Developing a Community of Cycling in Western Australia

The Department of Sport and Recreation has released the Colin Brown Consultancy report (March 2010) with the focus on developing a community of cycling in Western Australia.  The report is available for download here (PDF) and the executive summary is reproduced below.

Cycling appeals to a wide range of people. It is often referred to as the ‘new golf’ and has figured in newspaper articles that focus on health, transport, tourism and lifestyle; and seldom on the sport.

The 2008 Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey (ERASS) found that in WA:

  • The total participation rate (those that had cycled at least once in the last 12 months) of people over the age of 15 was 13.6% of the population, or 224,600.
  • Of these, some 215,700 or 91% participated in a non organised form of the activity, suggesting that less than 9,000 people over the age of 15 cycle in an organised form of cycling.

In addition, figures contained in The Australian National Cycling Strategy 2005 – 2010 position Perth as leading the nation in terms of daily cycling population with some 4% of the population cycling on an average day. This would mean that approximately 65,000 people regularly cycle in Perth.

The combined membership of clubs affiliated to the state governing bodies of the sport of cycling (Cycling WA, WA Mountain Bike Association and BMX WA) account for approximately 2% of the cycling public. When you add this figure to the members of organisations that cater for the recreational aspects of cycling, it still represents a small component of the cycling community, particularly when you consider the crossover of membership between groups.

It appears that the greatest numbers of active cyclists connected to a group operate through an informal network, generated from bike shop rides, cafe riders and small businesses that provide instruction, courses and training opportunities for specific groups (including learn to ride, those recovering from injury, women only etc).

The fact that cycling is a mode of transport as well as a recreation and sport activity has resulted in a greater number of government agencies having an interest and influence, including the Departments of:

  • Transport (Bike West, Travel Smart, Main Roads, Public Transport Authority);
  • Planning and Infrastructure;
  • Sport and Recreation (including the Physical Activity Task Force); and
  • Education (School Drug Education and Road Awareness).

The level of human and financial resource commitment to the activity of cycling through these agencies is significant, but not maximised because of the degree of disconnection and therefore lack of coordination between the agencies and the cycling community.

A correctly constructed integrated model of governance and management can offer many benefits for all involved in the cycling community, without diluting or absorbing specific disciplines or interest groups. The benefits of such a model include:

  • greater coordination across all aspects (or dimensions) of cycling;
  • easier access to information and streamlined communication regarding issues and events;
  • increased buying power and therefore discounts in merchandise, insurance and membership;
  • a critical mass for engaging with sponsors and other strategic partners;
  • a collective voice linkage to government;
  • and increased effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of programs.

While the concept of an integrated approach to the activity of cycling (including the commuter, recreational and competitive dimensions of the activity) is not new, it appears that practical examples (such as the Bike NZ model) focus more on the integration of the recreation and competition dimensions. A successful working example of the total integration of the transport, recreation and competition dimensions of cycling could not be found. This issue needs to be
considered when developing any future models.

Clearly there is no existing body that could take the lead role in coordinating the delivery of all functions required to support the cycling community in Western Australia in the short term. There are, however, many existing groups that could contribute effectively to the delivery of the required functions if supported appropriately.

The overwhelming view of those involved was that a totally integrated model was the best option for the cycling community. There was however concern that a conceptually sound model would not necessarily translate successfully into practise in an environment where there is a lack of trust between the various cycling bodies and no external agency to drive the process.

Because of the current environment within the cycling community of WA and the lack of a successful model of total integration of the commuter, recreation and competitive dimensions of the activity, the preferred option is to establish, resource and empower an overarching coordinating group that would:

  • become the interface between the cycling community and government;
  • produce a state-wide plan for the activity of cycling which would acknowledge the role of each of the groups and associations in the delivery of functions;
  • distribute government funds to groups for the achievement of specific outcomes outlined in a state-wide plan for the activity of cycling; and
  • have responsibility for some generic functions (e.g. Advocacy) as well as components of other broader functions.

This presents the most suitable option at this time, based on the fact that it:

  • recognises the disparate groups that exist and the lack of trust between them;
  • is not reliant on the existence of effective ‘peak’ bodies within each dimension (e.g., transport, recreation and sport) to take leading roles but will cater for them should they exist;
  • is not prescriptive in terms of timeframes;
  • allows for existing organisations to choose their future, but will provide support for those who recognise the mutual benefits in being part of a community of cycling;
  • provides an effective and efficient interface between the cycling community and government as well as a more efficient provision of Government funding for the activity of cycling;
  • will provide a state-wide plan for the activity of cycling;
  • focuses on the needs of the end user (the person on the bike), rather than on the needs of clubs, associations and groups; and
  • over time can develop into one totally integrated macro organisation supporting the community of cycling in WA.

This model is characterised by three distinct phases, from coordination to total integration. These phases are not time bound. In fact, the benefits of a coordinated approach that allows for relationships to develop over time within and between the commuter, recreation and competition dimensions of cycling would lessen the necessity to achieve total integration in the short to medium timeframe (if at all).

The reports recommendations are:

1. Establish a State Coordinating Body for the activity of cycling in WA (CycleWest), which would take responsibility for:

  • the development of a macro plan (including a coordinated calendar of events) for the WA Cycling Community;
  • relationships with government agencies for the WA cycling community;
  • relationships with the variety of associations, clubs and groups that make up the WA cycling community;
  • direction of government funds to the cycling community;
  • advocacy role (incorporating the BTA);
  • provide communication and support to and for the WA cycling community;
  • streamlining aspects such as multi disciplined membership, insurance, risk management for events etc; and
  • providing support (office space, financial management etc) to smaller (volunteer) groups such as Cycle Touring Association.

2. Government provides funding through DSR, to provide and support the human resource required to implement Recommendations 1 for a period of no less than three years to maximise the momentum that has been established.

3. The Minister for Sport and Recreation approaches his Ministerial colleagues to develop a more effective approach to coordinate the interface between the various government agencies and the WA cycling community.

Update July 1, 2010. The Department of Sport and Recreation gave a presentation on the report and proposal.  The PowerPoint slides from the presentation are now available for download here.

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