Omar Khalifa – Bicycles Network Australia The Top Australian Cycling Portal Fri, 25 May 2018 06:40:25 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Interview – Australian Cyclists Party Goals for the NSW Elections Sat, 14 Feb 2015 05:13:59 +0000 On March 28, eligible voters in New South Wales will head for the voting booths for the State Election and the Australian Cyclists Party want your vote. But what are they doing to win your vote and is their political approach of create a strong minor party the right approach for cyclists? Bicycles Network Australia […]]]>

On March 28, eligible voters in New South Wales will head for the voting booths for the State Election and the Australian Cyclists Party want your vote. But what are they doing to win your vote and is their political approach of create a strong minor party the right approach for cyclists? Bicycles Network Australia (BNA) asked the party founder and president, Omar Khalifa (ACP) about the participation in the recent Victorian State Elections and their approach in the up-coming NSW elections.


BNA – The Australian Cyclists Party first contested in the Victorian state elections, what experience and lessons learnt will you now apply in the NSW elections?

ACP – Only a year from our first member signing up we were amazed that we even registered in time, never mind standing 17 candidates and attracting over 20,000 votes! Indeed we out-polled half of the other minor parties and not so far behind the larger minor parties that have been at it for quite some time – with significantly more resources. We certainly could have used a much broader network of supporters and time to get ourselves better known. More coverage at polling places would have also helped but with early voting and postal ballots the ability for minor parties to use polling day to get publicity and sway voters is diminishing.


BNA  – Is winning votes as a smaller party about getting attention prior to the election or is it a spontaneous and sympathy vote on election day?

ACP – It is both. We need to be familiar to more people beforehand. While some people would have jumped at the chance to support a cycling party, many would be circumspect about whether we were legitimate or not and would need time to figure that out and socialise it with others.

Omar Khalifa Australian Cyclists Party
Omar Khalifa promoting the Australian Cyclists Party at the Sydney Bike Show


BNA – While Australian federal election spending for the big parties is counted in the millions (and not billions such as in the USA), it is reported that Liberal and Labor outspend the minor parties 19 : 1, while the vote distribution is 4 : 1 (source). Would higher funding and pre-election spending be effective for the Australian Cyclists Party?

We raised just $5k specifically for the Victorian election. We don’t think it should take millions as it only creates the atmosphere of influence buying and public cynicism too. The irony is of course that the smaller parties need the exposure more than the larger ones who already dominate the headlines daily. And yet even our public broadcaster won’t provide free advertising unless you are already a significant party. A bit of chicken and egg…

The ACP unlike the major parties and some of the minor ones has no paid staff. Our overheads are low by design and we aim to stay that way but it does not mean we have no costs for election fees, web sites, software licenses, hosting services, posters, travel, etc.

So, yes, we could use more funding just to help raise our profile and pay for the basic electioneering tools and we hope to raise double the $5k figure for the NSW election.


BNA – What is the core message of the ACP heading into the NSW election, and is there any appeal to non-cyclists?

ACP – We are approaching the election with our focus to create a bicycle friendly NSW. We build that by addressing the key government areas of responsibility – transport, planning and health. Ours is a message that cycling can be part of the solution to some of today’s complex and expensive challenges. Cycling can also reflect the priorities of a community. A place that is cycling friendly is likely to have healthier people, better community interaction and be a great place to live. Just think of some of the best places in the world to visit and see how integrated cycling is into everyday life.


Pip Vice Bicycling New South Wales
Pip Vice (previously Bicycle NSW) is running as a NSW candidate for the Australian Cyclists Party


BNA – Can you explain preference votes and with whom the ACP have a preference arrangement?

ACP – Curiously little is understood about one of the key pillars of our way of voting. Preferences are a way for a party or voter to ensure the “next best” party or candidate gets a chance to win. Preferences can be complex arrangements when there are multiple parties involved as the flow of the votes accumulates to those that are still in the race as the votes are tallied. Parties of course use these flows to bargain to their best advantage – perhaps in a swap even – we preference this candidate in this district if your preference ours there. Not every party will preference in every seat they contest.

In NSW, Lower House preferences are the ones that are most highly sought. While we promise to publish our preferences ahead of the election, not all parties do so. So it is incumbent on every voter to know that they can choose their own preference flow by indicating that on the ballot “below the line” by numbering the order the vote should flow.


BNA  – Can you explain the role and connection of the politically orientated ACP in the increasingly busy domain of Australian Cycling Advocacy. It appears that many different groups operate in competition whereas most can easily complement one another and unite to achieve a common goal.

ACP – Cycling advocacy is not an easy thing to describe – there are official advocacy organisations such as Bicycle NSW and Bicycle Network and then there are Bicycle User Groups, Sports bodies, charities like Amy Gillett Foundation, various Facebook sites and even the BNA itself! With so many different roles, it is not difficult to see how groups may not always sound like they are coordinating or indeed have all of of the same goals. Ultimately, however, they all support increasing participation in cycling – it’s a unifying mission.

The ACP sees ourselves as a political arm of the greater advocacy effort. Arguably, much like the Labor Party was once the political arm of the union movement. We see our goals aligned in increasing participation but our unique offering is to roll up our sleeves and become political about delivering it. After decades of slow progress and some recent threat to reversals by those in government, we think it is time to get people in government that are committed to our goals and our approach to many of the associated community issues. Standing on the sidelines and wishing for better just isn’t enough. Look at the cities that have progressed and it is only because there is a leader in government that has pushed it along.

We also believe that the ACP can act as an independent party able to work across traditional ideological barriers and to offer up superior candidates that reflect values that most Australians will relate to. Our membership covers a broad range as well. We are a party of the times when people are turning away from the poor performance of those who feel entitled to rule just because they have been a major party – times are changing as we can see from recent elections.

In a way we are helping to turn back the clock on how Parliaments first functioned – to solve problems and help communities do better. One day I hope we won’t need a cyclists party, today thousands think we do.

Bicycles Network Australia would like to thank Omar and the Australian Cyclists Party and wish all candidates success. On January 24, the Australian Cyclists Party announced that they will be running 15 candidates for the Legislative Council (Upper House) and contesting for a further 7 in the following Legislative Assembly (Lower House) seats: Balmain, Newtown, Newcastle, Manly, Willoughby, North Shore and Goulburn.

Further information about the Australian Cyclists Party is available on their website:


Disclaimer: Christopher Jones is a (non-active and private) member of the Australian Cyclists Party. This interview was conducted by Bicycles Network Australia which is not aligned with any Australian political party. The intention is to publish cycling relevant advocacy news following their media release. Political parties are invited to submit cycling specific news and media releases for editorial consideration.

Title Photo: © Australian Cyclists Party

Interview with Omar of The Australian Cyclists Party Tue, 29 Oct 2013 00:41:06 +0000 It has been the hottest topic in Australian Cycling for the past few week as the new political party seeks to attract members in order to become official and take part in the 2015 NSW and Victorian state elections. With the launch a number of debates have started about the purpose, validity and policies including […]]]>

It has been the hottest topic in Australian Cycling for the past few week as the new political party seeks to attract members in order to become official and take part in the 2015 NSW and Victorian state elections. With the launch a number of debates have started about the purpose, validity and policies including the dreaded Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL) debate. Party founder, Omar Khalifa has agreed to respond to some of the tough questions that have been raised by cyclists in the Australian Cycling Forums on BNA.

BNA: How can the Australian Cyclists Party help cycling considering existing cycling advocacy groups and existing government cycling initiatives?

Omar Khalifa: We can make sure that we can have someone in government to act on advocacy positions.  To make changes or add amendments that look after the issues that affect cyclists.  No advocacy group can do that without working with someone interested in government.  It may not take much for someone in government to make a big difference for those who don’t usually get a look in.

I do recognise that some improvements have been made in some areas and in some large cities in particular.  But most cyclists don’t see the benefits of these and the progress is often slow and reversible. Often grand plans are under-resourced and instead of championing the issues internally many times this is left to members of the community to fight for time and again through submissions or petitions and rallies.  I have been involved in a number of these as CEO of Bicycle NSW and know how exhausting and disappointing the outcomes can be at the end of long and time consuming processes.

BNA: Existing state and community cycling organisations who advocate for cycling are often unable or unwilling to align themselves with political parties, how does this affect the ability of the Australian Cyclists Party gather cyclist support?

Omar Khalifa: As much as we would like the full endorsement of all cycling organisations, we understand this is not possible and can live with that.  Several have already said they welcome another voice in support of cycling –  that’s fair enough endorsement for us.  Much the same thing is happening with Bicycle User Groups and cycling clubs.  Some are taking a stronger endorsement stand.  I think cyclists will make up their own minds and consider whether this is an opportunity worth backing?

BNA: Political parties for cycling haven’t taken off internationally – often cycling issues are represented by the green parties internationally – what makes Australia different?

Omar Khalifa: Australia seems to be stuck in a bit of a time warp when it comes to cycling policies.  Despite the growth in cyclist numbers the politicians have been slow to respond.  Too often it has only been seen as a greens issue, whereas I think the majority of cyclists don’t see it as such any longer and many of our current supporters would have different political or ideological alignments.

In a number of countries no party would ignore cycling and in others it has attracted a concerted multi-party support base.  Here the major parties appear to see the issue as a marginal one and can be largely ignored and have done so for decades.  Some even use anti-cycling rhetoric to rile up their supporters.  Perhaps that is all about to change.

BNA: When the Prime Minister Tony Abbott won the election he responded to a media question stating he will begin his first day with a bike ride. Is there any influence or positive benefit for Australia with a Prime Minister who cycles?

Omar Khalifa: It should be a great thing to have a cycling PM, but he has yet to make any statements to support cycling for the rest of us.  I think our Prime Minister, by following the example of the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, could make improving cycling in this country a centerpiece of his government rather than a centerpiece of his day.  His personal commitment could work wonders.

BNA: The Party has been accepting new members for about about three weeks – does the response from the cycling community and the media coverage provide any suggestions as to the success of the political party? Can you share the current member numbers?

Omar Khalifa: Our support through new members has been amazing!  I had no reason to expect the support we received so quickly.  The media has been helpful in general though a few are still stuck seeing this as a “micro party” legitimacy issue because of the success of the Motoring Enthusiasts or some grand conspiracy by a political lobbyist.

The support is very broad-based attracting people of all ages and professions. We have over 1,000 members from across Australia.  Those who want to follow our progress can do so by signing up to our Facebook or Twitter accounts through

BNA: The party aims to contest in the next New South Wales and Victorian State elections, what would be your vision for success in these elections?

Omar Khalifa:We have our own benchmarks, but would aim to secure at least one Upper House seat in each.  It is a very tall order but if we can make a good showing in Victoria even without winning a seat, then we stand a chance in NSW as well.  If successful, the other states will then be in play too though different approaches may be taken in each.  There is certainly interest brewing in all states and territories.  That’s the aspiration, but let’s keep perspective, we need to have enough members in both Victoria and NSW to qualify for being on the ballot or we go no further.

BNA: The Australian Cyclists Party had its first public engagement at Ausbike in Melbourne and a week later was at the Sydney Bike Show, what kind of reception did you get from the public?

Ausbike in Melbourne was our “toe-in-the-water” low-key debut – just a couple of supportive BUG members from the Melbourne area, a website, an iPad and a poster.  That’s it.   I had lots of prior private discussions with knowledgeable cycling advocates but no prior publicity or press release of our launch.  Nevertheless, the reaction was so positive with those that attended the show that it really made us feel that we were onto something that had broad appeal.  Numbers grew on the back of a couple of articles but we were still taken by surprise by the numbers at the Sydney show where over 250 signed up over two days!  Now we knew we really were in with a chance.

BNA: Who is behind the party and what are their roles? Are there any leaders yet?

I am the founder and we have a list of the people working on our committee on our website.  We act as a team and split up activities based on skills and time available.  None of us are paid for our work, and modest contributions have helped offset some initial travel and printing costs.  I would venture that everyone working on this are doing it because they feel so passionately that much more must be done and that this may be our best opportunity to change things.  I have nothing but admiration for them jumping in to help make a go of this.

BNA: Within the cycling community, Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL) is a controversial topic and your communications suggests that a party policy direction will not be created for MHL – how do you respond to comments that this is very much a cycling issue and that the party needs a formal view if they are to represent cyclists?

Omar Khalifa: Well, we don’t and we won’t.  It is such divisive issue even in the cycling community that we see nothing good coming from taking an unequivocal stand on it.  Leaders of the anti-MHL side like Chris Rissel has clearly indicated on our Facebook page that it was better we stay united on having a voice than to force a split that leaves nobody further advanced.  Other respected leaders in cycling have echoed this view.

If some people feel so strongly about this one issue, then I understand if they would prefer to not support us and continue to pursue other avenues that they believe may be more effective.

BNA: As with any new idea – there is always criticism, some justified and some not. Which criticism has the party received that you feel is justified and are these able to be resolved or answered – likewise do you see important cycling issues that can’t be answered or addressed by the party?

Omar Khalifa: We simply started out asking the questions as to whether people were satisfied with the current state of cycling and whether having a representative in government may help?   A few people who have not welcomed our entry have asked us for our detailed position on every issue of today as though this was the starting point.  It can’t be.  As with any party before us, we find the constituency that can get behind the issues that are most important to them.  We will work from there.

If we become an official party we will begin to flesh out our position on issues we believe our members feel most strongly about prior to the election.  Let’s keep in mind that even the major parties with all of the resources at their disposal will not spell out exactly what all of their policies are.  Ultimately, the electorate can decide if they agree with what we do commit to and the quality of our candidate when they next go to the polls.  There’s time for that.

BNA: The party constitution is a hot topic and I understand that when the party is able to formalise then this will be addressed and created to represent the views of the members. Is this correct and do you have a prognosis as to when a constitution or policy document can be published.

Our aim is certainly to use all of the community tools we can to keep everyone who wants to be engaged in the process, however,  we also need to learn from the pitfalls faced by other parties and take steps to ensure we don’t fracture and factionalise.  I believe our members expect that the ACP will set a reasonable and pragmatic course and to get on with the job of getting things done.  It is what we should expect from any party and any representative.

We will have a constitution soon – it has to be looked at on a state by state basis to accommodate different electoral requirements in each state.  Our committee will oversee this process.  The constitution(s) will be published on our site when ready and submitted as part of the application to qualify to be on the ballot.


Disclaimer – Bicycles Network Australia is not aligned with the Australian Cyclists Party. The author (Christopher Jones) has applied to become a party member and is conscious that this article on Bicycles Network Australia represents fair coverage of topical cycling news and is not providing an endorsement or recommendation.

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On the Go! with Omar Khalifa Tue, 05 Feb 2013 02:53:19 +0000 Omar Khalifa came to the attention of Australian cyclists as the CEO of Bicycle NSW. While he worked hard for this state based organisation, his efforts were felt nationwide and cyclists began to feel that Omar might be able to do what no one else had ever done: unify Australian cyclists and give them all […]]]>

Omar Khalifa came to the attention of Australian cyclists as the CEO of Bicycle NSW. While he worked hard for this state based organisation, his efforts were felt nationwide and cyclists began to feel that Omar might be able to do what no one else had ever done: unify Australian cyclists and give them all a voice. Omar (and that’s how most people know him, just by his first name), during his tenure at Bicycle NSW, made it a point to engage with the media to raise the profile and issues of cyclists. 

And then he disappeared. He resigned as CEO of Bicycle NSW, sparking rumours and confusion among the members, many of whom did not renew their memberships or transferred them to other cycling organisations in other states. People wondered what would happen next, but no one knew what Omar had in store – maybe Omar didn’t either.

Omar reappeared on my radar via a mutual contact, with something called the Go! Alliance. Nothing more was forthcoming about this venture until Omar contacted BNA about joining the Go! Alliance. Since we had interviewed him before, we jumped on the opportunity to interview him again and find out more about what he was doing. Like the first time around, he was eager to engage with us and gave us this frank interview via email.


BNA: As the head of Bicycle NSW, you were vocal and pro-active on cycling issues to the point where the cynics were paying attention and smelling some sort of change in the winds – a cycling Barrack Obama of sorts. And then you vanished, almost overnight. What happened?

Omar: It was a great opportunity to lead BNSW and put into practice what I (as a previous member) thought the organisation lacked. I believed I had the mandate and full support of the board to do this. But that turned out not to be the case and there were numerous divisions within the board and with the future of BNSW and its strategy and culture that I ultimately could not see myself being able to work through. As I was only ever there to make a difference, I chose to leave on good terms rather than be left unable to carry out the rest of what I came to do.

Nevertheless, we did turn a lot of things around including flagging membership, gaining better media visibility, improving financial sustainability, better online interactions, more progressive advocacy, better regional presence and turning around our ride event strategy. I was fortunate to have a team that was really enthusiastic and supportive of this new direction. I hope things did improve but I leave it to your readers to decide.

Still, I certainly enjoyed getting to know a lot of wonderful people and a whole different side of cycling and advocacy and so have decided to try to carry on in a different way. Oh, and I became captivated by the amazing history of cycling in Australia!

Omar Khalifa and Wife

BNA: I know through mutual contacts that after Bicycle NSW you re-emerged with something called the Go! Alliance. Tell us about that.

Omar: When I left BNSW I was urged by some to start a new organization to compete with BNSW or to run for a board position and to help reform it. However, taking on the organization or the board held no interest for me. I was motivated by all of those folks I had engaged with to take my insights and to see if there was another avenue that would help make a difference for cycling and cyclists.

For starters, I had come to appreciate that:

1. Individuals, BUGs and other groups working at the local or regional level were under-resourced and often struggled to engage broader support or even modest financial backing for their initiatives. We are a sorry bunch in this way – often leaving a few amazingly dedicated people to do a lot of the tedious and under-appreciated work that benefits us all.

2. While new online petition and fund raising tools were coming online, that little effort had been made to re-purpose them for advocacy activities for improved cycling and other transport options – locally or nationally. Resources to help advocates were not easily found when needed.

3. There was no coordination among the various state and national groups across the sustainable transport sectors. Some even undermined each others’ efforts to get their agenda at the head of the queue.

4. With leaders like the Lord Mayor of Sydney making a push for better transport choices in the face of strong opposition; and some states balking at doing more, this was the time more people had to be engaged to help see things through.

5. Australia had a fantastic cycling history – a now nearly forgotten time when cycling was at the centre of every day life and sport and quite literally helped build this nation. This was a legacy that deserved to be celebrated and also honoured through our actions today.

After engaging with others and wondering who else would address these issues, Go! Alliance was formed. It is an online based initiative focussed on helping others activate change at the community and national level through leverage of tools, information and one another.

It is by financial necessity a modestly scaled effort that will seek to be responsive to changing needs and using primarily an online engagement approach. Our constituents will by and large be reached through existing online communities and other organised groups. We hope to attract all forms of resources that will donate time (legal, financial, design, sponsorships) or effort towards the goals of Go! and to share both the challenges and successes of group effort. We have already suceeded in securing matching funds from BIKESydney for crowd funding projects there and hope more will do the same.

Success is not certain in any new initiative, but if the community finds that we can accomplish more working in this new way, then it will have been well worth the effort.


BNA: You mentioned the goals of the Go Alliance; What are they? What does the Go Alliance do and plan to do?

Omar: Go! Alliance’s purpose is facilitating effective transport and mobility solutions through collaboration, funding and information sharing. Enhancing the capacity and capability of individuals and communities to enhance travel options. Inspiring, mobilising and activating change. Our motivation is that effective and efficient transportation, travel and mobility options are essential elements of our everyday lives and key to the vibrancy of our communities, our cities, our economy, our health and our natural environment.

Go! will also strive to fill the gap between online communities, BUGs and clubs and finding new ways to achieving results – a critical missing link. The scope is national and includes all transport modes as we are about re-balancing not exclusion.

Go Alliance Website

BNA: So how does the Go Alliance sit on the organisational spectrum? Is it a non-profit? A consultancy? A community voice? A tool of big business? Basically, who is behind it and how does it operate?

Omar: As a starting point, Go! has been registered as part of a business though profit is not the primary motive for doing this. We do want to have the flexibility of a business and be able to finance what we need. While I suppose that we are indirectly advocating a general direction the primary output of Go! Is to make it easier and more effective for others to get involved themselves or to support activities of others. Part resource centre, part consolidator, part adviser but 100% about achieving better outcomes.

Our advisory board is headed by the former mayor for Bogota and world-reknown advocate for better urban transport, Enrique Penalosa. We also have CPF board member and ex-professional cyclist Stephen Hodge; previous Sydney Councillor John McInerney and Cycling evangelist, Nick Bonich. A number of others have made themselves available to help out and I welcome approaches from others who believe they can contribute.


BNA: BNA has decided to join with the Go! Alliance. Why should we (BNA) or other organisations be involved in it? What are we going to get by allying?

Omar: BNA has a great national following and is a natural constituency for Go! Alliance to be engaged with. We look to support those who will be inspired to take action. Whether it is a local issue or a national one. An invention or a new guide book. So, rather than looking for members, we are looking for those willing to either lead or support others who want to take action towards our overall stated purpose.

So far we have helped raise money for a CPF campaign, paid for a talk by cycling historian Jim Fitzpatrick, and helped fund a new pedle tram for Sydney. Through an online petition we have also helped overcome a decision by North Sydney Council to shut down its sustainable transport advisory group and are now doing a submission to the Commonwealth in the petition format.

We are hoping to ad legal support to assist assessing or challenging counterproductive measures. We are also hoping to have in kind support from transport consulting companies that may assist in design issues. We also invite suppliers of products and services that can help to play a part to make themselves known. By consolidating we can expect to leverage everyone’s efforts.

We are also open to ideas from the BNA community on how else we can be effective – at the end of the day this really is about being effective. We will not solve everything or much right away, but we believe that we can help do more.


BNA: On the BNA forums, one user (jules21) has opined that, with most cycling advocacy, there is an elephant in the room: “the embedded cultural tendency for Australians to view cyclists as second class road users”.

Omar: While I can empathise with that view, I don’t buy in that this has to be the way it is. Cyclists once created and ruled the roads and trails of Australia. Most of today’s roads were classified as cycle tracks first. Australia grew on the back of a bicycle in the early 1900’s and kept us entertained, took us to war, challenged and answered the characteristic wanderlust we have always had as a nation. The fact that bicycles were shunted aside with the advent of the motor vehicle does not mean it needs to always be so. The returns are fast diminishing for more cars and more roads. That monotheistic approach has quite literally run out of road.

However, he time is now to find a new balance and to help create a base of support that is not only about cycling but about more liveable and sustainable places to live, work and play. This is what is happening in Sydney and in a few other areas but it won’t happen with much enthusiasm if it remains without galvanised and ongoing support.

Omar Khalifa Road Touring Cycling

BNA: While developing cycling infrastructure is a useful way forward, how is the Go Alliance going to address the battle for hearts and minds?

Omar: The current model of advocacy is running out of time. Many leading advocates have told me that there are few young people ready to step up to replace or help them – through the countless submissions, council meetings or planning briefings. The “clock speed” for many people today is just too high for accommodating or supporting this engagement approach.

The large cycling organizations are effective in some states and not in others. At best, they can focus efforts on large impact priorities but must defer others. This leaves much of the needed work still undone and too often just single transport mode focussed.

Go! is about supporting incremental change backed by pervasive change. My hope is that at the very least, Go! prove that there is value in new approaches to activating change and to appeal to people like the BNA community to get more involved. But Go! can’t do this alone, we need people who want to help with financial support, matching funding or in-kind services and heaps of individuals willing to lead or support actions. We will soon see if this formula works!


BNA: So if traditional advocacy is dying off, what can the motivated individual do? Are there avenues for small voices, or do they have to ride the coat tails of a bigger organisation and hope they get where they want to go?

Omar: There will always be a role for people to do the hard yards at council meetings and gathering information at briefings and leading protests. However, the influencing side is clearly moving in the direction of effective campaigns that mobilise people quickly and for a clear purpose. Politicians Tweet and engage much more dynamically and want to be seen being sensitive to the pulse of the people.

Reports and submissions are ineffective tools for politicians – unless they want to delay things or look to have been listening even when their minds are already made up! GetUp! has clearly demonstrated that motivating a lot of “small voices” to sing together rather quickly can deliver a strong message to politicians and their departments that they cannot ignore. It has broadened the base of those who are aware and engaged than would have been the case previously.

Omar Khalifa Amsterdam Holland

BNA: The Pirate Party has just been registered in Australia for the 2013 elections, and while small/single issue parties have had some impact on Australian politics, this is really the first time we’ll see a much younger, digitally connected and widely distributed voice. Do you think it’s time for cyclists to use the new advocacy to have their views better represented politically? Will the Go! alliance ever become the Go! party?

Omar: First let’s consider if there is indeed such a thing as a “cycling community”? We are a very diverse set of individuals with different cycling interests and affiliations that just so happen to ride a bike for one reason or another. For many (and this often comes as a shock to some) it is not the most important thing in their lives. Most are not affiliated with any cycling group, a few with BUGs (more so in NSW), some with state organisations and some with racing groups. While there is some common ground there is little to unite us in or our actions and that and that’s not even including looking at other modes of transport. The truth is that we seldom back each other up except in places like BNA. But even then we often fall short of taking united action.

On the other side of the table we LGA’s, road and transport authorities as well infrastructure authorities and Commonwealth departments. They are constantly engaged with an array of providers and those advocating more of the same. Is it any wonder that we don’t get a clear message across?

I believe there are three ways to come to terms with this:
The Shooters Party approach. Go for representation in a seat that can be won, hope for a coalition government that needs your vote and push a narrow agenda with great leverage. The Shooters could not have dreamed of a better situation to get support for changes that are abhorrent to most people.

Pick a party approach. Select one party that we believe most closely aligns to cycling and have them push the agenda and hope they get into power. The problem with this approach is both picking the wrong horse and then when in power, will they stick to their promises? The NSW Labor Party spoke the language of cyclists but did precious little in reality and the participation rates went to the bottom of the table. The Liberals came in and appeared to revel in the fact that they owed nothing to cyclists and in fact looked to be trying to reverse gains at first.

The mainstream, City of Sydney approach. Make the size and enthusiasm of an online and savvy coalition seeking a different approach become a well recognised lever that no party at any level of government can ignore. This is an apolitical approach that presses all parties to come up with ideas and solutions to ensure they don’t lose your vote. This removes the possible stigma of being a “niche” or “green” issue and the knee-jerk reaction that can cause even turn off some cycling supporters. This approach also implies creating a broader consensus that does not exclude other transport modes and attracts more people to want to be a part.

All approaches have their merits but the latter one means that a broader constituency could be built that ensures change comes no matter what party is in power. (As happens in Copenhagen I would love to see a competitive benchmark evolve of how many of each party cycle – or don’t drive – to their offices!). There is no reason that it should not become seen as arrogant and out of touch to be continuing to promote the dominance of traditional motor vehicle use. That’s where I hope Go! can come in to help inform and empower to get effective campaigns going at all levels even nationally as well when required – to help activate change. However, ultimately this will only work if a large enough number are willing to engage and that is far from certain.

But I do have to say I like the ring of a “Go! Party” and we could have some fun with our manifesto!


BNA: So what is Go! doing now? What will they be doing in the near future?

Omar: Go! Has already been testing the basic concepts of deploying petitions and crowd funding in support of community activities and the response has been encouraging. We are going to build on that and hopefully create a supporting web site that brings together these tools and the information and resources to enable more people to engage and activate change. It is our belief that unless we build a constituency that is ready to take action and back action that we are unlikely to motivate governments at any level to do much towards transitioning transport priorities.

So Go! will back others and look for opportunities to engage with those who believe in this approach and would also like to help the community. It could be a business or a BUG or even an LGA that commit in-kind or matching funds to promote activities that help make a difference. Already, BIKESydney is offering to match 1:1 moneys raised in any crowd funding initiative that affects cycling in Sydney. I think this is exciting as a model to get highly leveraged results to do so many things!


BNA: As individuals, how do we get involved with Go! ? If we do join the alliance (sounds like Star Wars, doesn’t it?), how do we get our views heard?

Omar: I think its about being motivated to help change the dynamics that got us in this transport mess in most parts of Australia. The momentum built up from decades of singleminded thinking that placed the motor vehicle at the top of the food chain needs to be thrown into reverse – at least to the point of achieving a more sensible balance in transport spending and options. We also realise that politics and means of influence has changed dramatically and yet little has been done to put those forces to use in this area.

All tha Go! Is trying to do is facilitate a new way for us to build and grow that support base by leading on some issues of broad importance (like the current Yes, Minister! Petition) or an event that may help promote the concept, but mostly by helping individuals, BUGs and others in the community to figure out how to take action, to get the funding and to attract the support that contributes to the common purpose. Over 300 individuals contributed to a Go! assisted online petition to retain the sustainable transport advisory group for North Sydney Council recently. It was a success.

Part of this approach is dependent on bridging the gap with online communities that often talk about issues but seldom have an outlet to truly take it to the next step in a coordinated way. It is a often discussed issue that online social groups are not good at getting behind things together.

I also hope we help those who don’t see themselves as advocates but want to get something done that would help – a bike rack for a school or a transport guidebook for the aged or designing a new mobility aid for someone with a physical challenge. We just helped fund the Pedal Inn, a bar on wheels that is propelled by the guests pedaling!

In the end it is not really so much about single or integrated transport modes but about the other side of the same coin and that is building friendlier and better functioning communities and cities that are healthier, kinder on the environment and a whole lot more fun to live in or visit. It won’t happen if we don’t begin to back ourselves and each other to activate the necessary changes. So, I guess I am just saying it is time for your readers to consider what they can do and how Go! could help them do it.

Omar Khalifa Orange


BNA: I need some straight answers from you Omar. Did you ever take banned substances to enhance your cycling performance?
Omar: You should speak to my doctor, Mr. Lamborghini. He’s got all of the fast answers you could ever need.


BNA: Did you ever blood-dope, or use blood transfusions to enhance your cycling performance?
Omar: I have certainly been called a dope, does that count? If anything I took was meant to enhance my performance then I’m clearly not going to be asked for an endorsement. I mean the Bloodmobile felt so sorry for me that they offered to give me blood.


BNA: Did you ever used other banned substances like cortisones, testosterone, or human growth hormone?
Omar: This is beginning to feel like water boarding… alright already, someone call Oprah and let her know that I want to come clean but it will take three episodes minimum and I want soft lighting and angels singing in the background!


BNA thanks Omar for his time and for being a good sport. Omar is keen to answer your questions and you can engage him in a discussion in the comments below.

More information about the Go! Alliance can be found on their site.

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