A couple of weeks ago I met with Barry Kenyon from Bicycle NSW who has the very fancy title of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement Director (not dissimilar to what I do for a living). His organisation of which I’m a paid up member represents cycling in all its forms.
I’ve always been a little confused about what Bicycle NSW (and its equivalent interstate counterparts) does as opposed to Cycling NSW (and its national body Cycling Australia and equivalent state counterparts) so I started our chat by asking Barry that question.
In short Bicycle NSW represents cycling in all its forms – leisure, commuting, sports and cycling tourism, while Cycling NSW focuses on the performance or racing side of cycling. Within the charter of Cycling NSW is a mandate to create a better environment for cycling.
So Barry’s organisation is focused on advocacy where a key role is to represent its members and voice their concerns to government to guide policy to influence the building of infrastructure in the state of NSW.
I also asked Barry what his organisation is doing to encourage more women to ride bikes. He said that in the past organisations like his have been male-focused but they are now making a concerted effort to be more inclusive. Examples of this can been seen in a number of areas including the recent appointment of former NSW pro cyclist Kate Bates as a Board member a couple of months ago. Some other changes are more subtle like the wording and imagery that is used to promote the organisation which is deliberately written without a gender bias so that women feel included.
Gear Up Girl is an annual ride event run by Bicycle NSW that is a women’s only ride of about 50 km. It was not run in Sydney in 2012 but I’m assured by Barry that it will run again in Sydney in March 2013 with the details yet to be released. I actually did Gear Up Girl in my first year of riding and found the event well run and rewarding.
Bicycle NSW also runs the annual Spring Cycle which is in its 29th year. This year it is on Sunday, 21 October and the organisers are hoping to attract 10,000 riders to complete the 50 km ride from North Sydney to Sydney Olympic Park or the shorter 15 km ride from North Sydney to Pyrmont. I’ve done the ride a couple of times and enjoyed it. In fact, I’m featured on the current Spring Cycle home page and I’ve borrowed the image for this blog post. I’m the one in the red cycling jersey behind young Sophie who is the daughter of a friend of mine. In the past, the Spring Cycle participants have been about 40 per cent female so it’s clearly attracting female riders. The organisation as a whole also has a similar split of male and female members.
Another example that Barry gave me for how his organisation is stepping up to the mark on women’s riding is the way they ‘tap’ into the female members of staff. One of the receptionists for example, rides to work and includes a ride on the ferry from Circular Quay to the Homebush wharf. She and other female staff members are encouraged to talk about their own cycling experiences for everyone’s benefit.
Barry concedes that the organisation and our society as a whole has a long way to go in getting more women on bikes but it’s good to hear that Bicycle NSW and other similar groups are working hard behind the scenes to improve the conditions for my favourite past-time to benefit all of us.