I had cause to correspond with the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain recently. I was asking if they would support Bike Hour. From memory, they gave it a shout out. What I remember most distinctly though, was their rather terse advice that they were solely concerned with advocating for safe bicycle infrastructure, and would not be distracted by any shenanigans. I like their style, baby. It leads me to question the core objectives of other bike advocacy groups, who presume to speak on behalf of us all when asked for an opinion by government or planners.
There was a time, and I remember it, when local authorities would fulfil their obligation to consult with bike users, by picking up the phone to the president of the nearest bike racing club. “So you’re fine with no infrastructure? Really? None whatsoever?” “Yeah mate, we hate the shit, we want the right to be ran over and come back as cows.”
But have we really progressed since those days? Australia’s key voice on all issues bikish has hundreds of tents pitched here in Launceston tonight, ready for the start of their great tasmanian escapade, that sets off tomorrow. If The Bicycle Network existed to promote safe cycling infrastructure, you would have to say this is a huge undertaking for little gain.
In my opinion, we need bike advocacy groups with far less time for shenanigans. Don’t get me wrong, bicycle tour operation is fine: I’m questioning the ethics of bicycle tour operators drifting into advocacy, and impacting bicycle infrastructure. The ride tomorrow from Launceston to Scottsdale will take in some of the most perilous cycling roads in the world, with no shoulders, blind corners, and locals in the habit of driving to the very limit of traction. But with support trucks front and rear, participants in the Great Shenanigans will not even notice—they’re paying $1500 for 9 days to be safely escorted. Nor are they likely to notice the disused rail line running parallel to their road route. For the price of another lost seat in federal parliament, that disused rail line could be sealed to provide a safe cycling route from Northern Midlands, almost to the East coast of Tasmania, giving people in many small towns on the way an alternative to vehicular transport.
Why has the The Bicycle Network not leveraged its position to weigh in on this issue? Are they worried safe touring routes would be bad for business, charging to escort people in groups on dangerous roads? I doubt anyone could be so cyclical. Perhaps they’re just ignorant of infrastructural opportunities in the areas where they operate tours? That’s a shame, given they are now the umbrella organisation for Tasmania’s state-wide advocacy group. I actually think this is just an oversight, traceable to their origins as an interest group representing cyclists who are happy enough with things as they are—who are secretly hoping to come back as cows.