2018 Australian Bicycle Summit in Sydney with Transport for NSW as event partner

australian cycling advocacy sydney

The Australian Bicycle Summit is yearly event that combines a few components – all with an underlying drive to improving cycling in Australia. The Australian Cycling Promotion Foundation (ACPF) is the event organiser and present themselves to the public as We Ride Australia. In 2018, the Australian Bicycle Summit will be held in Sydney and it is surprising to see Transport for NSW announced as the event partner, this leads to so many questions. Considering the state of cycling in NSW and the role of the New South Wales State government to date, why are they now supporting a cycling advocacy event?

The good news is that there are answers to many of the questions. Firstly, let’s provide an overview of the Australian Bicycle Summit and find out who should attend this year in Sydney.

 

The Role of the Australian Bicycle Summit

In a nutshell, the Australian Bicycle Summit combines cycling advocates and the Australian cycling industry while also establishing connections to State and Federal Governments. The summit plays an important role connecting the different players as Australia needs a united effort in ensuring that cycling is part of Australia’s transportation future.

In 2015 in Canberra, the first Australian Bicycle Summit event was hosted in Canberra. During the summit there were two programs; in the Advocacy Stream, all of the major advocacy groups across Australia discussed and tried to unite on the most pressing topics.

Australian Bicycle Summit Canberra

In the Industry Stream, most of the major bike importers and brands were represented and there were presentations on the state of the industry and also round-table discussions for hot topics such as data and overseas online competition. The event culminated with the Cycle Luminaries dinner in Parliament House where accomplished cycling advocates were commended. During this event, the cycling industry was also provided with unique access to some federal MPs to discuss their pressing concerns.

Last year in 2017, the Summit was conducted in Brisbane to coincide with the Queensland Bike Week and the Queensland Government was the supporting event partner.

australian bicycle summit

This year in 2018 there is an important change as there is no industry specific program, this leaves a small gap considering that recent tariff concession changes to e-bikes along with the introduction of GST on low value imports in July. The organisers however are focussing on advocacy and if you consider the state of cycling safety and infrastructure, this probably the right approach to really help NSW begin taking bike riding seriously.

 

Who should attend the Australian Bicycle Summit?

While the program already attracts the big Australian cycling advocacy groups, it is also open to individual cycling advocates. We Ride Australia is ensuring that attendance to the Summit is free though pre-registration is required.

The agenda items for the summit typically focus upon broader or national interest cycling advocacy topics and driving political progress. In 2018, the agenda comprises largely of presentations and advocates can benefit from new insights and also acquiring and solidifying connections with other cycling advocates.

If you are curious or even interested as to whether the Summit is relevant to you, the program is available online (PDF).

australian cycling awards

On the evening before the Summit, Lendlease in Barangaroo are also hosting the Cycle Luminaries dinner which costs $100. The main event is the award presentation for individuals and organisations who are being commended for their efforts and success in cycling advocacy and can offer some networking opportunities.

 

Why is the NSW Government partnering a Cycling Advocacy Summit?

Bike riders across Australia, indeed internationally know that NSW has a poor reputation for cycling. Besides the everyday hostility on the roads (NSW is not alone), the NSW State Government has actively positioned itself as against cycling; they allocate less than 1% of their entire transport budget to cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, recent increases in fines for misdemeanors work to disincentivise bike riding, the NSW Police regularly target bike riders but are not enforcing or assisting bike riders with the 1m / 1.5m safe passing laws, and the department and ministers have proven themselves to be reluctant to communicate or show any transparency in their spending and activities.

At a glance, Transport for NSW appear to be an unlikely event partner and while I have my reservations, I am also hopeful because the event could present itself as a new opportunity and turning point. The director of We Ride Australia, and past Cycling Australia CEO, Stephen Hodge explained the process of selecting the host city and partner for the 2018 Summit.

“We had two bids to host the Summit this year, from the WA Deptartment of Transport and Transport for NSW, both of which we seriously considered. The two states are at quite different stages with respect to investment in cycling”, says Hodge.

“Western Australia has been strongly engaging with us for several years and has come to the Netherlands on our expert study tour, the department has had the strong support for cycling development from the last two Transport Ministers who we have also worked with. They are the first jurisdiction to trial ‘bike boulevards’, they have also explicitly committed to a very large expansion of principal bike routes over the next few decades.

“NSW is some way behind this level of commitment but we have had very strong support from the relevant senior officials in the Department of transport to try to build support for the active travel business they are trying to roll out AND from a number of government MPs who also believe more can be done for cycling.

“For this reason we believe that this calls for us to work as hard as we can to support change in NSW – the Summit is being structured to tell positive stories about the benefits of more cycling for NSW, to directly address economic, productivity, health and transport benefits, and to drive a better outcome for the future. We are working hard to get good ministerial engagement, which we see as an important aspect of the Summit. As mentioned above, we also have the support of some government MPs who have joined us on this path.

“In summary, we are only organising this Summit in partnership with TfNSW because we feel it does provide the best opportunity change the game for cycling in NSW by playing our part in supporting the senior officials who are working to drive change and supporting the MPs who are strong champions for us.

In a recent Sydney Morning Herald newspaper article describing the black spots in Sydney for cycling accidents, an unnamed spokesperson from Transport for NSW was keen to highlight the ‘commitment’ of the NSW Government to the safety of cyclists. The government combines walking and cycling in their budget and in 2017/18 they planned an allocation of $62 million with a reserve (from Restart NSW) of $80 million for individual projects that are delivered over the course of four years. The budget has been higher in previous years and but still remains well below 1% of the total transport budget.

sydney cycling traffic

With this in mind, is Transport for NSW is genuinely committed to improving cycling safety? I asked Stephen Hodge whether the Australian Bicycle Summit is simply opportunity for the NSW Government to promote their vision for the future and gain ‘brownie points’, or if cycling advocates have a real opportunity to connect with, and guide the NSW Government towards actual progress for cycle transport?

“Current investment is low – yes, but our job is to build the case for this to increase, the latest Future Transport 2056 Strategy lays out the path”, suggests Hodge. “We have to give the decision makers confidence that if they fund cycling we will do what we can to build social license and public support for cycling. Giving the bike sector a high profile event is also a way to create legitimacy for our agenda and we are doing everything we can to make it a high value gathering.

The Bicycle Network submission called for 10 year funding to be brought forward to the next 4 years, and we are supporting that call. We think there is a chance of this happening as far as the Dept goes too, BUT it is going to need everyone to work hard in a joined up way to get there. The Liberal government has to go to an election in a few months, and while we need to talk to both sides, we are in a good position to give the Minister and his government some of the tools that would be very well supported.

I’m hoping that attitudes to how policing is carried out can be addressed over time. We’ll be inviting the Assistant Commissioner to the Summit and Awards Dinner.

The Australian Bicycle Summits could be a catalyst for positive change in NSW so Bicycles Network Australia encourage advocates, transportation experts along with ministers, Government staff and attendees to use this opportunity to drive progress.

The Australian Bicycle Summit takes place on Thursday, 21. June at Lendlease Barangaroo. Registration is required. The Cycling Luminaries dinner event will be held on the evening prior in the same location. Further information and registration on We Ride Australia.



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About The Author

Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a professional design business, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.

2 responses to “2018 Australian Bicycle Summit in Sydney with Transport for NSW as event partner”

  1. Phil Latz says:

    Great Article Christopher. Thanks for your long time support of cycling!

  2. Stuart says:

    Transport for NSW wouldn’t know a bicycle if they tripped over one. Except maybe when yelling at a cyclist from their SUV.

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