Road Cycling

Nullarbor cyclist death in truck collision raises questions over Eyre Highway bike safety – ABC News

A tragedy involving the death of a cyclist on the Eyre Highway near Caiguna on Tuesday has prompted both riders and drivers to voice concerns over the safety of crossing the desolate stretch by bike.

21-year-old Leif Justham from Scott Creek in South Australia died after colliding with a prime mover also travelling in South Australia.

His family has released a statement describing Mr Justham as “a firecracker with a huge heart,” and said he lived by his convictions.

Mr Justham had been riding across the Nullarbor to raise awareness for the need to divest in fossil fuels.

The family’s statement said Mr Justham had “a passionate love for the planet and all the life that came from it”.

A 37-year-old truck driver, also from South Australia, was charged with dangerous driving occasioning death and is set to appear via video link at Kalgoorlie Magistrate’s Court on Thursday, April 15.

Tara Lal and Sarah Davis are riding from Steep Point to Byron Bay and met Mr Justham as they crossed paths just hours before the incident. Ms Lal said the event caused them to re-evaluate their journey.

“It’s something that we really had to think very hard about, whether we would continue or not after what’s happened,” she said.

The Eyre Highway is the only sealed roadway between Western Australia and South Australia and is a key artery for road trains.(

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Ms Lal told the ABC there had been some scary situations along the way.

“When you have two vehicles going in opposite directions and there’s a double white line, then those vehicles don’t have space to move around you,” she said.

Truck driver Ben Stamatovich made the journey across the Nullarbor twice a week and said the Eyre Highway was simply unsafe for cyclists.

“When there’s a truck coming at me and I’m coming at a truck, we’re not far off clipping mirrors as is,” Mr Stamatovich said.

This time of year is particularly tense for truck drivers on the remote stretch of highway with the Indian-Pacific Wheel Race passing through the area in recent weeks.

Organisers of the Fremantle to Sydney race discontinued the event in 2018 after a coronial inquiry into the death of participant Mike Hall in a crash in the ACT in the previous year. However, riders have continued to make their own race, with the frontrunner arriving in Sydney on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, a cyclist participating in the race has been recovering in hospital in Adelaide following an incident on the South Australian side of the Nullarbor.

Truck driver Ben Stamatovich makes the journey across the Eyre Highway twice a week and is worried more deaths will occur.(

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Mr Stamatovich said the higher numbers of cyclists, as well as the competitive nature of the race, put riders and drivers at risk, especially when riding at night.

“Last week I came across two of them at 2:30 in the morning,” he said.

He said some cyclists pulled over to allow trucks to pass, but this was rarer for racers.

“You’re in for an 80, 90, 200-hour ride anyway. An extra couple of minutes can be lifesaving.”

Cycling group warns against the event

CEO of WestCycle, Western Australia’s peak body for cycling, Wayne Bradshaw also said events like this put cyclists at risk.

“Where riders are required to stay on the road for extended periods of time at all hours of the day and night under fatigued situations, it would seem that there is a significantly increased risk associated with those rides,” Mr Bradshaw said.

He said WestCycle would caution riders from participating in an event like the Indian Pacific Wheel Race.

“Based on the coronial inquiry and the inherent dangers, we wouldn’t be sanctioning an event of that nature,” Mr Bradshaw said.

As for independent journeys, like the one undertaken by Leif Justham, he said safety precautions for cyclists and drivers were vital.

“If they are going to do them, be aware of the risks and take appropriate precautions like visibility and potentially moving off the road as trucks pass,” he said.