Head-on. Drunk driver. Hit and run. These were the first words my eyes fell on when I opened a cycling forum post from a riding mate of mine. I scanned the rest of the post quickly to make sure that Mark had written it himself and not his widow. That’s a sobering reaction, isn’t it? Fortunately Mark was alive, but his ride, the well known Green Rocket, was not. This is the story of the Green Rocket’s demise and subsequent rebirth. It’s a tale of tragedy, triumph, the human spirit, and how great a love can be, and it all starts on a shared path.
The Green Rocket is a Sydney icon; most regular cyclists have at least seen it rolling along a street or bike path and the Rocket is instantly memorable since it’s a Trisled rotovelo (RV) recumbent trike. The Rocket looks more like some sort of weird motorised vehicle than a pedal powered one. I won’t describe it here, since the photos explain it better than I can, but you can be certain that it attracts attention wherever it goes.
“The RV is definitely the fastest and most comfortable ‘bike’ I’ve ever ridden, and as such I love riding it,” says Mark Doble, the Green Rocket’s owner, “While it is pedal powered, it’s official classification is a ‘Velomobile’. I realised before buying it that the RV is an unusual vehicle and I wasn’t really sure if it would be suitable to ride in Sydney. I figured though ‘nothing ventured-nothing gained’.
“It is very easy to ride in Sydney because of its uniqueness; simply, it gets noticed. I’m given a LOT of respect out on the roads; it’s as though I’m driving a car, I’m treated equally, it’s nice.
“I am also aware that with it being such an unusual vehicle, I would probably be asked about it every time I did get out and ride. That’s definitely true, every stop involves answering 20+ questions.
“I’m always happy to chat about the RV and always hopeful that I’ll get someone else to be adventurous enough to give a Velomobile a go.”
And it certainly travels to some interesting places; just last year Mark rode the Green Rocket from Perth to Sydney in a wonderful bucket list adventure that took him 7 weeks to complete. Covered in stickers from his numerous journeys and sponsors, the Rocket looks more like some sort of futuristic Combi van, just without a surfboard on top.
In March this year, while coming home from a family gathering, and while riding along a shared path in Bonnyrigg, Mark was hit, head-on, by a drunk driver. Having just previously taken out the traffic lights, mounting the gutter, and hitting Mark (on the shared path, remember), the driver rolled back onto the road, restarted his car, and took off, crashing into two more cars before finally being caught by someone who was following him and witnessed the carnage. Police and ambulance attended the scene.
Mark didn’t need hospitalisation, but did suffer through months of pain and physiotherapy. Probably the only reason he’s still alive is because he was in the Green Rocket. It didn’t do as well as Mark; the body of the Rocket was smashed, the wheels were pretzeled, and the frame supporting the beast was bent.
While the driver’s compulsory third party took care of medical expenses and lost wages, getting compensation for the Green Rocket was another story. The driver was charged with high range drink driving, negligent driving, and leaving the scene of an accident. He was found guilty, though he originally denied that anything happened at all! In addition to fines, he was disqualified from driving for 3 years. Case closed…but didn’t they forget something?
The Green Rocket was a write off and quotes for a new one were submitted to the court so compensation could be included in the driver’s sentencing, but it wasn’t bought up at the trial or the sentencing. The vehicle didn’t have insurance outside of the compulsory third party insurance, so Mark would now have to pursue the matter through a civil suit! I asked Mark about being let down by The System and his heavily edited reply was that it “doesn’t feel that good”.
This is where the story gets better, at least in terms of restoring Mark’s faith in humanity. Trisled, the Green Rocket’s creators, had been in contact with Mark to see how the Rocket saga was progressing. They had offered to send Mark any parts he needed if the repairs were easy for him to do himself, or at least have them done locally. When they heard about the case and the lack of compensation for the Rocket, they said they’d do whatever they could to resurrect the Rocket, but Mark had to get it to their workshop…in Victoria.
As you can see from the photos, the Rocket is not something you can easily stick in the mail or hand off to a courier (though Mark says it only weighs 33kg empty). This is where his across Australia trip plays a role in the story. When Mark crossed the continent, he went from Perth to Sydney, which means he had to transport his Green Rocket from Sydney to Perth first. To do this he used GMK Logistics, a wonderful company who specialise in transporting carpet and roll flooring. They’re not in the general freight business, but their trucks do travel across the country. They sponsored his journey and transported his Rocket to Perth when they had some spare space in one of their trucks.
GMK came to the rescue again after the crash. When they had vacant space on one of their trucks, they took the Rocket to Victoria for repairs and bought it back home again. Mark was back into it almost immediately, saying that it “feels like new”. Once again Mark will be able to take the attention off the rest of our group and fly down the hills with scary efficiency. It’s a shame he didn’t have Trisled install a motor for the uphill part (if you’ve ever ridden with the Rocket, you’ll know exactly what I mean).
Mark’s civil case is still pending. Despite going through all of the correct channels, nothing seems to be going right for Mark in this respect. The driver doesn’t have a letterbox, so the claim couldn’t be served by post, so now the Sheriff will have to serve it in person, or Mark will have to do it himself. Mark’s a determined sort, as this story shows, so one way or another the driver will pay…eventually.
Mark would like to give huge props to Trisled and GMK Logistics for all of their help. If you ever need a rotovelo, cargo bike, bike taxi or the like, I’m sure Mark will tell you that Trisled are the best there is.
Mark’s blog, where he has details of his adventures, can be found at rvvelonaut.blogspot.com.au.