When it was announced that I’d won the prize for Best Academic Paper at the 2013 Australian Cycling Conference I probably would have fallen off my chair had I been able to move. The prize was for the written version of the paper, submitted before the conference began, and recognises not just the quality of my work, but the relevance it holds to the work of others.
Most of the people presenting at this conference are involved in projects that make the sport of cycling more accessible to the wider Australian community or are looking at data indicating ways in which that community can grow. There were a lot of graphs.
As I sat there listening to people talk about these projects over the two-day event, I kept thinking how lucky I was to be sitting in a room full of people who make the world I live in a better place. But not just for cyclists, for other people too – whether it’s building a bike path that encourages people to get outside and walk as well, or working strategically to develop safer commuting routes which reduce traffic congestion and improve the landscape of certain areas along the way. Projects that encourage more people to get involved in the sport have the potential to really change people’s confidence, sense of self, physical health and mobility, and the ease of their day-to-day.
I take riding and bike facilities for granted sometimes, but sitting in this room made me so grateful for the work people do to make them a reality. It’s certainly motivating to know that the work I do can have an impact in these areas as well, but for me the real impact is the lessons I learned at this conference from others.
There were two other prizes awarded; one for best student paper and one for a practitioner. Both other recipients are a similar age to me indicating that there’s a whole lot of exciting work to come from people who are at the beginning of this journey too.
Next year’s conference will merge into the international Velo-City conference in May. If you work in any area of cycling I encourage you to come along and see how far reaching this sport really is.
Photo: Kath Bicknell