On May 12, the 500km cycling event, Ride Alongside commenced in Bunbury.

Travelling through regional WA, over five days, the cyclists committed to the treacherous weather and cycling conditions to raise awareness of mental health conditions experienced by emergency service workers and defence personnel.

Founder of Ride Alongside and former Senior Constable Rob Seaman embarked on the journey for the third year.

Joining him were nine other current and former police officers, as well as two enthusiastic cyclists, making it the largest ride to date.

“I believe it was very successful and everything went to plan. All the riders I spoke to enjoyed themselves and had a great time. All the volunteers worked very hard to ensure meals were given, fuel was given and tanks were full ready for the next leg of the journey, we were very thankful for them,” Rob said.

Along the journey several emergency service departments welcomed the cyclists for morning teas, barbeques and beverages.

“The best welcome was probably our final destination of Denmark when they provided a huge noisy welcome with a police escort. We rode in to see a large group of emergency services, police officers, paramedics and fire fighters. It was memorable that’s for sure,” Rob said.

However, the journey wasn’t all celebration and smiles.

As Rob recounted, the largest challenge was the final hills and kilometres of the ride, especially with the rain and horrendous weather conditions they endured.

“During the tough times, the team came together to show support and camaraderie for each other by bringing words of encouragement to the ride. It really brought us all together and you could feel it,” Rob said.

The tough times allowed onlookers, followers and the cyclists themselves, to ultimately understand that these hardships are experienced everyday by emergency service workers on the frontline.

Rob hopes that as they passed through regional towns, the event was able to create a discussion of about mental health within the emergency services context and ultimately provide a solution for tackling the issue.

“It was magical ride for all involved,” Rob said.

“It’s not just a professional or serious event but a social event which allows us to meet many fantastic people. It is fantastic to revisit old stations which I used to serve at and meet the new people which are coming through and providing their time.”

The uncertainty and pace of the emergency service work was displayed when the Ride Alongside squad was unable to be hosted by or visit the Cranbrook Police Station and SES volunteers as duty called with an emergency unfolding at Bluff Knoll.

“When we turned up to Cranbrook they got called to go to the job and it just really reflects the nature of the workers. They have to drop any plans they have in place and do their duty,” Rob explained.

As next year’s planning is already under way, Rob was unsure whether the event was able to expand.

“I would love for the event to get bigger each year however, I don’t think it would be possible due to restrictions of logistics and volunteers. I do however, plan to change the route for 2020 and go to different locations to spread the word even more,” Rob explained.

The ride was made possible because of the support of a number of organisations including the WA Police Union.

“I would like to greatly thank the WA Police Union for the opportunity of such events and ability to spread awareness for such a great cause,” Rob said.

By Rhiannon Barrett