The Urban Cycling World Championship is a relatively new format that blends a selection of biking and cycling events into one ‘festival of urban biking’ showcase. The UCWC is in held in major cities around the world so more people can get to see, and experience, the new and unique skills and thrills of urban biking.
The 2017 Urban Cycling World Championship was held this week in Chengdu, China.
This year the event included Mountain Bike Eliminator (XCE), Trials and BMX Free Style Park – each of which is sure to inspire even the most unimpressed general public be more interested in bikes!!
What are ‘Trials’?
Trials is the event where you see bikers hopping and jumping across, between and over boulders, planks and other obstacles. Bikes are 20″ and 26″ and riders need mad balancing, agility, strength, timing and track standing skills to be competitive. Essentially it is a time-based routine where riders are allowed a maximum of five dabs allowed in any section.
Why is Trials so interesting this year?
Trial events have been a UCI World Champs event since 2001. However 2017 is the first year that Trials is being run as part of the Urban Cycling World Champs, whereas previously Trials has been run in conjunction with other mountain-biking disciplines as part of the UCI Mountain Bike & Trials World Championships.
Most importantly because J-Mean (Janine Jungfels), who is a local Brisbane rider and Australia’s Women’s Elite Trials entrant – is hoping to kick ass!
Go Janine, Go!
Janine was the 2015 UCI BIU World Champion and she is a great ambassador for the sport. If you don’t know much about J-Mean, check out her Facebook page.
No matter what the final results are for this event, I think Janine is already a champ, given her dedication to training and promoting the sport.
She is a great role model to encourage more women and girls to see and experience a wider range of biking styles outside of the ‘mainstream’ road riding and MTBing.
I was super pumped after I saw this interview (see below) with her earlier this month at the Trials Park at Underwood Park, Brisbane.
I wanted to post on Janine and Trials to acknowledge and promote the hard work and dedication of many unknown riders in less popular cycling disciplines.
So regardless of who actually wins the event – Viva La Femme Trails!
I hope events like the Urban Champs will help more people who would otherwise not have seen events like trails have a greater appreciation of the unique skills needed – and hopefully get more people interested in bikes!
Best of luck to all the 2017 Urban Champ riders – it will be a great event!
Here is the event list for this year’s Urban Cycling World Champs.
Last weekend was the 10th anniversary of the Kurilpa Derby in Brisbane.
It is a fantastic annual community celebration of life on wheels.
The Kurilpa Derby is a major social and community event where the main street of the West End (Brisbane) is blocked off for the afternoon and taken over by all things colourful, fun, family and related to bikes…and other environmentally-friendly people-powered mobility, such as skateboards, scooters, roller-skates, trolleys, prams and everything in between!
The Derby is hosted by West End Community Association and is open to the general public and showcases the best that the West End has to offer in terms of business, community and lifestyle.
I have not previously been to the Derby before and this year it came highly recommended. Boy and I glad I went.
I had a brilliant time.
What happened at Kurilpa Derby?
The event is a much loved, anticipated and popular event.
It was a stunning, sunny day – and there was a great turn out.
Leki was at her floral best and I went as a jokey to pay homage to the ‘derby’ theme and also for the upcoming Melbourne Cup.
The day started with the Kurilpa Derby Street Parade.
Leki and I joined in the street parade along with all the other participants floats, families and locals.
The Parade was colourful and noisy and a lot of fun. We were surrounded by colour and energy and lots of locals, families and community groups participated.
The effort and thought that people had put into decorating whatever parade mode they had and their costuming was impressive.
There was so much to see in the parade, like the Brazilian dancing girls, a ‘public pool’ (float), beautifully decorated rickshaws, couches on wheels, unicycles, a tall bike, lots of environmentally-themed mobile displays and a number of killer drumming troupes who keep the parade bopping along.
An amazing oversized water rat ended up winning the float first prized prize.
My personal parade favourite was the beekeeping team-theme float. This was an understand, but well executed exhibit that had a spunky lady dressed as a bee inside a box decorated as the ‘hive’ as their float. This hive float was pulled by two fully equipped bee keepers (in full bee keeping suits including smoke cans). This crew handed out ices-poles anyone who wanted them the whole time – brilliant!
After the Parade, the road remained closed and there were a range of activities, demos, novelty races and entertainment, such as a Pet Parade, a cocktail race, skateboard demonstration and heaps of other novelty races.
It was brilliant to see so many visitors and families out and about. Kids were roaring up and down the street in between races enjoying the freedom, safety and fun of having an allocated street to roam free and go wild.
It was such a delight to see the community – all locals and visitors alike – come together in such a celebratory and inclusive way.
As the sun went down the festivities continued. The bars, shops, cafes and restaurants did a roaring business and were keep buys all day and night.
Many people stayed on after to attend the Kurilpa Beggars’ Banquet, which is a brilliant community potluck dinner extravaganza.
If you have never been to the Kurilpa Derby before, be sure to put it on the calendar for next year. It is well worth it!
For this blog post, we are heading to the U.S. -not for Halloween, but the night before – Witch’s Eve! I’ve been keeping my eyes open for one event in particular. I’ve been waiting in earnest to see what happened this year for Mala Bruja NYC Alleycat Race. This is an all-female charity Alleycat Bike Race. But alas, it seems like it didn’t go ahead this year. I’m still posting about this awesome race as I think it is important more people recognise, appreciate and celebrate the wonderful diversity of urban riding culture – and nothing does that more than Alleycats. I’m sad it didn’t go ahead this year, but these events can be challenging to organise, so maybe next year. Either way, kudos to those who did make an effort to make it happen for the last couple of years. We salute you! We definitely need more events like this one- and most critically in Aust!! Enjoy! NG.
This weekend most Americans are celebrating Holloween.
The night before Halloween is Witch’s Eve.
For the last two years, an ultra-cool crew headed up by Caro and Kenya have put on an all-female charity Alleycat bike race in NYC on Witch’s Eve.
I have been following this event. I think it is a great initiative and I wish there were more like it! Reminds me of the good olde days when I helped out at Melbourne Alleycat races – what a blast!
Alleycat bike races are something to behold. They are informal race bike held in cities where riders need to navigate local streets and traffic to make check points and get back the fastest. It is also a massive social get together, have some fun and ride bikes with your mates.
Alleycats are well known for having a strong participation and fun focus. Some ride to compete, others just to be part of the fun.
Race formats for Alleycats can vary – but usually, there is not official race course that riders must take, but there are check points that need to be met. Riders get a map of the check points just before heading off and are free to make their own way there and back.
The fastest rider to meet all check points and get over the finish line is the winner.
Alleycats races are unsanctioned and can be run during the day or night. Riders race through city streets and have to navigate normal traffic and vehicles while the race is going on. This is why Alleycat races are often perceived by many to be quite dangerous.
Meeting check points must be authenticated in some way. This varies depending on the race, but is often something like a stamp, badge, signature, or some other object that must be gathered at each check point as evidence.
Often there are activities and/or obstacles at each checkpoint. These can fun, entertaining, challenging and range from easy to hard. Activities could be beer-drinking, eating dry Weed-Bix, doing exercise (like 20 star jumps) or some bike skill – like track stands, monos or jumps. They are designed to add a little more variety and fun to the race – as you can see in Dave Gustafa’s video below, which was posted on the Alleycat Facebook page.
The map of race checkpoints is usually provided right before the race starts, so riders who know the city well have a hometown advantage – hence the attraction for bike couriers. Participants can pretty much ride anywhere they need to to make the checkpoints – on or off-road, through buildings, parks, uni campuses, between houses – where ever and however is needed.
It is an all-female dress-up charity bike race around New York City. The event has been running the last two years and has had a great turn out. It is well supported by entrants as well as spectators and support crews and family, friends and fans.
It costs $10 to enter the race, with the money going to charity.
All bikes are accepted (not just fixes) and costumes are highly encouraged.
Two years ago was the inaugural Mala Bruja ‘Hellcat’ race. With short notice and planning, the event still managed to pull over 70 female riders on the night. If you want to find out more details of this event, of which there were over 70+ women- lots of ace photos too!
Australia does not have a massive bike courier culture like NYC or San Franciso. However we do have a dedicated and cool crew in all major capital cities. Personally, I’d love to see some more events like this happening in Australia.
Races like this show the awesome diversity and variety in bikes, riders and lifestyles – and is a great way to bring people together.
Even if you are not up for riding in an Alleycat, helping out at one of the races (or checkpoints), or going to spectate is a brilliant way to support the event.
As the world heads more for mainstream and conservative conformity – events like the Mala Bruja Alleycat are so important.
Although these events are often secretive when unregulated (so you need to know the organisers, riders or bike messages who are part of it to know of the race) yet they still contribute much mystique, diversity and spice to our current urban cycling milieu.
Love them or hate them, Alleycat events like the Mala Bruja ticks many boxes: they are social, healthy, recognise bike skills , promote inclusion, have strong participation females urban rides, raise money for charity, bring community together and nurture our valuable, unique and much-needed sub-cultures.
General Public – Think outside the bike!!
Personally, I think there is incredible value in recognising and celebrating the uniqueness and variety in the biking community. It disturbs me that the vast majority of the general public view ‘cycling’ as being the lycra-clad road riders and that essentially this is the pervasive stereotype of what a rider or cyclist is.
Such views negate the massive diversity in styles and types of riding – both urban and track like: MTB, fixi, singlespeed, trials, Enduro, fat bikes, Tall bikes, Unicycles, tricycles, e-bikes, Cyclocross, Crits, bike packing, BMX, DH, Cruisers, Communters, cargos….and the list goes on and on. Each of these styles has their own rich and vibrant communities.
I think all these bike ‘sub-cultures’ need to be valued and recognised as being part of the awesome variety and character that form our current biking community. I can only hope people look beyond the the lycra to see how amazing, distinctive and fertile our biking and cycling communities are. Viva la Alleycats!
This time last week, the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress (APCC) was being held in Christchurch, NZ from Tuesday 17th Oct – Friday 20th Oct.
I wasn’t able to go as I had my PhD Confirmation paper and seminar due smack in the middle – doh! Otherwise, I would have been there for sure and I had a session to present. It will just have to wait until next year!
What was on at the Asia-Pacific Cycle Congress?
The program for this year looked jammed packed full of interesting sessions. Check out the program link below and see what session takes your fancy.
The link above also gives the daily schedule and a number of the speakers provided their presentations for public distribution.
All sessions were divided into these key themes:
I like that there was also a bit of personality coming through – as evidence, I was delighted to see Jo Clendon’s poster abstract had a footnote for the term ‘bike user’ as being:
The APCC event is a great forum to share ideas and get inspired. I would have like to have seen more Asia-Pacific-ness in the mix (very Oceania focused). As far as I could see there were no sessions from East Asia, South Asia or Southeast Asia – and there are some amazing projects going on there!
I hope to see more recognition for countries that are not usually considered to be ‘cycling’ countries to be better represented, included and instrumental in biking discourse and practice. I’d like to see more initiatives from India, Indonesia, Philippines, Timor, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and the like. I know it is far to travel to NZ from these countries, but I’d really dig seeing some more diversity and range of contexts and ‘life world’ experiences in this conference’s program (in fact in all ALL conference programs!).
Who was presenting?
As you would expect, there were HEAPS of NZ presenters covering a massive array of planning, economic, behavioural, community, research and other projects – impressive!
I’ve also said before how easy, convent, and enjoyable it is being a cycling tourist in NZ. I’ve posted on how easy it is to get around in Rotorua, and some of their great community projects like the Dad’s n Lads bike events, as well as the formidable urban strategic plans within the major cities ( like Rotorua) that make biking a normalised way of getting around town – as well as being part of the larger picture to connect the whole country from top to bottom by bike paths – awesome! So NZ is by far a cycling leader on many fronts – and AUS would do well to learn from their NZ counterparts.
I was happy to see Brisbane represented:
Mark Pattemore’s (Brisbane City Council) Better bikeways for Brisbane.
Sarah Wilkinson (QLD Government) Cost-Benefit analysis of recent major cycling investments across QLD.
Cameron Munro (CDM Research, Melb) Designing for Bike Riders on local road roundabouts
Peter Metcalf (Wagners, Aust) Cycling the Hawkes Bay NZ region in safety with the aid of a clip on cycleway
And some OS delegates:
Tom Ransom (Isle of Wight, UK) School travel behaviour change
Thomas Stokell (USA) Bike Data Analysis – a comparison between 21,000 NZ riders and 180,000 riders from around the world
Jurgen Gerlach (Germany) with Axel Wilke (NZ) & Alistair Woodward (NZ) Safe…. but only if it’s efficient
Tyler Golly (Canada) & Ryan Martinson (Canada) How to achieve rapid change for cycling outcomes
There were so many great NZ sessions that it would be too much to include here – suffice to say, it is well worth checking out the program link above in bold to see which session is most interesting for you.
October is the month for it!
The APCC is run in conjunction withBiketober, Christchurch’s month long celebration of all things bikes. Seems like October is the month for such events if Bike Palooza (Bendigo, VIC) and Biketober (Christchurch, NZ) is anything to go by!
Here is some of what is on for Christchurch’s Biketober.
I’ve been working on my PhD Confirmation submission, officially due yesterday. A PhD is self-directed research, so I self-directed and gave myself permission to hand in on Monday. It is so close. Rushing it will not cut it – and not handing it now will be subpar. It needs to be done right, but I won’t compromise my work, health, sleep or sanity to meet an arbitrary date. It is really shaping up and will be ready to go in no time! Hang in there!
For the last big editing push, I went to the Queensland State Library to work on my manuscript. I decided to take a break for lunch and pop across the river to see what bikey events were going on. What do you know – a bike picnic protest was underway! The perfect brain break! NG.
Bike Picnic – Casino Plaza Protest
Space For Cycling (Brisbane) was holding a picnic on the site of the future public plaza and events space at the bottom of Queens Wharf Road in protest of the new Casino development.
It is right in the middle of the concrete jungle, between the North Quay Ferry terminal and Queens Wharf Road.
Part of the protest was, that unlike the final plaza, they weren’t blocking the Bicentennial Bikeway, so riders and people still had a clear thoroughfare. Their event was to the side of the bikeway and utilising the paved areas for family and bike event such as speed out ballets, playing games and
It was all very civilised!!
A quick raw edit
I threw together a quick hack raw edit (1’30”) while I was there (see below). My brain is struggling with all the fresh air and sunshine after working so much – but it is good to capture a little of the event.
There was music going and it was nice to see people milling about and socialising. Some cyclists stopped to chat, while others passed through. A few kids and families hung out and drew in chalk on the road, music was playing the BBQ keep everyone happy.
It was a good place for a protest picnic because it was underneath the Riverside Expressway, so the ‘ambiance’ was not your usual outdoor, park-style picnic feel, more the ‘urban, motorway, fumes and congestion’ kind of picnic feel – which was also kind of the point as the new development it a touting the new soon-to-be plaza as being a social space for people to mingle and hang out….right under the noisy, busy motorway – hilarious!
As the Space for Cycling BNE Facebook page detailed: The Queens Wharf Casino and Resort Development will put a plaza and events space in the middle of the Bicentennial Bikeway. It’s a recipe for conflict and confusion. It’s simply poor planning! We held a picnic on the plaza to protest.
Old fashioned picnic games
As part of the fun, there were some old-fashioned party games on offer. Aside from being fun, the games were suggestive of the difficulties riders will be contenting with after the development is finished….like:
* Turtle races where the slowest rider won – to indicate how cumbersome the future trip along this stretch will be for riders trying to navigate the sea of pedestrians
* Obstacle courses – simulating having to make your way between stationary and moving obstacles without hitting anything or upsetting anyone
* Bicycle bell ringing championships – very much needed for safety (I was sorry I didn’t get to see this one! its one of my fav bike events!)
Reasoning for the protest
The Spaces for Cycling (BNE) website explains that: According to the group’s spokesperson, Belinda Ward, “The Bicentennial Bikeway is a very busy route for bicycle riders, and this decision will put all of those people on bicycles in a shared zone with pedestrians.”
“We are concerned that this will cause conflict between people who are moving through the area on bikes, and tourists and visitors attending events in the plaza”, she said. “Currently, the Bicentennial Bikeway is a way for people commuting by bicycle to avoid the congested promenade at South Bank, but it could soon end up even more crowded.”
“We decided to highlight the issue by occupying the space to have a picnic with some old-fashioned games for entertainment. But unlike the future casino development which will monopolise this public space, we’ll be ensuring the route is left open for people to travel through.”
All the riders gathered in town where there were some speeches and time to socialise. It was great to see so many different types of bikes, and there were lots of kids, dogs in baskets, colours and smiles abound.
Then we had a lovely slow roll around town.
What happened while riding ‘The Big Push’?
There were constantly bells ringing happily, often punctuated by laughter and the constant ripple of riders chatting. I made sure to have a chat to the people I found myself riding alongside.
As we rode, I saw riders introducing themselves, passing compliments and sharing a few jokes. I saw pedestrians stop to wave and cheer encouragement. I saw riders trying to coax people out of cars with a laugh as we waited for red lights to change.
When we stopped, you could see the bike column snaking away ahead and behind – it looked amazing!
There were many active souls there that had upcoming bike related events- it was a wonderful opportunity to hear what was going on and link to the Brisbane bike scene.
I rode most of the way home next to an awesome couple on a tandem. It just so happened I was wearing my ‘I love tandem’ t-shirt! They were great company and had rigged up a massive speaker on their back wheel and were cranking out some funky riding tunes to keep us all bopping happily along! GOLD!
What a relaxed, fun and a social way to advocate for better urban cycling!
During our ride stopped off for a quick photo out the front of Parliment House, Brisbane.
The pubs were filled with Mayweather vs McGregor fight fans, so it was an added bonus passing open windows and hearing the cheering emanating from inside. Once the fight concluded, the pubs we passed were still packed, so we have a very jovial and supportive audience as we rode past.
I had to ring all my bells extra hard to match their happy cheering!
One of the highlights of the day for me was sticking around after the ride.
As others filtered away, it was an opportunity for me to chat with the custom low-rider crew (see photos below).
The range and style of their fleet is impressive and their owners happy to chat bikes. Each bike is personalised to suit the owner and it was great to see the multicultural, multi-age mix of low riders.
I accepted an invitation to ride one and was immediately smitten!
These low rider bikes are so comfortable and very cool to ride.
We chatted for a while, and they told me about an upcoming bike event they are hosting next month, which I am very keen to attend.
We exchanged contact details and am looking forward to spending some more time with these Kool Katz! Meeting them was an even better bonus on the day.
The event made the TV news on various channels, which was great for spreading the word. An unfortunate, but timely reminder given that five cyclists were involved in a road accident just two days prior.
The day was a success and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
Congrats to all who made an effort to go and big kudos to the organisers!
Here’s an opportunity for a bike-rider who wants a research challenge.
Earlier this week I met with Assoc. Prof. Matt Bourke after he contacted me to discuss a few projects he is working on and exchange some ideas. Matt is the Principal Research Fellow for the Cities Research Institute (CRI – Griffith Uni). I was delighted to find out he is a bike rider and to see cycling
I am always happy to met a fellow bike rider making positive change. It was great to see cycling paraphernalia dotted around his office. We need more prominent two-wheeling academics!
Matt and I have a number of research and interest overlap in non-motorised travel, physical activity and health and urban travel. However, my interests are squarely on bicycles, community engagement and contested spaces, whereas he is more transport planning, policy, design and implementation.
Which meant there was lots to talk about!
One interesting thing we discussed is that Matt is currently looking for a candidate to undertake a PhD in transport and equity with his team.
Anyone up for the challenge?
What is the focus area of this PhD?
The CRI forecasts requiring double the amount of post-graduate degree candidates within its first six months – this is part of that expansion.
Currently, CRI is focused on investigating ‘place based social policy in Australian cities’ and has over 100 students working on:
Urban planning and water: Towards a new institutional paradigm
Environmental management tools
Working with marginalised groups via cultural development practices
Improving state governance of Australian urban regions
What exactly is this PhD in Transport Opportunity?
This role also is very prestigious within the transport sector as it is working with CRI and Griffith University, which are highly regarded as:
Griffith University is in the top 100 in the world for Transportation Science & Technology in the latest Shanghai Rankings Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2017.
The Griffith Transport Research (GTR) team was awarded the Griffith Sciences ‘Excellence in a research team’ award for 2015.
GTR has at least ten PhD scholars working in transport research at any one time across the group.
The GRT has won six prestigious Australian Research Council grants since 2009, and they have collaborations with leading international researchers from Europe, North America and increasingly in Asia.
GTR work with and cross various disciplines including travel behaviour, transport & land use, transport economics, transport engineering, transport planning, transport law, logistics, and transport & environment.
Their work covers all modes including walking, cycling, public transport, ferries, roads, freight, shipping and aviation.
The new CRI is designed to become the pre-eminent Australian centre for trans-disciplinary research on the integration of infrastructure, place-making and community and economic development in cities.
I would love to see more bike riders taking an active role in research, planning and policy – and this is one great way to do it. A PhD is a serious undertaking, but for those who are up for the challenge, the results would be not only personal gains but would have significant positive and enduring impacts for the future of city development and for all community members. What a brilliant way to progress the cycling and active transportation agenda!
If interested, contact:
Assoc. Prof Burke
Skype or WeChat (with the username/ID ‘drmattburke’)
Phone: +61 7 3735 7106
This time last week, I was in Adelaide at the national Australian Walking and Cycling Conference 2017. After one of the sessions, we had a discussion about whether shared bike lanes were the way forward, debated contested urban spaces, and some of the major implications for cities when they don’t adequately plan for future active transportation (cycling) growth. So imagine my surprise when I got home to Brisbane to find my local two-wheeled brothers and sisters taking innovative action on just these issues! NG.
On the weekend, Brisbane cyclists staged a ‘die-in’ protest on Victoria Bridge.
Although there have been some good moves towards improving Brisbane cycling infrastructure of late, for some local cyclists, this news is considered particularly serious setback as it involves major bike commuter access and safety for riders getting in and out of Brisbane, as Victoria Bridge is one of the main city throughfares.
So the latest plan to remove the current bike lane completely, proved too much for some Brisbane cyclists.
This latest proposed restriction, will be a major issue for thousands of bike commuters who use it to get into the city as part of their daily travel.
Victoria Bridge currently has a designated bike lane each way installed, which the Brisbane City Council is planning to remove as part of the new Metro improvements. The Metro project is a $944 million push to remove general traffic from the bridge and double pubic transport capacity – which sounds like a great idea. The planned Metro improvement will remove ALL private cars from Victoria Bridge, leaving only buses to use the road. But to do so, BCC Active Transportation chairman and representative Adrian Schrinner claimed this week that:
“Independent expert civil engineers have assessed the Victoria Bridge, and due to weight restrictions, it cannot be widened without undermining its structural integrity. It is simply not safe for cyclists to be in the same lane as Metro vehicles and buses and there is no space to provide an on-road barrier to allow on-road cycling to continue.”
So, the BCC says that the Metro proposal will have cyclists sharing the side footpath with pedestrians.
This is unacceptable to a number of vocal pedestrians and cyclists alike, most citing safety issues as one of the many, but major concerns.
Leading the charge in this protest is the Greens Cr Jonathan Sri (Councillor for The Gabba), who has been outspoken about the cycling safety issues and claims that BCC is probably ignoring alternative options to the proposed plan for restructuring Victoria Bridge. He is also concerned about this change causing detrimental conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists – and he is not the only one. An interesting point raised by Cr Sri is that:
“the council has made the mistake of focusing too heavily on current cyclist numbers, rather than recognising that cyclist numbers will continue to grow in the future. All we are suggesting is that council converts that widened pedestrian-only lane, which will be almost four metres wide, to be shared by bikes and pedestrians and that will address a lot of our concerns”.
Point taken. But, given that Brisbane is still so far behind the times, this is not saying much. Applying this pollie-speak logic, if Brisbane City Council did nothing for cycling in the last 200 years, then painted a white line on the road, that would also constitute more to advance cycling in this city than any other time in the city’s history – but that still doesn’t mean it is adequate or safe or enough. Nor are these issues a tit-for-tat-points-scoring game where if the council does one thing to support cycling (which to be fair they have done quite bit more recently), then you should be happy with what has been given to you and there is no need to keep developing improvements as it has already ‘advanced cycling more’ than previously.
I am just presenting this event as an interesting case – you make you own mind up about whether it is productive or not. I am still deciding how I feel about it.
But this discussion did raise a few other issues for me. For example, it still pains me that such discussions (about Brisbane, or bicycle access in general) are still held as if they are in isolation and are removed or separate from so many of the other social and environmental issues we are facing as cities. I’m sure the Mayor and others, are very aware of the imminent disastrous health, environmental and economic statistics on current (let alone forecasted) petrol emissions, obesity and mental health issues in our community – and the plethora of research linking cycling and physical activity to mitigating such impending and costly issues …. but it appears that such issues still so often not included as part of the public debate on such issues (like the Victoria Bridge usability and access. These issues are critical for future mobility and sustainability planning of a cosmopolitan city and ensuring the wellbeing and productivity of its inhabitants….maybe these tenets are so ‘implicit’ in these discussions that I missed them…. now… back to more important things – ROADS for motor vehicles – I mean buses!
Brisbane is trying to move towards being a ‘greener’ city
At this point I think it is important to also keep in mind a few things. Public Transport needs to be expanded to accomodate the ever growing number of commuters into the city. How to retrofit a predominately car-based city is a dilemma for all concerned. Brisbane City Council has committed and has been working towards moving to a ‘greener’ city for a number of years – and has made some very good headway in this area to date. The bike ways that have been implemented in and around Brisbane are awesome. Although many see Victoria Bridge being closed to cyclists for the purpose of allowing more ‘gas guzzling buses’, keep in mind that 600 out of the 1200 buses in Brisbane’s fleet run on compressed natural gas with the aim to reduce the city’s emissions.
Some argue that buses are not the best public transport mode to transfer large about of people in and around the city. My view is that it is easy to identify and criticise the problem, it is much harder to come up with the solution.
Here are a few examples of some of the alternate view from cyclists:
Be understanding or empathetic to the cause, they won’t even know what the underlying reason for it is. They’ll be all be thinking one thing; f***ing cyclists inconveniencing us again. This is a terrible idea given the hostile contempt many motorists already hold towards cyclists, which will in all likelihood only be only aggravated further as a result of this protest.Surely there is a better way than intently aggravating motorists. This won’t do cycling any favours in my opinion.
Yeah, blocking the car lane will REALLY endear cyclists to the motorists…Did anyone actually think this through???
We should of course always advocate for better and safer bike facilities; but possibly people don’t know that it is completely legal to ride a bike in a bus lane. They’re our lanes too!
I have stated clearly before that activist behaviour in this instance will only put up more barriers to what you wish to achieve at all levels. The cycling community has won many wonderful pieces of infrastructure and legislative changes but want more in a very crowded space where recreational cycling really is unnecessary and a bonus if and when it comes about. More pressing is the dangerous and intimidating cycling behaviour on the cycle and shared paths that is only increasing. This is our issue and needs rigorous education and behavioural change to make the oaths we already have safe for families and children.
Sorry Jono – I can’t support this one.
Since the Council has now stated that they are in fact providing room for bikes on the bridge as part of their planning. What is the purpose of this? Other than to upset other road users and further create division between them and cyclists.
What is a ‘die-in’ protest?
This involved a hundred or so cyclists and their bike strewing themselves on the ground to visually represent the danger and impact that maybe inflicted if this plan goes ahead – and also in homage of those who have already lost lives in bicycle road accidents.
After meeting at South Bank, and with the Bee Gees Staying Alive as their anthem, the group rode to the bridge, gathered for a minutes’ silence to remember those who have already died, then set up for the protest.
Some cyclists came very prepared, with a few splaying red sheets underneath them to simulate blood pools – it was visually very effective.
The whole event was well received and a massive foot crowd watched on and offered comments of appreciative support from the side-lines.
The ‘die-in’ was a very effective strategy and got well publicised in local and national media outlets as a result.
This publicity had to do with the effective and provoakative imagery of having so many ‘dead’ bodies laying all over the main city arterial – and literally stopping traffic (all traffic was diverted for the hour-ish long protest).
Following the die-in (which didn’t last too long) the group collected their things and rode away dinging bells and waving to onlookers and media.
I’d be interested to see if this event gets the results is was aiming for.
This in-depth, insightful interview and event guest post comes coutesy of the every effervescent and thoughtful @BettyLillowaltzen. Betty is an Artist, Educator, Keynote Speaker and all round amazing soul. This is a wonderfully comprehensive and enlightening discussion of one of Melbourne’s most loved (sub)cycle-cultural ‘bumpy’ urban rides – the Melburn Roobaix. Thanks to Betty Lillowaltzen for her time and effort in painstakingly interviewing all the key stakeholders, event organisers, riders and participants that went into producing this post – the extra details make this piece an extra rich and wonderful read! Mwah BL!
A quick survey of the Melburn Roobaix crowd and there is something immediately obvious: women!
Why does this adventure around Melbourne’s laneways enjoy the most gender diversity of all bike events in Australia?
“I’m in!”: my response to Zane Alford’s invite to join him and Wookie in the 2017 Melburn Roobaix. I hadn’t needed to hesitate as I knew that my complete lack of bike fitness was in no way a barrier to fun in the famously costumed ride, nor was my 1980s chevvy heavy stainless steel Malvern Star. Roobaix skills are seemingly more centered around an ability to decorate oneself and bike, eat and drink and look really silly; I’d be a natural.
That Melburn Roobaix was not going to be (in Andy’s words) “a sausagefest” as so many other bike events are, but instead a celebration and a great day out void of competitive elitist vibes I was certain of, but what I wasn’t so sure of was why? Inspired by the rise of women’s sport and, better yet, the rise of women within sport, I wanted to know how the Roobaix has evolved to be the most gender inclusive cycling event in the country (according to a recent survey by Cycling Australia).
Two questions burned: were the organisers conscious about involving women? and if so, how did they go about getting women involved?
Melburn Roobaix is a creation of Fyxo, the family company run by Melodie and Andy White. I knew Andy from back in the ol’ days when I worked for messenger bag company, Crumpler. I met him 15 years ago after an Ally Cat at The Public Bar: two years after the lock on the womens’ toilet door broke and at least nine years before it would get fixed; in the days of $1 pots of Geelong Bitter on a Monday, Punk bands and bestickered fixies piled along O’Connell Street. Andy was fancy dressed but still sporting his ‘Ask me about the weather’ badge, and talking with some couriers and female riders – even back in 2003 he was recruiting women to ride. He suggested that I ride in the next Ally Cat and I felt momentarily convinced that this would be a good idea but didn’t think I was up to splitting traffic on a fixie to keep up with Melbourne’s maddest riders.
Encouraging people to get on a bike has always been a talent of Andy’s, as is having a yarn, so I felt comfortable picking up the phone, not having seen each other in 8 years, to ask him some pretty pointed questions about women in cycling, race, LGBTIQ+ inclusion, men’s clubs and elitism in sport. He answered all my questions with grace, humour, references to anti-establishment, mutual outrage and added some radical plans.
I was not surprised at all that encouraging the participation of women in the Roobaix was intentional, or that this year’s event also took place during World Pride – though this was underplayed, Andy reflected on being really quite chuffed that there was a turnout of transgender people this year and that as the ride becomes more community oriented it increasingly represents our whole community (though the lack of racial diversity is still quite apparent at all bike events and a challenge for the future).
So how did they do it? Andy reflected on the first year of the Roobaix, explaining how “a guy showed up with all the gear, he had a Garmin and had worked out the fastest route which was mainly on roads and which was pretty unsafe.” He and Melodie wanted to make it less of a race and move away from the tricked out, almost exclusively male lycra crew, so they just eliminated a first place prize. “We are more excited about the costumes and the turnout and having someone show up dressed as a banana”, he explained.
It’s important that everyone is safe. A sad reality of bike events around the globe is the inherent risk of traffic and obstacles, though organisers are always looking for ways to make cycling safer for everybody: as Andy says, “every event where no one dies is a good event”. The dangers of riding are all too familiar to the White family, as in 2007 Andy suffered a broken neck. Though he was lucky to be able to be back on the bike within a week of removing the halo, they had developed a new appreciation of the risks of riding. Andy was emphatic that making an event less competitive did help to attract a broader demographic, but that he in no way considered female riders to be non-competitive. While for many people the Roobaix is the first organised ride that they participate in, there are plenty of female riders who go on to compete in timed events and women who are already riding competitively.
Bike racer, writer and blogger Verita Stewart is one such rider. Verita had been a regular bike commuter, but it wasn’t until moving to Melbourne from country Victoria a few years ago that she joined other riders and started to compete. Verita was able to identify other reasons that the participation in the Roobaix was so high and diverse: “You can ride on any bike. This weekend is the Grand Fondo and you can’t just rock up on a mountain bike or a cruiser or BMX or tandem or recumbent or folding or narrow bar fixie or adult trike or city bike or hybrid. Each event requires a really specific bike and kit and for many people that’s a barrier. Wearing lycra is also enough for some people to say ‘that’s not for me’, and I know that some of my friends have not participated in other events because of that”. Melburn Roobaix was one of the first events that Verita rode in and each year she met more people in the cycling community and brought more friends along, many of whom wouldn’t identify as bike riders. “I know that tennis isn’t for me. I can’t hit a ball to save my life. Cycling as a sport isn’t for everybody either. The Roobaix is more of a community event than a race though, it’s more about being in a big community and maybe putting on a cossie and exploring places you haven’t been before, and that’s why so many people say ‘I could do that’.“
The types of costumes that people wear are usually naive and silly and we don’t see the kinds of sexualised costumes that people wear to other fancy dress events. I asked Verita how she thinks the Melbourne Roobaix has developed its particular style? “Well, it’s a really family and community event so I think that if you showed up dressed in a French maid’s costume you’d just feel like a bit of a twat”. Not many of the other bike scenes have been as progressive, and we spoke for some time on what we thought caused some of the costs, perceptions and gender inequality that are still so prevalent at other events and which form real barriers for people entering cycling as a sport in all its various forms.
Personally, now in my mid-thirties, I’m more active than ever: not the most fit that I’ve ever been necessarily, but I find myself enjoying a greater variety of sports than I ever have before and participating with less and less trepidation. I regularly surf with other women and it’s been exciting to paddle out each weekend and see sisters lined up along a break. It’s more than just exciting, it’s inspiring and exhilarating. We often joke about approaching middle age and just starting to have the childhood we wished we’d had if we hadn’t felt so discouraged from having a go. Imbued with the excitement of events like the Roobaix, WAFL, surfing and the power of staunch advocates and idols such as Serena Williams, I am excited for a new generation of women.
We still have such a long way to go but already the surge of excitement around women in sport has had a distinct effect upon me.
Where I may once have said “I’ll get back to you”, I now say “I’m in”.
A few days ago, Melbourne’s beloved community bicycle engagement project The Squeaky Wheel announced it is closing after 6 glorious years in operation.
The Squeaky Wheel was a much loved proponent in progressing Melbourne’s bicycle community.
For those who do not know about this organization, it is well worth the effort to check out the creative and popular events, rides, initiatives and programs that were organized by The Squeaky Wheel – a very impressive and influential range!
Leaving behind a wonderful legacy and example for others
So this post is a homage to the amazing work that Pip Caroll and the whole Squeaky Wheel team (and their partners) have achieved over the years.
This venture was truely a community-driven organisation that had community and positive cycling for all as its core.
Although it is sad to see The Squeaky Wheel close and I will miss supporting their events (as will thousands of others), The Squeaky Wheel leaves behind a wonderful legacy and example for others to follow.
A massive range of community participation and bike-inspired projects!
Over the last 6 years, The Squeaky Wheel has managed and produced an impressive array of bicycle participation, projects and advocacy campaigns. Their volume, scope and range speaks to the passion and commitment of those who made it all happen – events like …
Even though the main umbrella is retiring, a number of their popular projects will still be operational – hooray! I am delighted to see that a number of their projects will still continue such as Roll Up (who have also taken over Bike ‘n Blend) and the sensational Pushy Women annual event is also set to continue. Pushy Women is a great event where a panel of well-known women tell their stories about bikes, bike riding and cycling. This show is always peppered with moments of empowerment, hilarity, poignancy, nostalgia and thought-provoking experiences – always a top event. I’m happy to hear that this event will continue.
But others will not continue. So in memorandum, here is reminder of the plethora of The Squeaky Wheel events, rides and tours that have been put on over the years – incredibly prolific community engagement!! I’ve listed the events below (you can find out more about each event at their website), to get a visual gauge of how productive this collective was – and to showcase the range, dedication and scope that The Squeaky Wheel is revered and loved for. Their events list is humbling.. check these beauties out….
Adios The Squeaky Wheel!!
As a final adios to The Squeaky Wheel – below is a 4′ 39″ video of their 2012 (3 week) Melbourne BikeFest- which was just one of many of their amazing events over the years – but one of my personal favourites!
For all those involved with The Squeaky Wheel will miss you, thank you for all your amazing work over the years. We wish you luck for your next riding adventures!