“I gained some notoriety some years ago by stupidly trying to ride across the old wooden bridge on Nanima Road and of course put the front tyre down between the planks, and broke seven ribs and punctured a lung!”
At 75 years of age Tom Campbell is hanging up his lycra after nine years of being a very active Pedal Power member. Tom’s involvement bucks the trend identified by the 2015 National Cycling Participation Survey, which identified a significant decline in cycling participation rates among males over 50.
We are grateful for Tom’s years of service to the Canberra cycling community. We spoke to Tom about cycling and being a Ride Leader, the most interesting rides around Canberra for history buffs, and puncturing a lung while cycling.
Tell us a bit about your history with cycling.
As a very amateur bike rider I used ride up to work from Wanniassa to the embryonic National Museum of Australia on the side of the Lake. Then after moving to Braddon, I rode from Braddon to the National Library for research. Of course I rode incessantly around my home town of Gunnedah NSW as a boy but then not for years when living in Sydney, Armidale and Goulburn. I took it up again with a young family when living in Los Angeles.
My family and I were overseas for the complete era of the Whitlam Government. I was posted to Los Angeles and Karachi in Pakistan. When we lived in LA our son Kieran was about four, and I bought a wire pannier set, and we had a little padded seat where Kieran sat with his legs in the panniers. We roared around North Hollywood like that. North Hollywood in the 70s had beautiful big wide roads, and quiet suburban blocks – we rode around with my seven year old daughter on her bike, and my four year old on the back of my bike.
When I first started with Pedal Power in 2007 I had an old bike that I paid $10 for, but that was stolen so I spent about $1000 for a road bike.
What inspired you to join Pedal Power?
I was attracted initially by publicity around a stunt that [ex-Pedal Power CEO] Leon Arundell set up, a three-person peak hour commute by car, bus and bicycle from Downer to the city - the bicycle won.
I fondly remember nights at the Pedal Power offices stuffing envelopes, where I enjoyed the wonderful hospitality and the people. Membership opened up introductions to cycling enthusiasts like Anne Marie and Rod Driver, Julia and John Widdup, the Wensings, Kim Young, Alasdair Sinclair, Ross Crossman, John Hinds and many others.
I work on the principle you join organisations to support their commitments, which was why I first went to Pedal Power. Ill health finally forced me out of being able to drive or ride, so had to give away the bikes, but very deliberately maintain membership as a vote of confidence in the purposes of Pedal Power.
What do you personally regard as the purpose of Pedal Power?
The encouragement of cycling for pleasure or purpose, advocacy, and being an information source about what members are doing or have done.
Pedal Power is related to alternative forms of transport, general health, good infrastructure – politicians are not particularly interested in Pedal Power, but they do respond to submissions that might start with words like ‘Pedal Power is an organisation with some X thousand members, interested in green paint or whatever’.
I have every intention of remaining a member for as long as I am alert enough to react to renewal reminder notices.
How many kilometres did you do a week on average?
On Sundays we’d do about 65-70kms. The day I had my accident we’d started out at Dickson. Rule number one is never ever ever ever ride on a wooden bridge. They called my wife and told her I was dead!
They didn’t really tell your wife you were dead did they?
Yes, they did.
So anyway, occasionally we’d go out to Gundaroo, and once we went out to Collector because there was a nice café out there with scones.
Where was your favourite place to ride?
As long as you finish up at the café next to the War Memorial, wherever. That’s a great place to end up for coffee.
What have you learned from being a cyclist? Do you have any hard-won wisdom to impart?
That I put on five kilos when I stopped. Have I learnt anything from bike riding? That the sheer joy of moving around on your bike is superior to going anywhere in the car. You could ride from North Canberra down to Tuggeranong, and then if you didn’t want to ride home you could put your bike on the front of a bus. Far superior, riding. I miss it.