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.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LujWrkYsl64

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.  https://www.facebook.com/newcastlecyclewaysmovement

Vicki also has a delightful personal blog about bicycles in Newcastle creatively called http://bicyclesinnewcastle.com/  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.

 Posted by at 6:53 pm
Jul 272014

I’ve heard it said that NCM members want, and deserve, more information and updates about what is happening on their behalf, so here is my first attempt at a regular Presidents blog.  Next month is our AGM (Tuesday 12th August) when a comprehensive annual report with more details about our activities in the past year will be tabled.

The BNSW BUG Council met again this past week, and raised a point that I too have been increasingly concerned about; Cyclist visibility.

Whilst it is great seeing more people riding, we are also seeing more cyclist doing things from simply foolish, to downright dangerous.  Now I know no-one reading this blog would be one of those, but, whilst your representatives are working hard at improving conditions for cyclists, I would like to take this opportunity to ask us all to think about our cycling habits and ask ourselves ‘can we do better?’

Cycling shouldn’t require special clothes and multitudes of gadgets to be able to participate, particularly if all we are doing is short trips on bike paths.  However please consider, when riding to work, a lot of the clothes we wear are dark. Do you come home at night or dusk? A simple hi-vis vest costs $15 and folds up to next to nothing.

If you are riding at night the law states you must have working lights both front and rear.  When was the last time you checked your batteries?  There are a range of small led lights on the market now that have elastic bands and can go around your arm or ankle.  The ankle is an ideal place for those reflective slap bands as the action of going up and down makes them stand out nicely.

Predictable behaviour is also important for safe cycling. The theory about where to ride on the road, taking the lane when necessary and using the shoulder safely will be the topic of another blog later.

Your committee is full of enthusiastic people keen to share the great joys of cycling, keen to encourage authorities to provide better conditions and facilities.  However we cannot do this alone and fresh ideas and input are needed to continue this work.  All sorts of skills are required.  At the moment we are advertising for a volunteer with a good working knowledge of WordPress to manage the website.  Perhaps you have an idea to promote cycling and sharing it at our meetings might help kick it off.  If you can consider helping out to create a better environment for cycling, please come along to the AGM or contact us through this website.bikes

 Posted by at 10:31 pm
May 182014

At the recent May meeting, with the guest speaker Jim Fitzpatrick talking about cycing history, committee members also gave a small update on recent advocacy projects around our region.

 Posted by at 9:15 pm
Nov 062013

When I think about all that has happened this year I am very much aware that all that follows in this report could not have happened if it were not for the many years of persistent lobbying from many people who did not see the immediate results.  For those volunteers, who helped to create a mood in the community for change, we can say Thanks as we see great things happening now.  Some of these people are no longer directly involved with NCM, whilst others are.  To all of them, we are grateful, because we are beginning to enjoy many great benefits for cycling in our community.

Many of these things listed below, are actually the work of other institutions or entities, other than NCM.  Nevertheless our members have been intimately involved working with them, directly participating in consultative meetings or preparing back ground research, or lobbying. This means that over the years NCM has been effective in helping to create a better environment for cycling.

Admittedly, the growing recognition of cycling as an important community activity, for leisure and commuting, is a global trend, I like to think of NCM as the skilful surfer who has ridden that wave well.

There have been many exciting events, and some great infrastructure projects carried out this past 12 months.

None more exciting than the inaugural Bikefest, with big name sponsors, The Heart Foundation and Newcastle Permanent.  This event took over an iconic section of Newcastle’s popular Honeysuckle strip, and saw thousands of people come and celebrate all things cycling.  People came from far and wide to enjoy cycling, buy bicycles and cycling paraphernalia, watch and participate in cycling games, fashion, and races.  People who would not have otherwise ridden a bike, swung their leg over one, and peddled.

A big thanks has to go to the Bikefest board, and the many NCM members who volunteered for the many tasks involved.

At this stage Bikefest 2 is being planned and is likely to celebrate the opening of the Hunter Street cycleways early next year.  Keep an eye out for announcements, and once again the request will go out for your volunteer time to help make that event an even greater festival of all things cycling. From my own experience, being a part of this event was not just fun, but incredibly encouraging and provided opportunities for NCM to link with other bike minded people.

The RMS (Formally RTA) have continued to hold their quarterly Hunter Region Bicycle Consultative meetings, bringing together representatives from several local governments, other government departments and non-government organisations, and community members.  There have always been many NCM people there, several Newcastle council staff and even a representative or two from Cessnock and Port Stephens LGAs.  I like to think the feedback we have provided through this forum has been appreciated by those designers who have delivered numerous “Small projects” this year.  (Some of those projects are reported below)  I look forward to the opportunity to continue to contribute in this way.

The Newcastle City Council Cycling Strategy Working Party has started work on implementing the Newcastle Cycling Strategy.  Our representatives, Bernard Hocking and Ben Ewald are enthusiastic about the direction this group has recently decided to go.

Whilst things may be slower than many of us would like Cessnock Council are in the throes of producing a very interesting bike plan.  They have hundreds of kilometres of disused railways that are ripe for use as cycleways.  We will continue to advocate that the plan will commit to using these railways and ensure connectivity with towns and tourist destinations..

This has not escaped the attention of other groups out that way and the strongest push for cycleway infrastructure is coming from the Abernathy Healthy Lifestyle Association.

This is also mirrored in Lake Macquarie where the most active infrastructure project may well be a privately funded bridge by a small group of concerned residents in the Morisset region.  They have grown impatient with council and have actively sought design and engineering themselves.

Breaking news in Lake Macquarie is that their Cycling Advisory Group is about to meet for the first time on the 18th October.  (This is the second time a first meeting date has been set!)  I hope this will be as promising as the Newcastle equivalent.

Perhaps the most promising sign for cycling in the Hunter is that amongst (or despite) all this political wrangling, there are a number of successful infrastructure projects that have been built this year.  Most significantly in Newcastle council, they include

  • the Merewether foreshore improvements,
  • City Road at the top of Scenic Drive linking to the Fernleigh track,
  • The excellent improvements around Waratah Railway station.

The Morisset path to the railway station and small links around Warners Bay high are just some in Lake Macquarie.  Two RMS “Small projects” which I consider the best value for money are just kerb ramps that allow on road cyclists to get off onto pre-existing off road paths, at Speers Point and Hillsborough Road.

In future projects; The Hunter Street separated Cycleway is a project unparalleled in our region.  NCM Applaud the Newcastle Council, and staff and others who are behind this. This time next year we should be experiencing Newcastle CBD from new bike lanes.

NCM is doing our part too, to increase the Numbers of cyclists using all these wonderful paths.  We have established Hunter Cycle Skills, a training provider under the banner of Austcycle, which will teach people how to ride a bike, or how to ride in heavier traffic conditions.  This need was identified in both the Newcastle and Lake Macquarie Bike plan preliminary community surveys.  We were successful in applying for a grant from the State Government, Office of Environment and Heritage, for $5000 for the development of the Hunter Cycle Skills program.  NCM is not authorised to build concrete paths, but we can certainly share our enthusiasm with novices.

We do share our enthusiasm with every social ride.  Our weekend morning rides have continued in varying numbers.  The more I look into this the more I’m discovering the number of social rides and groups out there.  Some more formally structured with their own web sites, whilst others are just a commitment from friends to ride together regularly.  Either way this is exciting and great for our community.

Following on from the success of the social rides from Bikefest, we initiated some similar themed rides.  We were also successful in a grant application to assist in launching and advertising these.  We have run one very successful Tweed ride and will be running a Stockton History Ride on the 20th October.  We thank Newcastle Council’s Place Making initiative for their assistance in this regard.

2012 –2013 has been an incredibly busy and rewarding year for me particularly and for NCM. With all these activities happening this year our volunteers have been putting in the hours, many un-noticed, and un-thanked.  I’d like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the volunteers, their families, and the committee for the hours of time and energy given over to help NCM and to the NCM catch cry – “Bike for a Better City”.

Here’s to another year like this one!

Peter Lee

President NCM 2012-13

 Posted by at 3:42 pm

Hunter Cycle Skills launched

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Sep 162013


Newcastle Cycleways has launched a new training organisation, Hunter Cycle Skills, a Licensed Austcycle Training Provider able to offer a range of courses for novice and experienced cyclists.  Check out their web site for more information.


 Posted by at 4:28 pm
Sep 082013

Do you want to know more about the proposed trial of cycleways (and other improvements) along hunter street?  Mr Tim Askew, City Centre Project Manager from Newcastle Council will present the plan at our next meeting on Tuesday the 10th September.  The public are welcome to come along to find out more about this project.  7:00 Adamstown Club, Brunker Road

This development is perhaps the most exciting development for cycling in our region since the opening of the Fernleigh Track, or perhaps ever.  Recently there have been many improvements in the cycling network but for commuting cyclists  none have completely addressed the problems of Hunter Street.  Councils plan to revitalise Hunter Street is to make it an interesting, and safe place for people to go to, spend time in, and pass through.

Recently the world renowned visiting Dutch urban planner praised the plan to install “Copenhagen style” cycleways in Newcastle.  “In Copenhagen we use parked cars to protect the more vulnerable cyclist and pedestrians from the traffic.  In Australia it seems you use cyclists to protect the parked cars from the traffic.”

 Posted by at 12:07 am

Urban Renewal Strategy promotes cycling

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Dec 182012

The draft  Newcastle Urban Renewal Strategy has been released by NSW Department of Planning for public exhibition. Submissions are due by 17 march 2013. It proposes some excellent initiatives for cycling and pedestrians. It includes a strong, unambiguous commitment to a separated cycleway the whole length of Hunter St plus end of trip facilities! It proposes reducing traffic to one lane each way, plus a possible clearway with parallel parking allowing more room for extended footpaths, planting and cycleways.

A lot of attention will probably be focused on the proposal to cut the heavy rail line at Wickham. That’s obviously significant but there’s a lot of other proposals in the plan that  can be rolled out regardless of what and when changes are made to the rail corridor.

Copies of the documents can be downloaded here. The 20 page Executive Summary provides a valuable overview. Newcastle Cycleways is preparing its submission on the proposals. The forum includes detailed discussions on different aspects of the proposal. Click here to join in.

 Posted by at 10:03 am