THE WEEKEND READ: We all must take care on Captain Cook Highway

Published Saturday 21 May 2016

Fame, wrote Emily Dickinson in a poem of the same title, is a fickle food.  I won’t be quoted, but I think it was gonzo journalist PJ O’Rourke who said that fame is fleeting.  And so it may be, but it (fame) came to mind recently.

I was seated, dear Reader, at a quiet table, having coffee with friends who engage in similar interests – cycling and coffee – when an acquaintance approached and said hello.  After I had introduced Chris to my fellow coffee drinkers and cyclists, we had a quiet conversation.

Chris: Mate, I love your articles on Newsport.

Me: (scratching the outline of a circle in the concrete and trying to look appropriately demure) That’s good to hear mate.  Thanks.

Chris: Why don’t you write one about closing the range to cyclists?

Me: Well, yes, there’s been a lot of brouhaha about the Kuranda range from Smithfield.  I’ve never ridden it myself, but it does seem to present a few headaches for cyclists and motorists alike.

Chris: No, that range.

Me: Oh, the range road from Mossman to Julatten and on to Rifle Creek and My Molloy? I’ve not ridden that road either.  Blokes my age tend to ride flatter surfaces like town, Mowbray Valley and the road to Rex Lookout.

Chris: That’s what I’m talking about – the road between Port Douglas and the Rex Lookout then from there to Ellis Beach and Palm Cove.

Me: Come on, mate, that’s a great road for riding, relatively safe and from what I’ve experienced, when riding as a group, there’s a fair bit of consideration both ways between cyclists and motorists.

Chris: If I’m driving that road and round a bend and come across a couple of cyclists riding two or three abreast, and there’s a semi coming the other way, I can tell you, I’m not running head-on into the truck! So, why don’t you write about that?

So, that’s the reason this week’s article is about the Rex Lookout Road, Captain Cook Highway, between Port Douglas and Palm Cove.  Doubtless, this road is one of the most potentially dangerous roads in Queensland and possibly Australia.  It’s also one of the most picturesque; it also happens to be, for keen and competitive cyclists, the perfect mix of rolling hills and challenging climbs in the vicinity of Port and Palm Cove. More importantly, it is the road used for the Ironman and Ironman 70.3 Challenges, which, ironically, are only 4 weeks away.

So, what do we do to ensure that we’re all safe?

Firstly, it’s incumbent on ALL road users to drive to conditions. That is to say, when the road’s wet, when the sun’s in one’s eyes, when the road is under heavy traffic loads, when the road is bending, there’s a need for all of us to be mindful and drive/ride accordingly. 

I empathise with Chris’ notion that if he comes around a bend and is forced to make a decision between a head-on with a truck and cleaning a couple of cyclists, the decision would be relatively easy – at least in terms of discussing what one would do rather than what one WOULD do in the circumstances. What if you were driving that road and rounded a bend where a car crash had just occurred; where a cyclist had fallen from their bike; where a motorcyclist had come of his motorcycle?  What evasive action could you take if you were driving at the mandated 80 km/h but conditions really dictated a slower speed?

You know, reader - and Chris - that the Queensland Police does not condone the use of the word ‘accident’ – they are all ‘traffic crashes’ – as ‘accident’ gives the impression it couldn’t be avoided.  The QPS is of the belief, and I agree, that there is always a means to avoid a crash, if only people drive/ride to conditions.

So, Chris, mate, you are credited with this article, and to the point of your given name, you’re in print.  Let’s all take care on the roads; let’s remember that we’re all in this together, and that crashes can be avoided. Let’s also remember that in three weeks time, the Captain Cook Highway will be celebrated world wide as ‘cycling central’ for the Ironman competition, and that money CANNOT buy that sort of publicity for our region.

Take care out there. And thanks Chris!

As for ‘fame’?  Haven’t heard from Chris since.  He’s probably forgotten the conversation!