There’s been plenty of recent discussion online, in forums and no doubt on bunch rides, in bike shops and cafes about Cycling Australia, BMX and MTBA's recent plans to bring together its various bodies under one banner – AusCycling.
With the goal of “making cycling the largest participation and Olympic sport in Australia”, the plan will dissolve Cycling Australia, BMX Australia and Mountain Bike Australia and their state bodies, bringing together 19 organisations into one national body.
Beyond managing competitions across all disciplines, AusCycling have announced that they will also focus on commercialising the sport and greater lobbying for safety and infrastructure including “tracks, trails, venues and paths for all cyclists”. This also includes pushing for a national bike education program.
Bicycle Network believes that this is a positive move and should be great for the sport of cycling. Reducing the current fragmentation and duplication will surely help.
Whether all 19 bodies come together, or some do, and others chose to maintain their independence, there should still be upside for people who want to race and test their cycling ability against others.
Of course, a number of people have asked, ‘What does that mean for Bicycle Network? If AusCycling are doing advocacy to get more people riding, where does that leave you?’
We see it as a great opportunity rather than a threat.
On behalf of our nearly 50,000 members, we’ll of course continue to enhance the joy and minimise the pain for everyone who rides whether they’re doing it to test themselves, enjoy themselves or get to where they need to go.
While we love competitive cycling, we’ve never really been involved other than a few climbs-for-cash or prized time trials. But improving that aspect of bike riding (whether it’s the Olympics or the local club competition) is a great step forward.
When it comes to advocacy, Bicycle Network will continue to push relentlessly for better conditions for all people on bikes, just like we have for decades.
We’re looking forward to AusCycling being an ally in navigating the challenging waters of advocating for the needs of all kinds of bike riders.
In an ideal world, there should be plenty of funding for crit courses, MTB trails and velodromes, as well as separated bike lanes and off-road paths. However, this is not always the case and sometimes some people are disappointed when one thing gets funded over another.
It’s well known that when we build more accessible and connected places for people to ride bikes, more people of all ages, genders and abilities ride. If faced with having to choose between a first-class elite training facility or 10km of separated bike lanes or paths, we’d like to think AusCycling will get the balance right and go for the one that gets more people riding.
Sometimes, our decision-makers also get it wrong when it comes to bikes and it’s the role of bike advocates to call it out, represent their members and fight for riders rights. As a non-government-funded organisation, we’ll continue to have a vital role. At times, it could be much more problematic for AusCycling if they’re being seen as biting the hand that feeds.
When it comes to getting our young people active and riding, Bicycle Network will continue to strive through our Ride2School behavior change program to set young people on a path to becoming lifelong riders.
AusCycling have indicated that they’ll push for a national bike education program. While bike education is worthy and important, we believe it’s just one component of getting our young people pedaling.
We've also recognised that we need to get more young people to engage with the sport of cycling. We’ve been campaigning the federal government for two years to fund a sport-feeder program called Ready2Roll that will get more kids riding across all disciplines in a fun and supportive environment.
We know that if you get more people riding and having fun on bikes at the grassroots level, society and sport benefits.
So to sum it up, we welcome the thought of having an ally in AusCycling because it helps if cycling for sport as well as recreation and transport is thriving.
If we’re going to become a nation of happy and healthy bike riders, it’s clear that a lot more needs to be done to make it easier for more people to ride, whether they ride for transport, to race or for fun. And, we all have an important role to play.