If Canberra keeps growing at its current rate, it’s at risk of becoming a congested, car-based city, says Simon Copland.
The executive director of Pedal Power ACT says: “Transport emissions are our highest carbon emissions now, and it’s primarily from individual motor vehicles.
“Reducing carbon emissions is really important, and we can’t rely on electric vehicles to do all of that work for us. We need to see a transition away from cars.”
As Canberra’s largest cycling organisation, Pedal Power’s mission is to get more people on to more bikes more often, says Simon.
“We do advocacy for better cycling infrastructure, and we also run programs and activities to encourage people to get on to bikes. We do learn-to-ride classes, maintenance courses, those kinds of things.”
Pedal power started as a protest ride around 50 years ago, says Simon.
“There was a protest about the lack of cycling infrastructure,” he says.
“A bunch of people got on their bikes and rode down Belconnen Way and then from that, people got together and decided they wanted to start an organisation that would advocate for better infrastructure.”
Now, Pedal Power is focusing on boosting rider confidence by reviving its New Horizon program.
“Over the pandemic we’d stopped running it, and we’re trying to sort of revive it now because it was a popular program that people wanted,” Simon says.
“We know that one of the biggest barriers to people riding is a lack of feeling of safety and comfort when they do so.
“Being out on a bike, it feels like a vulnerable position to be in, particularly when you’re riding on roads and things like that, and so this is about helping people get the confidence to turn riding into an ongoing habit and an ongoing behaviour.”
‘You gain confidence after not riding for a while’
Wendy Studman is a participant turned volunteer turned coach for the New Horizons program.
“My husband had recently retired and heard about the program through fellow cyclists and convinced me to go along,” she says.
“It got me back on the bike after years, which is the whole premise.
“It helps you gain confidence after not riding for a while, or after an injury.”
Wendy says that it is also a great way to make new friends, and that there are people who did it 10 years ago that still regularly meet up to socialise.
Simon says “There’s a whole bunch of positives that can come with an increase in people riding on their bikes,” says Simon.
“It reduces congestion on our roads, it’s great for people’s physical and mental health, reduces pollution levels, and also just helps create more vibrant streets and a vibrant city.
“When I was a kid, I just rode everywhere, I’d get home from school and I’d get on my bike.
“A lot of my memories of being a kid, is being on my bike, and it’s sort of one of those habits that sticks around.
“It’s like a new sense of freedom because you suddenly can ride anywhere and you don’t have to rely on the car, or for a kid you don’t have to rely on your parents as much.
“You get all of this freedom from being able to ride anywhere.
“Cycling is a thing we need to be investing a lot more on in the future.”
The New Horizons program starts on February 14. More at humanitix.com/new-horizons.
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