Transport planners and travel behaviour change practioneers across Australia are charged with the challenge of ‘getting more people cycling more of the time’ and achieving ambitious mode share targets. These targets are used to analyse the sustainability of a region’s transport options, breaking down trips into four categories – walking, cycling, public transport and private vehicles.
The problem with cycling in Australia is our obsessions: our obsession with branded lycra, our obsession with expensive ‘all singing all dancing’ racing bikes and our obsession with cycling long distances at super fast speeds.
To ‘get more people cycling more of the time’ we need to make cycling normal, maximising the enjoyment people get from it – exactly what the Wollumbin BUG have done.
Wollumbin BUG, a non-profit community-based Bicycle User Group – based in the beautiful Tweed Shire of Northern New South Wales, 30 minutes drive from Queensland’s Gold Coast – celebrated the first birthday of their group with a ‘Ride the Scenic Rim’ cycling weekend.
More than 100 people, young and old, including local residents and interstate visitors from as far afield as Canberra and Tasmania converged on the Murwillumbah Showgrounds for easy, medium and hard bicycle excursions, chalkboard workshops and après-cycling entertainment. Normal people in normal clothes rode normal bikes around the Tweed Countryside enjoying the scenery, the coffee and homemade cakes and proving to themselves – and envious onlookers – that cycling is really great fun!
According to City of Sydney research quoted at the Bicycle Futures conference in 2010, 41% of the population are ‘potential’ cyclists, and what was best about the Wollumbin BUG cycling weekend was that it promoted cycling not as an elite sport, but as a social activity for all age groups and cycling abilities. People who would not normally have the confidence to ride a bicycle through a town centre or near moving traffic felt empowered to ‘have a go’ thanks to encouraging group leaders and new-found friends.
More ‘fun’ events like the ‘Ride the Scenic Rim’ weekend can help change perceptions of cycling. This counters negativity and can result in ‘more people cycling more of the time’ – not because they are cyclists, but because riding a bike at the weekend is a normal and fun thing to do. And the increased confidence and feeling of normality towards cycling that results from such events means people are more likely to grab their bike to head to the coffee shop or corner shop rather than their car keys, helping achieve a more sustainable mode share.