Monday, November 29, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 23/11/2010

There were about 40 of us there, but only one of us rode a bike. There was a reason. It was raining prawns and parrots. And the single man who rode his bike boldly admitted he didn’t own a car and his knees didn’t like walking.

We gathered to talk about bikes and the city. Without exception, each and every one of us wanted more of them and more of the things that go with them, cycle-ways and bike racks. All this takes money, of course, but the possible benefits might surprise you.

Here are some Australian facts:
-          More bikes were sold in 2009 than cars for the 10th consecutive year (1,154,077)
-          70% of bikes sold are mountain bikes
-          In 2009 there was a 29% increase in the number of Australians who cycle to work

And you know what, no Australian town has yet pronounced itself Bike City. There is an opening, for a town to embrace the bike like no other, to become the Holland of the South. Maybe this is the move that puts Albany on the map, the bike map. And don’t sneeze, there is a bike map. 

The mountain bike stats in particular interested me because I know a bloke who reckons the Great Southern is the perfect setting for a mountain-bike heaven. He told me there’s a world-wide circuit and Albany could become a Mecca for mountain bikers.

A quick check on Google revealed a number of mountain bike festivals around the world, with one in NSW, SA and Victoria but none in WA. There’s the opening. We could be it, Mountain Bike Capital of the West.
But let’s not just take the bike to the mountain, let’s take it everywhere. Don’t panic, you don’t have to love lycra to ride a bike. There are no lycra police stopping riders dressed as I am in old jeans and torn t-shirts.

Wait, there’s more.
Some of us make a lot of fuss about the cruise ships. Sure, they look lovely as they make their way into the harbour and the passengers provide some amusement as they stare in wonder at the town hall, but there’s even more money in bike tourism.

Murray Gomm works for the Munda Biddi Foundation and at this gathering of pedal bike enthusiasts he revealed that in New Zealand cycle tourism is worth more than cruise ship tourism. I thought that would make you sit up.

What we need is leadership on this matter. We need the Mayor, Councillors, local members of parliament, CEOs, private business owners, managers, farmers and home owners to get on their bikes, ride to work, to the beach, up Mt Clarence, down Mt Clarence and to both Saturday and Sunday markets.

Let’s fill the town with bikes and make Albany Australia’s first Bike City, full of cycle-ways, bike racks and cycle friendly shops, accommodation and transport providers.
Many of us at the meeting agreed that the City’s councillors should lead the way by riding to council meetings, hail rain or snow. That would show real leadership and they could hand back their petrol money.

There is no way, of course, that such a saving would pay back the city’s debt, but it would show the rest of us they are willing to make an effort.

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