herald

Wednesday 29 March 2017

Club to form honour guard at funeral of cyclist who 'died doing what she loved'

Heartbroken parents Brian and Pat said keen cyclist Tonya McEvoy died ‘doing what she loved’
Heartbroken parents Brian and Pat said keen cyclist Tonya McEvoy died ‘doing what she loved’

A team of cyclists will form a guard of honour at the funeral of Rathfarnham woman Tonya McEvoy who died when she was knocked off her bike at the weekend.

Members of the Dublin-based Orwell Wheelers Cycling Club will line up outside the church while the team of Wexford cyclists that Tonya joined for charity runs will ride in front of the hearse.

Tonya (34) was cycling with the Orwell Wheelers when tragedy struck on Sunday.

The bike fanatic was at the back of a group of a dozen or so riders travelling from Maynooth to Rathcoffey in Co Kildare when she was hit by a car travelling in the opposite direction.

Tonya had studied childcare and worked as a nanny for a Dublin family in Rathgar.

Her heartbroken parents, Brian and Pat, and her sister Ciara, have told how cycling had become her life, even though she had taken up the sport just 18 months ago.

She is also survived by her brothers Brian and Keith.

Loved

"She died doing what she loved best," Pat told the Herald from the family home in Moyville. "She was very safe and careful but this still happened. We're devastated.

"She bought a bike to cycle to work. Then she upgraded to another bike and joined the Orwell Wheelers, and suddenly she was hooked.

"She started in the beginners group but excelled at it and was getting ready for the racing group. She had a big cycling trip to Spain booked for the end of next month.

"Tonya also got involved in charity cycles in Blackwater in Wexford where we have a summer home. There's a lad down there named Peter O'Brien who organises charity cycles for the Crumlin Children's Hospital, and Tonya loved being involved in that."

Her father explained how the family learned of Tonya's accident.

"When I got up on Sunday Tonya was heading out. I said it was a bad day and asked her to be careful, and she said she would.

"Later, myself and Pat were about to head out for 12 o'clock Mass when two lads from the club called to the door. They said Tonya had been in an accident. I asked if she was okay, and they said they didn't know but that the accident was a serious one.

"So myself and Ciara drove down to Rathcoffey. The road was closed and the gardai couldn't let us up, but told us to go to Naas Nospital, and that's where we found out."

"I kind of knew it was bad when Brian and Ciara were leaving, but I think I was in denial," Pat said.

"This has brought back a lot of bad memories for me. My mother was killed by a car, then my father died of cancer within six months. They were both in their 40s.

"That left 12 children, including me, to bring each other up."

Sense

Brian and Pat said it is of some comfort to them that Tonya died doing what she loved best, but said they used to worry about her.

"We had a feeling she could get hurt, a sort of a sense, and when we would say it to her she would say 'but I love it mam'," said Pat.

"How could we stop her when it was such a part of her life?"

Tonya's social media pages reflect her love of cycling, with many photographs of club outings and charity rides.

Pat recalled their last few days together at home. She said that on Friday she was feeling a bit down and Tonya rang her out of concern.

"She said she was worried about me and I told her not to be. She said I was 'the best' and told me to take time to look after myself and not be always doing things for the rest of the family.

"Then on Saturday, when the weather was so awful, she made heart-shaped cookies here in the kitchen for Valentine's Day, and she said it was lovely to sit by the fire."

The family said cycling had brought a new chapter to Tonya's life and they saw her confidence and ability grow with it.

"She was making lots of friends. She had great ability and was progressing very well. Distances were no problem to her.

"She adored it. She would do 160km some days. But we're dreading the next few days now, absolutely dreading it."

Killed

Tonya's death is the first of a cyclist this year but it comes at a point in time when the number of riders killed on our roads is rising.

There was an 11pc increase in cycle deaths between 2015 and 2016, probably reflecting a rise in the number of people using bicycles for commuting and leisure purposes.

There were nine cyclist deaths in 2015 and 10 in 2016.

Last September, fitness fanatic Donna Fox (30) was killed in Dublin city centre when she was hit by a truck at the junction between Seville Place and Guild Street in Dublin's north inner city.

In the same month, schoolboy Tim Ross (11) was killed in tragic accident cycling from his home in Moate, Co Westmeath, to nearby Tubber National School. He was hit by a car.

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