By Kirra Grimes
HORSE riders in Nyora are asking for greater respect from motorists after “too many” incidents of reckless and aggressive behaviour on the town’s roads.
Nyora resident Serena Jansen has spoken out after a recent incident at the intersection of Berrys Road and Cornishes Road in which she says a male driver in a ute deliberately reversed his vehicle, at a high speed, towards her and the horse she was riding, stopping within a metre of them.
Serena had been riding her horse on the nature strip at the time, she said in her report to Korumburra police, and the driver became aggressive when she refused to provide her name when questioned as to why she was riding on the nature strip.
“The incident really upset me and at the time I was scared that the car wasn’t going to stop when he was reversing and was going to hit the horse and I,” Serena’s police statement reads.
Since Serena went public with her story to warn other riders on social media last week, several other Nyora horse riders have told the Sentinel-Times they’ve experienced similar incidents that have made them feel unsafe to ride around the town, from cars passing them at high speeds, to more extreme, apparently deliberate, acts of violence and intimidation.
Paula Simeth has shared photographs with the Sentinel-Times which show paramedics attending to her in an unconscious state on the side of the road, after a car “sped up and swerved at” her and her horse Sanaska, while they were out riding in Nyora in October 2018.
Paula now avoids riding around the town, for fear of being “abused” or “run off the road,” she said; as does her 13-year-old son Noah, who hasn’t ridden at all, even at home, since he was threatened by a motorist while out riding with Paula at the age of eight.
“He scared me and I didn’t want to ride again. He said he was going to kill us,” Noah said.
Last week was not the first time Nyora riders had come together to speak to the media about fears for their safety.
The Sentinel-Times reported on similar issues two years ago, but riders say things have “definitely gotten worse, not better” since then, possibly due to changing demographics of the town, which was once populated by generations of farming families, but has in recent years been attracting commuters from the outskirts of Melbourne.
“There’s new homes, more traffic, and people are impatient and intolerant. They want to get where they’re going and not be held up,” said one rider who did not wish to be named.
After Serena’s incident, earlier this month, some riders have even resorted to ordering body-worn cameras to record aggressive or reckless behaviour and bring offenders to justice.
“It’s beyond a joke now,” said another rider who did not wish to be named.
“We live in a country town but we can’t even enjoy our sport without being harassed and followed. There are endless stories.”
Riders say the problem is particularly bad on the Grundy Avenue, near the Nyora Primary School, and parts of the South Gippsland Highway, where roadside drains prevent riders from moving out of the way of cars, leaving them with “nowhere to go” if a driver becomes impatient.
They’re asking other road users to understand that they are permitted by law to ride on roads and nature strips, unless specifically prohibited, and that there’s no justification for resorting to violence or threats.
“We just want to get home safely and for drivers to understand the rules they’re supposed to follow and to slow down like they do with bike riders,” said Serena.
“They don’t need to beep their horn or get abusive and frighten the horses and create a dangerous situation.
“We just want more awareness and for drivers to respect us and respect the law.
“It is a country town, so let’s all get along before someone gets seriously hurt,” she said.