Aug 282014

NCM annual Presidents report.

Peter Lee                                                                                                                                            August 2014

It’s amazing to think that NCM is in her 37th year.  In that time NCM has always advocated for cycling infrastructure and as far as I’m aware has also provided social guided rides as well.  I am now pleased to present this, my second annual report focusing on NCM member activities in these two areas.

Social Rides There have been many people riding regularly under the NCM banner in various organised social rides.  The Saturday Social Saunter and the Cobweb Ride have rolled along with very little effort on behalf of the committee for which I am grateful.

However the thing that impresses me the most is the number of people I’m hearing about regularly going for group rides with friends, a sign of an improving cycling culture.

In July the second annual NCM Tweed Ride was very successful encouraging the committee to think about how these themed rides are organised, and promoted.  NCM has gained strong support and funding grants from Newcastle council’s place making program for these events and with their support we hope to be able to bring you more of these in the near future.  I would also like to thank Vicki Coughlin for her tremendous work pulling these together over the last two years.  If you have ideas for a themed ride please get in touch with the committee and make a suggestion.

Advocacy  In the area of advocacy this year brings to mind the phrase “2 steps forward one step backwards.”  Whilst there has been some significant progress in some areas there has been much frustrating lack of progress and possibly backwards steps in others.

Unfortunately the brilliant Hunter Street revitalisation and cycleways project, equal with the likes of the hugely successful experiments in New York etc, was shelved by local political pressure, and for reasons completely unnecessary.  This proposal was for temporary experimental work which could have been economically modified if ever another decision about Newcastle revitalisation was made.

The RMS Hunter Region Cycling Consultative forums had been meeting successfully for a few years and indeed we were the envy of other BUGS across NSW.  However we have not had one of these meetings this calendar year.  Whilst I have received encouraging news about these forums in the last few days we still do not have a date.

Whilst these and other setbacks have significantly tested my optimism I do still hold the opinion that the hardest years are behind us, and the future will be bright for cycling.

The growth of the cycling culture is still going strong globally and nationally.  The traditional cycling cities continue to see strong cycling culture, but the recent converts are demonstrating massive, rapid change.  Have a look at the video from New York about how they changed their streets.

In May I attended the VeloCity conference in Adelaide.  The number of international delegates who made it to Adelaide was a very strong sign, but the number of Australian planners and engineers was also very encouraging.

Locally progress has happened on two significant projects; Maud Street Crossing and Richmond Vale Rail Trail.  (RVRT)

Earlier this year Bernard Hocking working with Tim Owen’s office gathered the stake holders together including the Railway authority.  All agreed to the idea in principle and significant barriers were overcome.  NCM engaged an architect to draw up concept plans for the path, and now detailed planning is underway.

Another NCM member, David Atkinson, was instrumental in getting stake holders together for the RVRT.  This stake holders group has recently engaged a consultant to do an extensive feasibility study.  The support from NPWS for this project is significant and gratefully acknowledged.

The City of Newcastle (CoN) and  Lake Macquarie City Council (LMCC) cycling advisory committees continued to meet albeit irregularly, and you (NCM) are being represented on these committees by Ben Ewald (Vice President) and Bernard Hocking in Newcastle and Michael Golden and myself (President) in Lake Macquarie.

In light of the changing culture of our advocacy role a few of the executive and selected “elders” of NCM participated in a visioning workshop for the future of NCM.  The fruits of this will be more evident in the coming months, but one important strategy discussed was raising our public profile.  This has started with broadly advertising the Tweed Ride sponsored by NCM, and a well-attended public talk on Cycling History in Australia.  We would like to hold more such public evenings and themed rides and welcome your suggestions for these events.

Our public profile is also being well boosted by our facebook page, maintained by Vicki Coughlin.

Vicki also has a delightful personal blog about bicycles in Newcastle creatively called  Whenever the frustrating side of advocacy gets me down I just flick over to her blog and always find some good news about, well, Bicycles in Newcastle.  Thanks Vicki.

Hunter Cycle Skills  Newcastle Cycleways attempted to get up and running a training provider to teach beginning bicycle riding, and commuting skills as well as basic maintenance courses.  After a promising start, unfortunately this program has fizzled out due to over stretched volunteers.  There is a strong need for this program in our region and Hunter Cycle Skills has the potential to provide an income for someone willing to take it up and make it work.  Please contact me if you would like to know more about this.

Volunteering  We need your help.  There are many areas where we can promote cycling in our region but we need more people to help out.  If you have a passion to promote cycling and can offer either some technical skills, or just plain hours at a stall please consider some of the tasks below.

  1. Bikes count personnel.  Once in a blue moon sit on a street corner and count the number of bicycles.  Sounds un-exciting but to council bean counters this data is invaluable.
  2. Bikefest, numerous roles; 25-26th October.
  3. Living smart festival 27th September.  Staff the Bike Valet parking combined NCM stall.  For a few hours or the whole day.
  4. Your idea; do you have an idea that you would like to promote to encourage cycling?  Can the NCM committee help?

Thank you  There have been many volunteers helping at times throughout the year and they have all contributed to the growing acceptability of cycling in our culture, and to all of you we say thank you.

However I have one very important thank you to close with.  Bernard Hocking has been absolutely instrumental in most of the biggest cycling improvements and events in our region in recent years; the Hannell Street crossing lights, Bikefest, Maud Street underpass as well as many other political negotiations behind the scene and our city will be all the better for it.  He has been a continuous source of wise counsel, (and sporadic frustration) for me.  His commitment to Bikefest and our cause is unwavering; however his ability to participate in Newcastle Cycleways activities will have to be wound down considerably due to his branching out in a commercial endeavor.  I respect a man who’s willing to put his money where his mouth is, so after many years of saying the city should invest in cycling Bernard is investing in his own bike shop.  We wish him well and much success for Metro Cycles, Bellevue Street, Newcastle West but our advocacy committee is poorer without him.

CycleSafe Network Launch  On Monday the 1st September we will be launching a major campaign called the CycleSafe Network with the support behind it from NRMA, Heart foundation, and the University of Newcastle.  This is a campaign for funding targeting the state government and those deciding about the proceeds from the sale of the Newcastle Port.  Cycling infrastructure has always been treated as a parks and playgrounds type of local government concern. The CycleSafe Network Campaign is about asking the State Government to consider Cycling Infrastructure as important Transport infrastructure, and fund it accordingly.

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