I don’t know about you but I’ve always thought of Cycling Australia as being in existence to support elite level cyclists. So it was a pleasant surprise to meet two great women who work there, and to hear about the plans to provide a greater reach.
Emma Rickards is the National Coaching & Development Coordinator and Alexandra Bright, the National Participation Coordinator.
I spent an hour and a half with them yesterday to hear about a fundamental change happening not only in their organisation but in others as well.
Alex explained to me that Cycling Australia has adopted the slogan “We are cycling start to finish” which means that as an organisation they are looking at all disciplines – road, track, MTB and BMX and at all levels of cycling. It’s simply about getting more Australians to ride bikes whether it be commuting, leisure, touring, exercising, racing or just ducking down to the shops.
It sounded pretty ambitious to me but there are lots of programs in place to reach this aim and they outlined just a few.
My focus, as always, is on women, so I asked them to outline what they are doing to attract more women to cycling, and how they are helping them once they’ve got them interested. They explained that there are three key areas: women in leadership; the women’s media grant; and women’s (and everyone’s) participation at all levels. Under these three major areas there are a number of projects.
In the women in leadership area they are aimed at attracting more female accredited coaches at all levels of cycling with a particular emphasis on the entry level. In some states this means there are women’s only coaching courses while in others the women’s training is incorporated into the general stream.
In the women’s media area there is a grant in place to run a series called ‘Women and Wheels’ as part of SBS’s Cycling Central program. This has included so far a series of in depth interviews with a number of female cyclists and coverage of the women’s National Road Series (NRS). If you haven’t seen these they are worth a look and can be viewed on SBS’s Cycling Central website.
The third part of the puzzle is participation and that’s where Alex’s challenging role kicks in. She’s charged with working with other cycling bodies like Bicycling NSW and cycling clubs to find out what excites women about cycling and how to attract them. Of course, women are only one of the many sectors. Alex’s role also spans other areas including people with a disability, juniors and the serious cycling recreation market.
The ultimate goal is to increase membership numbers of Cycling Australia but they have a way to go in explaining to potential members just what they will be getting if they sign up. I know that when I joined my cycling club – Lidcombe Auburn Cycle Club (LACC) I thought the only type of membership was to sign up for a racing license. I’ve since discovered that there’s another type of membership, previously known as a recreational license and now known as a silver license.
Alex and Emma did emphasise that all of these changes are in their very early stages – a ‘doing the homework’ phase. From my perspective they are laying the foundations and putting in place something that will last.
I suspect that turning a large ship around like Cycling Australia will also take time but with passionate women like Emma and Alex involved I don’t doubt it can be done.
I look forward to hearing about their progress and supporting them along the way.