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|Cycling: Victoria, Australia|
|Melbourne Critical Mass|
|Around the Bay in a Day|
|Austral Wheel Race|
|Great Victorian Bike Ride|
|Great Ocean & Otway Classic Ride|
|Herald Sun Tour|
|High Country Cycle Challenge|
|Melbourne Autumn Day|
|Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic|
|Melbourne Summer Cycle|
|Oppy Family Fun Ride|
|Rotary River Ride|
|Shepparton Fruit Loop Ride|
Cycling in Melbourne, Victoria is common for recreation, commuting and sport. The city has an extensive network of off-road bicycle paths, as well as designated bicycle lanes on many streets. There is an active cycling culture enhanced by a relatively flat topography, and a generally mild climate.
Cycling in Melbourne was a very popular form of transport at the turn of the 19th century, however mass car-ownership saw a dramatic decline in cycling during the 20th century. The introduction of helmet legislation in the early 1990s also had a significant negative effect on its popularity. In the 21st century, cycling for health, fitness, and as a non-polluting alternative to the automobile has begun to increase in popularity once again, though cycling's transport modal share still accounts for only around 2% of all trips throughout the metropolitan area.
Victorian government policy generally favours bicycle-friendly projects, however in 2008 a new regulation was introduced banning the carriage of bicycles on suburban trains during peak periods. This regulation was rescinded several months later after an outcry from bicycle users.
There has been some recovery in the Central Business District of the City of Melbourne (population appx 70K) where figures put cycling at 8% of all peak-hour (7am-10am) commuter traffic. Planning for improvements to CBD bicycles routes and other major arterial routes is underway. The projects, including a bicycle hire system, similar to Vélib' in Paris, commenced in June 2010.
During the 1890s cycle races like the Austral Wheel Race, and later the Melbourne to Warrnambool Classic, were very popular forms of entertainment drawing crowds of many thousands. Cycling was also an exciting new option for transport taken up eagerly by many people. The craze for cycling in the 1890s is portrayed in the poem Mulga Bill's Bicycle by Australian poet Banjo Patterson, and many other ballads from the time.
For women, cycling provided the opportunity of more freedom and being able to wear less restrictive clothing, or rational dress. The First Victorian Women’s Road Race occurred in Melbourne on Saturday 16 May 1896 on an 11-mile hilly course through the northern suburbs of Northcote, Heidelberg, Ivanhoe, Alphington and Clifton Hill.
Cycling provided an enduring activity for ordinary Melburnians until falling automobile prices and growing consumer affluence saw increasing numbers switch over to the car in the 1940s and 1950s.
Coburg Cycling Club, based in the Melbourne northern suburb of Coburg, is one of Australia's oldest cycling clubs. It was established as a social club in March 1896 by members of the St. Paul's church choir on Sydney Road. Members quickly found themselves participating in all levels of cycle sport. Many cyclists from the Coburg club rose to prominence including Iddo 'Snowy' Munro, Ernie Bainbridge, Richard 'Fatty' Lamb, Richard 'Dick' Ploog (1956 Olympian).
Victoria has produced many cycling athletes of world renown. Sir Hubert Opperman, "Oppy" (1904–1996), is perhaps the most well known and internationally recognised Australian cyclist of the 1920s and 1930s. As an Australian sportsman, his feats in cycling are compared with Sir Donald Bradman in cricket. He set the 24-hour road distance record of 505.75 miles (813.9 km) in 1939; the track record for 24 hours covering 489.3 miles (787.5 km) in 1940. He won the 1928 Bol D'or 24 hour race and the Paris–Brest–Paris 1200 km marathon in 1931 in record time of 49 hours 23 minutes. Many of his long distance records stood for many years. In France and Australia he was feted as a sporting hero, with thousands attending a parade in his honour in Melbourne 1928.
Post World War II, Geelong cyclist, Russell Mockridge, was widely described as "Australia's greatest all-round cyclist for all time". Due to his upper class accent he was initially dubbed Little Lord Fauntleroy, however his race wins soon earned him the nickname of The Geelong Flyer. Tragically, he was killed by a bus in 1958 participating in the 225 km Tour of Gippsland. He was just 2.1 miles (3.4 km) from the start of the race at the Dandenong Rd / Clayton Rd intersection in Melbourne.
Cycle racing continues to be popular in Melbourne with the Herald Sun Tour, since 1952, bringing professional cyclists from around the world for a multi-stage race around regional Victoria and Melbourne. More than 9,000 cyclists and triathletes, including many elite riders, use Beach Road and the Nepean Highway from Black Rock to Mount Eliza on a typical weekend. Each Saturday morning the Hell Ride, a large bunch ride leaves from Black Rock at 7 am. It can contain up to 200 cyclists in summer months with speeds up to 60 km/h. The Hell Ride is a politically contentious topic both amongst Melbourne cyclists and the broader community; most formal cycling organisations discourage their riders from participating, including Cycle Sport Victoria.
A large number of local cycling clubs organise amateur-level racing, with criteriums mostly held in the summer and the road racing season in the winter months.
Long distance cycle travelling was a fact of life in the 1890s for many sheep shearers and other agricultural labourers with migratory work. The bicycle and swag conquered much of Australia on dusty dirt tracks, long before the automobile made its appearance. In the main, however, long distance cycling was a sport of endurance or was done out of necessity.
Up until the 1940s the bicycle was an important commuter vehicle for many Melbourne people. Post war affluence saw a decline in cycle commuting, and the bicycle was largely relegated to a children's activity or for sporting or recreational use.
It was not until the 1970s that cycle commuting and cycle touring started being widely promoted and used again. In Melbourne cycle commuting and touring was stimulated by a number of factors:
In recent years Bicycle Victoria has run regular Ride to Work and Ride to School days to stimulate, with some success, cycle commuting. This is assisted by the formation of many workplace Bicycle User Groups (BUGS). The Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) in 2004 introduced a Bike Assist membership option, to assist cyclists with punctures or basic repairs. The success of Ride to Work Day has since seen it become a national event.
In November 1995 the first Melbourne Critical Mass was held. This has become a popular regular event with cyclists meeting in front of the State Library of Victoria at 5.30 pm on the last Friday of every month to ride around the city in safety as one mass. They are accompanied on a regular basis by the Police Bicycle Squad. Generally the police do not interfere in the event but act to facilitate its smooth movement to reduce any obstruction and to calm the antagonism of some car drivers.
For the most part, bicycles ride on the road with cars; some have bike lanes, most don't. There are bike paths all over Melbourne, and often you can use them for part of your journey. Paths are often more scenic, but are frequently shared with pedestrians. Very occasionally pavements will be shared with pedestrians but check signage carefully.
On 31 May 2010 the first public bicycle sharing system in Australia was launched in Melbourne. It is also the world's first bicycle share scheme in a city with compulsory helmet laws. On completion the system will consist of 50 docking stations with 600 bikes, situated around the Melbourne CBD. The total cost is estimated at $5.5 million over four years. The system is operated by the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria and the US firm Alta Bicycle Share, which runs bicycle share systems in four North American cities.
It is free to carry bicycles on public transport in Melbourne but only folding bikes (folded and in a bag) are allowed on metropolitan trams and buses and country bus & V/Line coaches.
Wearing of a helmet at all times, and suitable lighting at night are enforced by law. It's also best to take other precautionary methods such as wearing light coloured clothing or reflective panels to increase your visibility and safety.
As with other Australian states, Victoria's 1990 compulsory cycle helmet legislation had a strong negative impact on cycling in Melbourne. Surveys carried out at the same 64 observation sites in May 1990 and May 1991 detected 29% fewer adults and 42% fewer child cyclists, with an overall reduction in cyclists of 36%. Further falls were recorded to May/June 1992, with teenage cycling reportedly showing a 46% decrease from pre-law levels. The limited injury reductions recorded among Melbourne cyclists did not match the actual decline in cycling. This has led some experts to the conclusion that the law has actually resulted in increased rates of injury among Melbourne's cyclists. The law has also reportedly resulted in significant police efforts against cyclists. As of 2003, Victoria Police were still issuing around 20,000 Bicycle Offence Penalty Notices a year. Since the law, cycling in Melbourne has never been able to recover its previous share of the transport split. In 1985-6, 3.4% of trips in Melbourne were by bicycle, 2004 data showed a decline to 2.0%. The experience of Melbourne's cyclists has given added impetus to the efforts of cyclists in Europe and elsewhere to resist, or repeal, such helmet laws.
Official rules regarding bicycle parking appear to state that bicycles should only be parked in supplied cages or parking rails. In practice these facilities are not always available and affixing the bike to street poles is common and does not seem to be penalised. Bicycle theft is a problem in Melbourne and it is best to invest in a strong D-lock or hefty chain lock to protect your vehicle. Always lock the bicycle whenever it is unattended, including at home if the bicycle is kept outside. Further tips on protecting bicycles from theft can be found on the Bicycle Victoria website.
Policy and legislation affecting cycling in Melbourne is increasingly directing state government agencies to recognise cycling as a mainstream transport mode which offers significant sustainability and health benefits.
The 2010 Transport Integration Act sets a policy framework for creating a more integrated and sustainable transport system for Victoria including Melbourne and contains features which support improved conditions for cyclists. For example, the Act charges the state road agency, VicRoads, with managing the "...road system in a manner which supports a sustainable Victoria by seeking to increase the share of public transport, walking and cycling trips as a proportion of all transport trips in Victoria..."
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