Life Changer – Quadriplegic from Shared Path Head-on Crash


Perth’s lethal bicycle paths

TREVOR Tyers was left paralysed after a horrific bicycle smash on Perth’s shambolic cycleways.

The once ultra-fit chemical engineer was training two female friends for triathlons when he was in a collision with another cyclist on a Como bike path one morning in January last year.

He was left a wreck on the side of the path with a broken back, paralysed from the shoulders down.

Confined to a wheelchair, Mr Tyers, 60, has spoken for the first time about his accident, hoping to warn others about the perils of Perth bike paths.

He remembers heading north around a bend alongside the Kwinana Freeway – followed by his friends in single file.

He was being careful after an earlier near-miss with a pack of cyclists at Canning Bridge forced him off the cycle track.

But vision around the curve was obscured by foliage and a tree.

“I remember shouting out `Bikes, bikes, oh, no’,” he said. “Coming the other way were six riders not in single file.

“I missed the first rider and hit the second one.

“My head was snapped back, I went backwards over the second rider behind me and flew over her and landed.

“I ended up with a broken neck. I snapped my spine in two places.

Mr Tyers was in Royal Perth Hospital’s intensive care unit for six weeks before being moved to the Quadriplegic Centre.

The father-of-two had coached rugby, trained and competed in triathlons, scuba dived and rowed.
Now he needs 12 hours of daily care.

He previously helped disabled people through volunteer work, but now finds it hard to even breathe.

“I can’t scratch my nose, wipe my eyes, comb my own hair, or brush my teeth,” he said, while using his chin to operate his wheelchair.

He said Main Roads WA removed the tree and shrubbery at the path.

But he said people needed to realise the dangers of not riding single file on dual-use paths and cycling without helmets.

“I was lucky I had the helmet on,” he said. “It was split into four pieces, but at least I’ve still got a brain.”

Mr Tyers said he would sue Main Roads and the other rider, who received minor injuries.
Any payout would contribute to his goal of living at home again with his partner of six years, Yvonne Wilcox.

“Luckily Yvonne has stayed with me, and her daughters and my friends have supported me, because without them, there wouldn’t be much point living,” he said.

Mr Tyers’ lawyer Phillip Gleeson, of Slater and Gordon called for an immediate safety audit of WA bike paths to stop this type of tragedy occurring again.

Planning Minister Alannah MacTiernan has told The Sunday Times of plans for more bike-only paths to relieve the risks of riding and congestion.

She said Mr Tyers accident was tragic, but for legal reasons could not comment.

Main Roads would defend the case if it proceeded.

episode 4

Broadcast 6.30pm on 18/7/2002

Trevor Tyres could see himself ageing beyond his workmates. He was employed to create a redundancy scheme, which then left him redundant. He went down big time – couldn’t bear to leave the house except to go on long, aimless jogs. His marriage broke down. His kids stopped talking to him. He considered suicide. He then joined “Bureau Gravitas” an agency of older people helping other oldies to find reemployment. He has retrained as a carer for disabled adults, found a new love and a new zest for life.

GEORGE NEGUS: G’day again. Well, right now Australia’s baby boomers are popular targets for all sorts of self-styled critics from other generations. For better or worse, it’s true that they did pioneer sex before marriage, spawned women’s liberation and popularised divorce. They’re also the first wave of a major increase in an ageing Australian population. So, will they grow old gracefully and quietly? Probably not.

In less than 50 years time, a quarter of the country’s population will be 65 or over, and the big political issue is going to be whether or not younger and fitter Australians are prepared to support the older and frailer ones. Or, as one cynic put it to me, “Will the taxpayers continue to keep their elders in custard and bed pans?” Even now, getting older is something of a no-no in contemporary Australian workplaces. At 55, former engineer Trevor Tyers represents a whole slab of the Australian workforce being made redundant simply because of their age.

TREVOR TYERS, ENGINEER [NOW REDUNDANT]: I found myself part of the de-manning exercise, and the idea was everybody would be called in and told whether they’ve got a job or not got a job. You normally think, when you do those sort of things, that you don’t become part of the scheme you’ve actually drawn up.

VOICEOVER: We regret to inform you that your services are no longer required.

TREVOR TYERS: I felt anger at first. I thought, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” You felt as if you were floating. You thought, “I’m not hearing this.” Particularly someone who’s been there 20 years and knew the ropes. I thought, “Why don’t you talk to me as a person, “rather than read me this script?” I noticed that all the people that gathered together that lunchtime were all the over-50s. That’s the name of the game now. You hit 50, you’ve had a good innings, bye-bye.

DON GORDON, CO-DIRECTOR BUREAU GRAVITAS: 500 human resources managers and recruiters around Australia were surveyed. Nearly 80 per cent of the people surveyed wouldn’t consider recruiting someone over 40, and of the 20 per cent who would, none of those would consider anybody over 50. The fact is, if the age bias against mature-age workers isn’t broken down, then simply mandating an increase in the retirement age won’t be effective.

TREVOR TYERS: I used to work – sometimes 12 hours a day, go on trips to Melbourne, work on the planes – things like that. And you think, “What was it all for?” And you feel useless. My daughter was just about to leave school. She was in Year 12, my son was in Year 10. And they were both at private schools and they were both wanting to go to university at the time.

DON GORDON: Perhaps most importantly, they don’t want to feel that they have no further contribution to make to society.

TREVOR TYERS: When I was home, all I wanted to do was run. I wanted to get out of myself and do other things. And of course, my former wife – ’cause we split up in the end. Basically I was becoming quite grumpy. I was becoming quite emotionally insecure. You lose your routine and therefore you lose your direction in where you’re going. I rang up for one job and basically I was told, “I’m sorry, you’re over-qualified,” e.g. you’re too old. And you think, “I don’t want to ring up anymore.”

DON GORDON: 60 per cent of people over the age of 55 who lose their jobs will not work again. And that’s a horrifying statistic, quite frankly, because at that stage, they still have 25 years or thereabouts of life remaining.

TREVOR TYERS: The rejection got to the lowest probably around about Father’s Day, when I didn’t hear from my own children. When people said they were depressed, I thought it was just like a sickness – like the flu. I realised that it’s not like that. It can actually be much more serious and can be life-threatening. And I ended up with my own doctor. The first question my doctor said was, “How come it’s taken you so long to get here?” And that’s where I was lucky that I got to be with Gravitas, because they had a different attitude. They wanted to help the people over 45. They’re the only agency I went to who were capable of doing anything.

DON GORDON: The main thing that we do for mature-aged unemployed people is run a personal empowerment program that mirrors our own origins. Because most people of our age – and all three directors of our company are mature-age, we’re all over 50 – we’ve grown up and worked in careers with an expectation of continuing to work. The system of work is changing and that expectation can no longer be met.

TREVOR: I’m halfway through a carer’s course now. I did the voluntary work. I loved it. I realised the humility of what my situation was compared to some of the people who had disabilities.

JULIO DI LABIO, STROKE VICTIM: Trevor, to me, is a great person, mainly because of the same interest. And also go down to winery and…

TREVOR TYERS: Yeah, he likes his wine. I’m not allowed to drink, though.

JULIO DI LABIO: Yes, which is unfortunate.

TREVOR TYERS: When somebody smiles who hasn’t laughed for a long time your whole world changes.

YVONNE WILCOX, TREVOR’S PARTNER: The big turning point is when he stopped running from things and stood and faced them squarely.

TREVOR TYERS: Now I’ve got a job. I’ve got a new interest in my love-life. I feel much more secure. I’ve gone back to the classroom. I’ve had to pick up skills that I didn’t think I had again, and that’s good because it’s made me more alive.

GEORGE NEGUS: Clearly, life can begin at 55. By the way, groups like Bureau Gravitas are bobbing up in all the capital cities, we hear.

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