CONGRATULATIONS Bendigo, on becoming the first community in Australia to become a Bicycle Friendly Community, accredited by CycleLifeHQ.
This week’s silver accreditation recognises the hard work that has gone into raising the profile of cycling in our city, not just as a sport, but as a means of transport and enjoying the wonderful lifestyle on offer throughout the City of Greater Bendigo.
The Bicycle Friendly Community accreditation program which we are now part of, has operated in the United States for more than two decades, and Bendigo joins more than 430 American cities and towns acknowledged for their cycling friendly facilities.
Our city is well known and equally well regarded for its development of world class cyclists in all forms of the sport over a very long period of time, but this award and acknowledgement goes a lot further than lycra.
More broadly, it includes many of the council-led initiatives that support more people riding to work, to school, or visiting our region as tourists riding on rail trails and mountain bike tracks.
But the key to realising the vision of being a true bicycle friendly city lies not just in the development and implementation of expensive cycling specific infrastructure, but in instilling an attitude of tolerance, patience and mutual respect among all road users that means everyone feels confident and safe in sharing the road.
And in this regard, we have a long way to go before we are a true cycling friendly city that embraces cyclists of all forms, shapes and sizes.
Yes, cycling paths for school children to ride on as they pedal to school are welcome.
So too are bicycle bays, bike lockers and the development of a bike friendly business network and an advisory group for future engagement.
Making sure key roads and linkages across the municipality include sealed shoulders wide enough to safely accommodate cyclists is also paramount, as is the regular maintenance and cleaning of roads.
But the hostility, impatience and lack of tolerance often demonstrated mostly towards cyclists will always be a major concern, and cyclists must accept some of the blame, and more importantly, some of the responsibility for fixing this.
There’s even an acceptance in some sections of the community, and especially in the online community, that practically open warfare on cyclists on our roads is actually okay.
It isn’t, and it never has been.
The cycling community can do its part in addressing the issue by adhering to the road rules at all times, and by exercising greater understanding for some of the frustrations that motorists might otherwise experience when they encounter especially groups of riders.
And motorists need to be patient, tolerant and respectful of the fact that it’s not just them who are entitled to share the road.
The City of Greater Bendigo, Victoria Police and the Transport Acident Commission also share a responsibility to ensure there’s greater awareness and acceptance among all road users of each other’s rights and obligations.
It shouldn’t cost us anything to be more considerate for other road users, but changing people’s perceptions and what constitutes acceptable behaviour is far easier said than done.