I remember the day that I heard Amy Gillett was tragically killed by a car in Germany while on a training ride with the rest of the AIS women. I had just moved to Australia and had never heard of Amy or her teammates, but I was shocked that such a thing could happen. Whenever I hear of someone getting killed on a bike it really hits home and makes me pause to think.

In the past 5 years I’ve watched the Amy Gillett Foundation (AGF) turn into something far grander than many of these charities turn out to be. It’s clear that this foundation is here for the long haul and has grown to be much bigger than those who created it.

A short while ago I had a chat with the AGF’s Chairman Duncan Murray. For years I had seen Duncan out on the bunch rides but never realized his involvement with the AGF. I took this opportunity to ask Duncan exactly what the AGF does and where their donations are spent. I didn’t want to just hear their broad mission statement. I wanted to know what they do and how cyclists benefit from their work.

Here is a condensed version of AGF’s core strategies and some of the programs they’ve implemented to carry them out. This is all here in detail on the Amy Gillett Foundation website but if you’re anything like me you want the short and sweet version.

1. Raise awareness among cyclists and motorist to reduce the incidence of death and injury caused by their interaction.

  • A Meter Matters is their most recent and visible campaign. This basically ask motorists to give cyclists an extra meter of space when passing. 93% of serious cycling accidents involve a motor vehicle. Motorists’ lack of awareness of cycists is believed to be the cause. You’ll see more of this campaign this year on Channel Ten and a number of Foxtel channels and Cinema advertising.
  • Amy’s Ride: This is one of the AGF’s most powerful ways of spreading their message. It gets great media coverage, high profile riders participating and a sea of “A Meter Matters” jerseys out on the roads. During the 2009-2010 season the Amy’s Rides in Geelong, Adelaide, Canberra and Albury attracted over 6,400 riders.

2. Education of cyclists and motorists

  • Road Right: This program is to educate the next generation of motorists (during driver training) to safely interact with cyclists and to develop positive attitudes towards them. Old drivers are hard to change. Focusing on new drivers is a much more effective strategy to create positive attitudes and interaction with cyclists. Over 53,000 entries have been received in the first three years of this program.
  • Ride Right: To ensure beginner riders are properly equiped and have access to the right safety information. Riding the right bike and clothing can make a big difference in safety and the cycling experience. For example, 40% of cycling fatalities between 1996 and 2000 weren’t wearing helmets.
  • AustCycle: This is a joint venture between the AGF and Cycling Australia and is a significant step forward in standardized, quality cycling training around the country . This has been set up to teach beginners how to cycle safely and gives them the skills to manage traffic on the road. Just like swimming has AustSwim where lessons are an integral part of learning of water safety, AustCycle does the same for cycling. It only seems logical.

3. Fund research to get the appropriate information to guide policies and programs of the AGF

  • Research Scholarship: The AGF helps fund a postgraduate research scholarship for research into incidents involving cyclists and motorists. There is a huge void in information on collision data. Without knowing factors that influence the safety of cyclists, how are these issues supposed to be addressed? Right now there is an online survey being conducted that’s part of this research. I’m sure they’d appreciate your input. For more details on the research you can find it here.

4. Influence public policy and funding as it relates to the AGF objectives

  • The AGF has made strong partnerships with drivers groups, corporations, governments and influential Ambassadors/Patrons (including Phil Anderson, Mark Webber, Cadel Evans to name a few). The strong voice and credibility these supporters provide for the foundation is priceless in spreading their message and influencing public policy. The list of people (all volunteer) who are on the AGF board and committee is mindblowing.

Most of these initiatives may sound very basic and like they have little immediate effect, but dramatic change doesn’t happen overnight. The issues we’re seeing today between motorists and cyclists are relatively new and the foundations for preventing and dealing with the problems are still being understood. Education is the key and it’s the main theme of where most of the AGF’s efforts go towards. I don’t think there’s a better way to accomplish what they’re trying to achieve.

I’m glad to see that the AGF spends their time and money on getting stuff done, not telling everyone what they’ve done.

So, what does the AGF do for us cyclists? As you can see, they do a hell of a lot that cyclists like me take for granted.