Australia and Cycling Dale Campbell, Bent Fork Chronicles Co-Editor
During all of the previous trips, we saw only handfuls of cyclists, if that many. Cycling seemed to have a negative connotation, one which we sometimes experience still here in the US. Our perception was that cyclists were seen as being "in the way" on the roads. When we did see any cyclists, they were riding along or only in a group of two or three. Hence, we never considered cycling as one of the focal activities of any of our Australian trips. These observations have been as recent as our trip in April 2008.
However, this time during our trip in October/November of 2011, it was a different story. From the Gold Coast in Queensland to the back country roads around Torquay, Victoria, we saw cyclists all days of the week. Dressed in typical cycling gear and out for road rides, the riders seemed to be really enjoying themselves (who wouldn't, considering the delightful weather we had almost all of our three week trip). More often than not, we would see Team BMC cycling jerseys on many of the riders, obviously an influence from this year's Tour de France winner. We even noticed cyclists on mountain bikes, stretching their legs on the single track routes accessible from a number of locations we saw during the course of the three weeks. Needless to say, we were delighted to see the increased interest in riding "pushbikes" in Australia.
You may be wondering if there is evidence of the growth of cycling in Australia, other than our recent observations? Let me point you to a news release from 8 December 2009. The title of the release is " Bicycles outsell cars in Australia - sales top 1.2 million" This release includes the following comment by a policy advisor with the Cycling Promotion Fund:
"'Australians are not just buying bikes, they are using them increasingly frequently. Census figures show a 28% increase in riding to work across Australian capital cities, with Melbourne’s growth soaring to 48%. This growth is largely centred upon the inner-city, with superior levels of bicycle infrastructure' argued Elliot Fishman, policy advisor. Bicycle counts across Australia are also showing a steady increase in cycling – for both recreation and transport." (http://www.cyclingpromotion.com.au/content/view/374/9/)
Sharon and I also witnessed the evidence of this growth in the Melbourne area. At a train station near Geelong, south of Melbourne, we saw a bike parking that was free and also secure. According to the sign on the facility, the secure bike parking is available "As part of the Victorian Transportation Plan...." For more information about this, log into www.parkiteer.com.au
Additionally, within the central city area of Melbourne we visited, we saw at least six or eight locations for public bike hire, provided by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV). Each location had at six to twelve bikes available for rental. A minimum of $2.50 AUD enabled you to use a bike for the full day. Refer to the photo with this article for a view of one such location.
We're also seeing evidence that organized cycling events are becoming more popular. Advertising on the intercity tram in Adelaide promoted the Santos Tour Down Under, a UCI World Tour event. And, according to the Latrobe Valley Express, the Latrobe Valley in Victoria will experience of one of Australia's biggest bike touring events - the Great Victorian Bike Ride. The event is set to travel through this area of Victoria next year. Organized by Bicycle Network Victoria, more than 4000 cyclists are expected to participate in the 591-kilometre (367-mile) route, which will be held from Saturday, 24 November to Sunday, 2 December 2012. Covering nine days in the Australian countryside, the event is a fully catered, tent-based holiday. Interested? Check out the event video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfqOr9uoyyI&feature=player_embedded Further information can be found at http://www.bv.com.au/general/great-rides/20004/
Cycling is now promoted by the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) as one of this year's top 20 hot vacation activities. According to the Travel section of the SMH, " The Victorian High Country is the best place to go wild on two wheels...." This summer [in Australia] a new mountain bike trail, will be opened at Mount Buller, one of the premier snow ski locations in Australia. This trail will be a mix of downhill and cross-country and, according to the trail makers, the only one like it in the country.
And here's another cycling opportunity in Australia that folks in our "eating club with a cycling disorder" would enjoy. I don't want to misrepresent the "ambiance" of this advertised experience; so allow me to quote from the www.pedaltoproduce.com.au website:
"Imagine the perfect foodies holiday... cycling from a café in a quaint local village where you've had a fantastic brunch, down a country road to taste award winning wines and onto a farm-gate to pick up some fresh regional produce and meet the farmer who grew it."
Yes, food oriented cycling tours are available in north-eastern Victoria.
Does one or more of these sound tempting? If the answer's yes, then perhaps your next cycling vacation should be in Australia!
Photo courtesy of Dale Campbell