Cycling Southland is keen to be a voice for every cyclist in the region - recreational, commuter, touring, mad sport enthusiast.
Part of this is to encourage the Government, local authorities and the community to work together to create a better environment for cycling.
I am constantly reminded of the need for this every day I walk past the local schools and businesses. I tell you there's a frenzy of young cyclists going to and fro, the occasional rugby player flying down the road on the way to training, plus that mountain biker commuting with his big bag of work clothes. So don't worry that after all the exciting news from the Commonwealth Games and the reflection on the incredible success of the cycling machines built in the Invercargill velodrome, we haven't forgot about little Ben on his way to school.
The club is teaching a 'Learn to Ride' programme to more than 500 primary school children in 15 schools and I wanted to use this medium to encourage parents to take their kids out for a Saturday ride. You wouldn't believe the difference in the skills between active five-year-olds and those that have barely been on a bike. Of course this has a consequence throughout their young lives and I like to think it creates cycling as a viable choice for safe, quick journeys around town.
The national network of cycling advocacy groups (CAN) is kick-starting a campaign to triple the cycling budget in the NZ Transport Agency (it is a measly $30 million from a $3.5 billion budget) and I hope this goes some way in continuing to improve safety, integrate cycle planning and increase the number of cyclists on our roads. Invercargill has a remarkable record for cycling road safety compared to other urban populations of its size and we would like to think that is a result of the segregated bicycle lanes and the Share the Road message in New Zealand's most recognised cycling event - the Tour of Southland.
But we can't rest on the profile of past campaigns and for Monday, September 29 (that's right during the school holidays, so parents can drop children off with their bike) we will be holding a road safety day at the SIT Zero Fees Velodrome and the surrounding stadium car park. We will teach children how to cycle sensibly and confidently. How to look out for traffic, signal and above all remain safe.
Cycling is on the increase in New Zealand (and that is a statement made before the madness of the medal success in Glasgow) and although it is generally becoming safer, we want to keep teaching each generation to stay safe.
● Nick Longworth is Cycling Southland's development officer.
- The Southland Times