The newly-formed 'Australian Cyclists Party' is seeking members to register for upcoming political elections.
The grassroots organisation, set up by a small number of cycling advocates, aims to lobby for improved infrastructure and cycling-friendly policies across the country.
The party writes on its website:
For decades cyclists have pushed, prodded, begged, knocked on doors, written countless submissions, rode in protest, signed petitions and defied frankly pretty lousy conditions to exercise their right to enjoy cycling in Australia.
For all of that, most areas in Australia are well behind in developing infrastructure and reasonable cycling facilities and attitudes. Many cyclists who have ridden elsewhere in the world have been left wondering why we cannot do better here? Why has cycling been demonised, politicised and criticised so often in the media and by government officials? Why has no party made improving cycling a high priority? Not just talking about doing it, but committing to an approach with resources that can make a big difference.
Should we stop trying so hard to convince those that don’t want to be convinced? Should we instead do as other groups are doing and seek positions of power to redress the imbalance? Is this the time to get on with it?
Cyclists in Australia feel notoriously put-upon, with compulsory helmet laws and poor infrastructure. It was cited by round-the-world cyclist Mike Hall as the most bike-hostile place he rode on his trip.
As articles here on road.cc regularly show, even among academics specialising in public health in Australia, opinion is divided over he benefits of the country's compulsory helmet laws, with some arguing that it reduces the incidence of head injuries among cyclists.
Others contest that finding and also point out that it has a negative impact on health by deterring people from undertaking a healthy form of exercise in the first place.
Australia’s compulsory helmet laws have been blamed for usage of bike-sharing schemes in Brisbane and Melbourne that is at low levels compared to those in cities elsewhere, as outlined in this On Your Bike blog post written by Michael O'Reilly and published in The Age.
In each state the party needs to have a certain number of party members in order to register the party for forthcoming elections. For instance, 750 members would be required in New South Wales and 500 in Victoria.
All members must be on the electoral role in their state before joining.
Residents of New South Wales should click here to register.
Other Australian voters can click here and enter their details to become members of the party.
Although many Australian cyclists have taken to social media to praise the activists for setting up the party, others have expressed doubt about the method.
One, Martin Geliot, wrote on the Sydney Cyclist forum:
Single issue political parties concern me.
Maybe something broader concerning safety, environment, amenity and human rights. Of course we have a party which ought to work for those things.
In fact all parties elected to govern for us should!
All of the foregoing should be assured, they are core govt functions.
But Omar, one of the party’s founders replied saying:
I do share some of your unease with single-issue parties but you have to admit that they can be very effective in getting things done that are important to them and their supporters.
Independents like Clover Moore prove that being separate provides some distinct advantages.
With the main parties not having delivered all that much or clearly differentiated themselves on promoting cycling at any government level, what will change?
The Greens can be a great ally but cycling comes into conflict with some of their other policies at times.
An issue becoming a Greens issue can also prevent broader support.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.