He’s a familiar sight in Bendigo. Any weekday morning you’ll see Eddie Barkla on his way to work with two bulging panniers strapped to his bike.
Six years ago, that was Eddie’s introduction when his first column was published.
Since then he has introduced us to the champions of cycling in Bendigo: the athletes with medals in their trophy cabinet, the hard workers with dreams of medals, and the everyday heroes and heroines who quietly go about life on their bikes.
His column has also been a platform for his message of safety and sharing the road with respect. Look after yourself and your bike, be seen, be predictable. Respect other road users just as you want them to respect you.
He still pedals to work and back every day with bulging panniers, often sitting on the back of a bunch out training just as he’s done for years. These days he carries a new passenger on his handlebars. The small Cat in the Hat doll lay on the road for days before he stopped to give him a lift. Now, like a truck mascot, the Cat watches the road ahead for him.
Eddie might have wished for someone to watch the road ahead for him when he suffered a nasty crash and a bad collar bone break on a morning training ride. It was actually the morning of his mother’s funeral and since then he has also lost his father after a long illness and his father-in-law. What sustains him through that grief and life’s trials is his family and his strong faith.
Eddie’s readiness to help out on the road had earned him the nickname the cycling chaplain by 2006. Now it’s less a nickname than a job description – he was ordained a priest in the Anglican Church last year.
He still works at Powercor. Though he no longer races, he still takes part in fund raising rides like the annual Murray to Moyne. He still organises the annual Ride of Silence in Bendigo to remember cyclists killed on the road. And he still publishes a weekly email newsletter.
In 2006 it had grown over nine years from an audience of five to over 300 who were based in mainly around Bendigo with some reach to Melbourne. Now his newsletter goes out to over 900 people who are located all over Australia.
If Eddie’s intention in starting the newsletter was to help create a sense of community among cyclists in Bendigo, that community has grown beyond anything he originally imagined.
Eddie has always believed that cycling crosses all social boundaries and creates opportunities for networking and understanding that might not exist elsewhere. “It really encourages me – the number of people across all walks of life,” he said in 2006. “CEOs, doctors, lawyers, nurses, teachers, builders, plumbers, electricians.”
Such communities need a glue to hold them together and Eddie is in large part that glue. We may no longer open the Weekly to see who Eddie has profiled this week, but his ministry continues.
If you see him pedalling to work, wave and say hello. He always has time for a chat. And if you’re not on his mailing list he’ll happily hand you a business card and ask you to email him so he can add you.