As cyclists, we fall into the ‘marginalised’ category. We are vulnerable road users that usually come out second best in a tangle… trust me I know. I think it’s high time that we stepped out from under our helmets and help build momentum to improve safety, awareness, equality and get more people on bikes.
Riding is awesome
A bicycle is an amazing tool. It can heal the mind, the body and bring joy. Riding a bike is good. Ask just about anyone that rides today and I’ll be prepared to bet that, 9 times out of 10, picking up a bike has been a life improving experience.
The number of people that I talk to that share awesome stories is staggering, from learning to ride a bike in their 50’s and gaining new self confidence, through to life-altering weight loss, reduction in stress, new massive networks of friends and support, through to epic adventures, overseas trips and complete turn around of dire health issues.
What needs to change?
There’s much room for improvement in cycling, particularly in the area of women’s participation, an area that I do all I can to support to bring change so that my own daughter has all the opportunity her brother will have if she chooses to ride. We need to push an overall awareness in the wider community around cycling, get kids riding their bikes to school like we did when we were younger. There's great opportunity for adventure, cycling tourism, reduced congestion on our roads and public transport by getting more people on their bike for the commute.
From time to time, cycling can also bring some nasty experiences. We’re sometimes not even inclusive to our fellow cyclists, with new riders snubbed and women left on the outer. On the road, I’ve always tried to protect myself the best way I can, with lights, smart kit choices, assuming I am invisible to other road users, obeying the rules and choosing the roads and routes I ride carefully. But this has not always been enough. I’ve tangled with cars on several occasions with one incident landing me in a hospital and off work for a significant period of time.
What is being done?
There’s so much we can all do the raise awareness of ‘us’ as a group, protect ourselves if the worst happens and make everyone feel included. In working out where to start with this, I spoke with the team at Bicycle Network. They gave me some pretty powerful examples experiences that their members had faced, which naturally, lead me to look at their membership options.
I’ve always overlooked Bicycle Network membership. I’m not sure why, to be honest, but upon reflection, I should have had it for years, it's a way of feeding some benefit back to the wider cycling community and showing the people that sit behind desks in parliament that we are a big group that should be heard and of course, there is also the access to liability insurance if I end up damaging someone else’s property or causing injury.
Once I did a bit more digging, I realised that the work Bicycle Network's activities extend far beyond running Peaks (for people like me that want to spend all day on my bike riding up massive hills). They provide loads of other cool events like Ride2School programs, the Great Outback Escape, The Great Vic Bike Ride and more as well as campaigning for better standards for us as riders. These initiatives are amazing for getting people on their bikes, getting kids involved, and ultimately changing the overall community view that exists around cyclists.
There are quite a few things that Bicycle Network have achieved and put together that I had no idea about, including the closure of a TAC loophole to extend TAC coverage to cyclists in the case a cyclist hits a parked vehicle. Awesome, but please try and avoid them anyway.
Just like La Velocita, Bicycle Network is Championing women in recreation and sport (I have a lot to say on this one - there will be more coming). There’s a massive imbalance for women and girls in our sport that I think is totally unacceptable. There’s no movement in the right direction but we’re not even close to getting there. I see the world that my young daughter faces and it needs to change.
I also found the reports and positions that Bicycle Network has released very interesting. Their Fatality Report provides some solid evidence around deaths of cyclists on our roads and made a series of recommendations that need to be addressed urgently to save lives. It’s great to have had data and a body that can drive the issue with Government, where it can be had for us as individuals to get traction in the right places. I’d like to see them pushing hard on minimum passing distances in Victoria and continue with initiatives released as part of the current Federal Election campaign around providing incentives to people that choose to ride their bike to work.
Improving safety for riders around large vehicles is as much our responsibility and the drivers and I really like where Bicycle Network has gone with the 'Swapping Seats' program. It is a great idea, and basically shows us (cyclists) what truck and large vehicles can and can't see when they are driving, allowing us to position ourselves accordingly. I have no doubt this will save lives.
What should you do?
This all brings me back around to what can we all do to stop us being marginalised as cyclists and help get the ball rolling faster. At the simple end, I’d encourage you all to
Get your non-cycling mates on a bike. They don’t need to turn into full-blown elite races (though some will), they'll love it.
Get your kids riding asap. Balance bikes are useful from not long after kids can walk. There’s nothing quite like watching the pure joy of that first ‘balance’.
Tell everyone that you ride. It personalises cyclists and might make them think twice before doing something stupid.
Support your local cycling club - in themselves, they are a great agent for change and many are doing awesome work around women's cycling, training and safety.
Head over to Bicycle Network and take a look at their membership, starting at $10.99 a month it’s less than a couple of coffees. I’ve gone the Family of more than 3 people of $15.99 per month. For that, I get personal liability insurance, access to events, legal support and I know that I making a contribution to our peak body for cyclists rights in my state.
Call out bad behaviour, include and accept new cyclists, support and watch women’s cycling and treat others fairly.
Remember Cycling is the best
I have no doubt that cycling has made me a better person in every way. Fitter, healthier, more focused, disciplined. I'm energised, well traveled, have seen more and experienced great reward. I've also met hundreds of people (maybe thousands) out on the road and through groups.
Watch this space, there's more to come here.
If you’re keen to find out more about Bicycle Network membership head over to their website HERE