitive with my power and they are compatible. I need to do track for some sprints on the road and I need to do road for some efforts for sprint on the track.”

bay crits 2014 women

A massage for bay crits winner Giorgia Bronzini

With such broad skills and strength, you’d think cyclocross a possibility. So are we likely to see Bronzini in the mud?

“No, because I don’t like so much to run (laugh), so when I come off the bike it is really a problem for me. But maybe when I stop riding [as a pro] I might like to try triathlon cos I like being in sport, I like swimming, I like riding a bike. So maybe the run will be a problem, but just for fun maybe I’ll try it.”

Having juggled road and track she favours neither and values the variety, as well as the chance to tune her speed on the track during the road season.

Bronzini’s sprint has helped her own the points race – she topped the UCI world ranking three years running – but she notes changes in the past year.

“Before, girls were taking points in the sprint. Right now there’s more girls trying to take a lap, because more of the girls that do team pursuit and individual pursuit have come to the points race. So the race can be faster than before and you have no time for recovery, and the sprints are not really sprints, but just heightened speed. The average speeds are really high. For us at the worlds and world cup it’s around 48 km/h.”

Bronzini is optimistic about women’s pro cycling following the changes at UCI in 2013, noting the women’s peloton working together on important issues, and the increased professionalism of teams.

And it’s professionalism that was at the heart of her advice to aspiring pros. “To the younger girls I would say have a passion, but there’s no rush to become champ. My best results were aged 28. So try to be professional and follow the right course towards that.”

Tomorrow, a chat with Wiggle Honda’s Rochelle Gilmore.

Bay crits final today

bay crits 2014

Geelong backdrop for day 2 of the 2014 Bay Crits, Eastern Gardens

The 2014 bay crits finish in Williamstown today, and there’ll be no better place to be.

Rochelle Gilmore’s Wiggle Honda team goes in to the fourth and final race after capturing the elite sprint jersey with Peta Mullens at a windy Portarlington course yesterday, while retaining the teams classification, and GC jersey with new headline rider Giorgia Bronzini.

The racing has been hard fought but Wiggle have been there when it counted while providing a masterclass in sponsorship finesse to outclass the men. The crowd comments suggest it’s been appreciated.

We have something special coming on Bronzini and Wiggle Honda, so stay tuned.

The elite men also provided great entertainment at the tough Portarlington circuit yesterday, with Luke Durbridge demonstrating why he’s called Turbo Durbo as he launched off the front with Pat Shaw. Durbridge took the win but Zak Dempster snatched the yellow from Matt Goss with a brave fourth. Orica GreenEdge leads the men’s teams.

Day 2, Geelong:

Day 3, Portarlington:

Summer cycling smorgasboard

What a summer of cycling: cx world cups on UCI Channel, #svenness and #likeavos as programming, mountains for climbing and triple world champ Giorgia Bronzini at the Mitchelton Bay Crits.

Just a few quick pix from day one of the bay crits in Geelong yesterday, with three more days ahead:

Road toll down, for most

The western calendar marks a reset point for most people. Time to review and renew, to do a little better.

It’s also time to reset a marker that’s a media staple on the slow news days between Christmas Eve and the Times Square ball drop. Yet it’s one to which we seem inured most of the year.

It’s the road toll, that disturbing metric of our love affair with the car. Our seductively comfortable, convenient, well marketed cars.

Victoria’s provisional road toll for 2013 was a record low 242 – down from 282 in 2012 and down for the sixth year in a row. Cyclist fatalities were thankfully so low that they didn’t rate a mention in the police media release.

We’re doing better thanks partly to safer roads and cars, better policing and education/behaviour change programs. But overall, it’s better than lousy if you take a wide view.

In 2011, Australia’s leading cause of death was heart disease which claimed over 21,000 lives while drowning [PDF] accounted for 315 and Afghanistan 11. The national road toll that year was, by comparison, a large 1277.

Nationally, road deaths to November 2013 [PDF] were down 9 per cent overall to 1086 and down in all main categories of road user – drivers, passengers, pedestrians and motorbikes.

But one category was up nationally, and up a massive 16 per cent, and that’s cyclists. To the end of November, 43 cyclists had died on Australian roads. NSW and Queensland were hard hit. There were at least six more in December so that number will go higher.

The equation goes More cyclists = safer because drivers learn to deal with riders and such critical mass can’t be ignored in allocating scarce road space. Clearly we’re not there yet.

Nor is our attitude to driving looking good when the pre-Christmas blitz racked up 15,000 driving offences in two weeks in Victoria alone. Top of the list were speeding (7124), driving an unregistered vehicle (2109), driving while using a mobile phone (1930) and disobeying traffic signals (1360). Handy stats next time you’re accosted at a party about scofflaw cyclists. Let alone Saturday’s reported rampage on Beach Road.

Traffic offences speak volumes about our attitudes when we’re effectively in charge of a lethal weapon. But they flag an even higher price tag to society.

What we don’t reset with the road toll each year are the costs of road funding, resource use, air pollution and injuries, nor the opportunity cost of failing to mode switch to active/public transport. And this is where cycling can make a real difference.

Cycling has the potential to deliver an enormous bottom line, freeing up road space for cars and trucks that really need it, busting obesity and nudging heart disease, improving air quality and individual mobility. Let alone getting to work on time. More careful driving is safer for drivers, passengers and pedestrians and putting people back on streets makes communities safer. It’s win/win/win/win/win …

And then there’s the fun and freedom of utility cycling, which are priceless. Only cyclists take the long way home.

But many potential riders don’t take the next step because the roads don’t feel safe. In effect, our driving constrains the potential payoff.

The Pulitzer Centre estimates 1.2 million people die on the world’s roads each year and lauds Australia’s success in curbing road deaths, so we shouldn’t sell the 2013 result short. But if we assess cars as safer than cycling, it’s time to rethink the breadth of the community costs we’re including in the risk assessment.

And then imagine the compliance we’d get from cars at intersection bike boxes if we adopted the Brazilian approach to pedestrian crossing enforcement:

Have a great, safe 2014.

Edit: The Age has some useful stats here, and the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics runs the Australian Road Deaths Database here.