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Interview with Mary Doolan Co-convenor Brisbane CBD BUG

Challenges for women cyclists:
  • Safety concerns: Women are generally more risk-averse than men and often cite safety as the main reason for not cycling, especially on roads.
  • Lack of infrastructure: Existing infrastructure may not cater to the needs of commuting cyclists, and there’s a gap in safe and connected routes.
  • Limited representation: BUGs and other cycling advocacy groups are mostly male-dominated, making it harder for women’s voices and needs to be heard.
  • Knowledge gap: Many people, including cyclists who are experienced in forms of riding other than road riding, may lack basic knowledge about safe riding practices and group riding etiquette.
Mary Doolan’s suggestions
  • The importance of women’s involvement in BUGs and advocacy to address safety concerns and promote cycling for all.
  • The need for better education and outreach programs to equip cyclists with necessary skills and knowledge.
  • Strategies like social media sharing, one-on-one mentoring, and addressing fundamental knowledge gaps to attract more women to ride.

See the City Differently: Brisbane’s Women Cyclists Pedal for a Vision We All Need

A conversation with Mary Doolan, Co-convenor Brisbane CBD BUG

Forget the roar of engines, listen instead to the quiet hum gaining momentum on Brisbane’s streets. It’s the sound of two wheels, women cyclists rising above the urban din. They want to reshape the city through their unique perspective, creating a bike culture that’s safe, inclusive, and reflects their needs.

Research shows that generally, the male perspective is evident in decision making re cycling infrastructure design, and Mary thinks this needs to be evened out. The road ahead mirrors Brisbane’s hilly terrain – challenging and demanding a different perspective. A unique perspective that women cyclists have to offer.

Safety concerns loom large. “There have been times,” Mary admits, her voice softening, “when I felt vulnerable, threatened .The lack of dedicated infrastructure and the car-centric culture can be daunting.” This sentiment echoes throughout the female bike riding community, creating a knowledge gap and a palpable hesitancy from women to embrace bike riding.

Mary embodies the spirit of a much wanted change. “We need a shift in the default position,” she declares, her voice firm. “Instead of automatically reaching for the keys, we should ask, ‘can I bike there?’ ‘But this requires more than individual choices. ‘We need active policies that prioritise safe cycling infrastructure designed with women in mind, and empower our female voices in decision-making bodies.”

We asked Mary what would she say to a captive room of government leaders – from the Premier to regional councillors?“There’s a lot of talk about congestion busting. When it comes to the use of transport and driving, the best way to bust congestion is actually to take cars off the road. There’s a whole heap of policies that should be in place that could do that. And one of those policies would be to get people out of cars, and onto other forms of transport, including bike riding. It also has the flow on effect of improving people’s health. I mean, it has a positive impact on health budgets. It has a positive effect on the environment. And it also is just one of those things that really helps connect communities. When you’re riding your bike, you can actually say hi to people, and stop and chat and you know, go for coffee and support businesses. You can’t do that, generally in a car. 

Then I’d like you all, to perhaps get together and come up with an active policy which has a stated aim of changing people’s default positions, instead of getting in a car, to start using something else, using an active transport method to get around.”

We’d like to see that meeting.

On a roll, Mary adds, “Brisbane, or any Queensland city for that matter, has the potential to be a cycling haven,” her voice full of optimism. “Imagine a city that’s not just dedicated paths that weave alongside creeks, but a city where children bike ride confidently to school, and where diverse communities connect over shared rides. It’s achievable, but it requires collective action, and especially, listening to the women who see the city differently.”

So, the next time you see a female bike rider, remember: she’s not just a cyclist passing by, she’s a new perspective, a voice that wants to advocate for a more equitable and vibrant city. “We need more women in influential roles, in BUGs, in government, everywhere, not just because it’s fair, but because our unique perspective on safety, infrastructure, and community will benefit everyone” 

But how do we get more women involved, if the safety issue is so strong?

Mary thinks that social media, mentorship and accessible, well thought out riding education programs are important pieces of the puzzle. But that we also need to address the infrastructure gap: creating dedicated cycling paths that actually connect the city and feel safe and accessible, especially for women and families. By creating a welcoming environment both online and offline, we can encourage more women to say, ‘Hey, I can do this!’

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Events

Pedalling Progress: Queensland’s Leaders Unite for a Bike-Friendly Future 

In a recent event that marked a strength of purpose in creating a more bike-friendly Queensland, leaders, supporters and advocates of bike riding and active transport gathered for a Bicycle Queensland event.  

The event, which included the Minister for Transport and Main Roads and Minister for Digital Services, The Hon. Mark Bailey, and the Shadow Minister for Customer Service and Shadow Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Steve Minnikin, were joined by Bicycle User Groups, the BQ board, councillors, industry representatives, peak associations, and devoted members of the cycling community and the state and local government. 

Hosted by the Chair of BQ, Rachel Nolan, the event was a celebration of the sheer joy that riding a bike brings and a shared desire to enhance the cycling experience across Queensland. In her address, Rachel Nolan, as the Chair of the state’s premier industry body, underscored Bicycle Queensland’s commitment to supporting micro-mobility users and their dedication to creating an environment where people of all ages, abilities, and locations can safely experience the joy of riding or scootering. 

“As the state’s premier industry body, representing the bicycle and e-scooter community, Bicycle Queensland reaffirms its dedication to supporting micro-mobility users, and we commit to working towards creating a state where everyone, regardless of age, ability, or location, can revel in the joy of riding or scootering safely,” expressed Rachel Nolan. 

Minister for Transport and Main Roads and Minister for Digital Services, The Hon. Mark Bailey, addressed the growing challenges posed by the surge in traffic over the past four decades. He emphasised the need for collaborative efforts to establish cycling networks that span across various levels of government. Minister Bailey stressed the pivotal role of local government in actively participating and committing to retrofitting active transport solutions in communities, including the development of separate bike lanes. 

“There’s three times the traffic there was from forty years ago, it’s a lot faster and it’s dangerous. How do we solve that? We work together as a community to get cycling networks up and running. That means local government is to work with other levels of government to achieve that. The majority of roadways are owned by councils, and we need more councils actively involved and committed to retrofitting active transport in communities to develop separate bike ways. We know that having the right infrastructure will make a huge difference in encouraging people to buy and ride bikes or e-bikes,” stated The Hon. Mark Bailey. 

Both The Hon. Mark Bailey and Shadow Minister Steve Minnikin reiterated their commitment to collaborative efforts with Bicycle Queensland in reshaping the Queensland landscape. The shared vision revolves around implementing tangible solutions such as dedicated bike lanes and enhanced cycling networks to create a safer and more accessible environment for cyclists and micro-mobility users across the state and supporting behaviour change and community activation.  

This event stands as a testament to the passion and determination of all involved parties to pave the way for a future where active transport is not just a mode of commuting but an integral part of Queensland’s identity – a state where the joy of riding is accessible to all, irrespective of age, ability, or location. 

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Advocacy

A tribute to Gillian Duncan

Advocacy takes many forms in the bicycle world. One of Australia’s most influential cycling advocates, Gillian Duncan, sadly passed away from cancer recently.

Gillian led the cause of legitimising mountain bike trail access in Brisbane, and was the founder of Gap Creek Trails Alliance.

In partnership with Mark Roberts she published the seminal book ‘Where to MTB in South-East Queensland’, which predated online resources, and was a breakthrough in listing all the legitimate trail experiences available.

Gillian was softly-spoken and smiled often, but her gentle exterior only slightly veiled her incredible tenacity and persistence. Below are some further tributes to Gillian, from people who worked closely with her over the years.

Chris Maierhofer (trail builder, mountain biker):

Gillian was a true trail blazer. An instigator, agitator, and advocate; she was tenacious, patient, and strategic.

She shaped the path of mountain biking not only Gap Creek but regionally and nationally. From shaping the direction and construction of trails on ground to being instrumental in bringing IMBA to Australia and helping to author the first ever Australian Mountain bike national trail guidelines and being president of Mountain Bike Australia.

Mark Roberts (mapmaker, book publisher):

During the last 12 years, Gillian and I created 5 books in 11 editions and sold 42,000 copies – 20 tonnes of books! I am proud to have collaborated with Gillian and very proud of what we made together.

Rob George (Roadie Rob, mtb coach and trail builder):

We lost the original driving force of mountain biking and women’s mountain biking in Brisbane when Gillian Duncan passed away.

Without her I can’t imagine mountain biking in Brisbane and also my own businesses wouldn’t be anywhere near where they are today.

She approached me in the early 2000s to tell me that mountain biking was going to be part of the Real Adventure Women’s program and asked if I would run it.

She was always pushing for new mountain bike trails, and boy did she have to fight hard for that, she copped heaps of flack, but she absolutely never backed off.

Mountain biking has lost one of our great leaders this week but she will always be remembered.

Please when you’re riding your favourite trail, remember Gillian because there is a good chance she had a big part in the reason why it’s there.

Vale Gillian Duncan will be deeply missed but never forgotten.

Categories
Events

Story Bridge Adventure Climb

Our Membership Coordinator, Amanda Hernandez, faced her fears head on! Read on to find out how.

Over the past 6 or so months, I’ve been sharing some experiences from my annual goals list; Sunshine Coast 70.3 bike/run, running the Brisbane River Loop and learning how to swim as an adult.

Why do I have a list? Someone once asked me how many kilometres I was aiming to ride the next year. It’s something I’d never thought about. I ride my bike for fun and fitness, and while I find numbers fascinating to look back over the course of a year, like how far or how much elevation I’ve ridden, I don’t set out to achieve a goal distance, elevation or fastest time. I feel it takes the enjoyment out of riding.

However, there were a few things I had always wanted to do but I never seemed to get around to doing. That’s when I started having a goals list. I found if I put something on a list it forced me to plan and make time to accomplish it. It started out with riding each section of the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail (BVRT) and grew from there. Running 6 km non-stop to running each section of the BVRT, riding 100 miles to riding 200 km and so forth.

It’s not just about a list of things to do. It’s also about challenging myself to step outside of my comfort zone and grow; to achieve things I never thought I could, because I didn’t think I had the ability, fitness, stamina or because I was too scared to try. Like riding up Mt Coot-tha – I met some great people through Brisbane Chicks Who Ride Bikes, and with their help, me and a few others rode our first loop of Mt Coot-tha. I went from being scared of giving it a go, to riding back segment repeats and looping around it for 100km. It now feels like my second home.

I have always been scared of heights, especially when I’m not standing on solid ground. I’m generally okay climbing up something but coming down is a whole other story. I am not agile and my legs turn to jelly!

I’ve ridden over the Story Bridge many times, plus on the boardwalks and bikeways around it. It’s certainly an icon of the Brisbane skyline, especially at night. I knew you could climb the bridge, but I had never seen anyone climbing it. This year it made my goals list. Was I scared? Absolutely, but I was going to give it a crack!

It’s always fun to impose my goals on others when I can, so I recruited my husband and teenage boys who are also scared of heights. The promise of lunch afterwards helped. I booked a day climb and was able to take advantage of the kids climb free with an adult offer. Love a good bonus! Before climb day I happened to ride over the bridge one afternoon and, for the first time, saw climbers! They were at a standstill on some steep steps, and I started having second thoughts – I don’t want to stop while climbing, I need to keep moving! Too late because it was booked and paid so I couldn’t wimp out now!

Climb day arrived and we stepped into our harnesses and bridge climb outfits – grey and blue to match the bridge and sky so drivers aren’t distracted. “Who’s scared of heights?” the climb leader asked. My hand was quickest to rise. She was an awesome climb leader, giving clear instructions and allaying most of my fears. In particular, it was good to know how far underground the bridge was supported. I can confirm it’s a very solid structure; no wobbling or vibrating.

We started our climb up those steep steps I had seen the climbers on a few weeks before. Everyone is clipped into the railing at that point, hence the standstill while the final climbers are clipped in. If you’re scared of heights, go towards the back of the group, but not last. The steepness of the steps lessens further up, but as we ascended, I wasn’t looking forward to climbing down face-forward.

The climb leader kept checking in with me, so I shot back a thumbs up to confirm all was okay. The view from the top is amazing and well worth the fear of the climb. We were educated on all things to do with the bridge. I won’t give too much away because I thoroughly recommend you do the climb, but it was very interesting to know that of the over 1.25 million rivets, inserted by hand, only 1 has had to be replaced since it was built around 85 years ago. If that doesn’t give you confidence the bridge is not going to collapse while you’re climbing it, nothing will.

I enjoyed it so much I will head back one day for the twilight climb. I might leave the kids home though. There’s only so much “Mum, are your shoelaces tied up?” jokes I can take in their attempt to make me look down through the gaps in the steel at the traffic passing underneath.

As always, don’t stand still – keep challenging yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. Find others to support, encourage and join you on your journey. There’s still a lot more on my list this year, what about yours?

For more information about riding Mt Coot-tha, along with other great places to ride throughout Queensland head to on our Where to Ride page.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to cover yourself with a value packed BQ membership.

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Advocacy Partner News

Cover your devices with RACQ Everyday Lite

We are excited to announce we’ve partnered with RACQ to provide roadside assistance solutions to people using e-scooters, e-bikes, bicycles, mobility scooters, wheelchairs, and other eligible devices. Bicycle Queensland members can now access an exclusive discount on the RACQ Everyday Lite product.

Rebecca Randazzo, Bicycle Queensland CEO, says, “We are excited to partner with RACQ. This new offering will enable more people to safely access micro-mobility options.”

RACQ Everyday Lite is roadside assistance for those who use bikes, scooters, and other eligible devices. Benefits include:

  • Cover your e-scooters, e-bikes, bicycles, mobility scooters, wheelchairs, and other eligible devices
  • Get up to 4 call outs per year
  • RACQ will arrange alternative transport per call-out
  • RACQ will tow your eligible device 10km in any direction if taxi, rideshare, or maxi taxi options aren’t applicable

Bicycle Queensland members can access the discount on the new Everyday Lite product by logging into the member portal and following the prompts.

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Bikeway detours and closures

Minnippi Lake Bikeway/Shared Pathway Upcoming Closure

Work will soon be commencing on a shared pathway in Minnippi Parklands, between Porters Paddock Park carpark and Bulimba Creek pedestrian bridge.

Construction start date will be Monday 13 March and work is expected to be completed by early May (weather permitting).

The pathway on the eastern side of the Lake loop will be closed during construction. The detour will advise pedestrians and cyclists to travel via the western side of the lake as shown in the map below.

Minnippi Lake Bikeway/Shared Pathway Upcoming Closure

For more information head to the Queensland Government Website.

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Events

Learning to swim as an adult

Our Membership Coordinator, Amanda, decided to add learning how to swim to her goals list! Her recap is below.

Learning how to swim as an adult is probably the second hardest thing behind parenting (in my opinion). There’s so much to concentrate on – the right action, how fast or slow should I kick my legs and move my arms, staying afloat, and most importantly, taking in air and not water.

My first memory of swimming is of a four year old me, wearing floaties in my neighbour’s pool. I would hang out at the shallow end, although I do remember feeling like a big girl when I made it to the deep end. My formal swimming training growing up consisted of five hours once a year in primary school. I learnt to tread water and tried all the different strokes. Everything was ticked as satisfactory so maybe the instructors had some confidence I could keep afloat.

Fast forward a few decades to 2017, and I entered the Brisbane Triathlon Pink – the ultra distance because it had the longest bike ride – 16km! Apart from raising money for a good cause, you swim in a pool, can use a noodle, and walk as much of the run as you want! I couldn’t swim freestyle, but I had my version of breaststroke. I was last out of the pool and got a big cheer from the next wave of entrants. Maybe they were encouraging me; maybe they were excited they could finally start their race!

For my 2022 goals list, I added three swimming lessons. After contacting a few places without luck, I was about to give up when I was given the details of a coach. I started weekly lessons one night after work and in addition committed to two sessions of ‘homework’ each week.

My poor coach. Had he known what he was in for, he probably wouldn’t have taken me on. I turned up in a long-sleeved rashie and gym shorts, couldn’t swim 25m freestyle with flippers and probably consumed more than 8 glasses of chlorinated water each swim. While I consider myself to be fit, swimming fitness is another level – I was so out of breath!

Coach quickly identified I needed a nose clip and I changed the terminology from swimming to ‘not drowning’ lessons. He was very patient and tried to teach me gradually. I couldn’t get the hang of turning my head to get air, so I learnt how to corkscrew down the pool – two freestyle, two backstroke. The light bulb moment was when he said “imagine you’re taking a nap on your arm”. I was terrible at kickboard drills, in particular one arm drills because I had to figure out which side to breathe on, and anything that involved counting. I learnt many things, like elegant fingers, trying to breathe on both sides and imagining I was swimming through a field of flowers! We gave somersaults a go, but they were not for me.

Eventually I went from having to stop three times in a 25m lane with flippers to no stopping – still gasping for air at the end. It took quite a while to achieve this, but the next big milestone was 25m without flippers. I never thought I would see the day I could make it 50m without flippers, but the morning I did, I was super proud. Apparently you’re supposed to ‘feel the water’. I’m still trying to figure out what this means, because I certainly have felt the water – going down my throat and up my nose.

I tried open water swimming in October in the mates and family wave of the Noosa 1000 Ocean Swim. It was super choppy but there I was with my flippers and nose piece giving it a go. I was so out breath swimming to the first buoy that I didn’t have the confidence to freestyle, which I was disappointed about, but swimming with an encouraging person got me through. I have another open water swim on my list this year – let me know if you have any suggestions about which one! I have also thought about a long distance triathlon next year where first timers can use flippers, but I’m not committing – yet.

There have been so many times I wanted to stop learning how to swim. Slow progress and constant overthinking about why am I doing it, I don’t have to do it, it’s too hard, I’ll never get the hang of it. However, I’ve realised that I don’t have to be good at it, and it’s okay if progress is slow and to keep using swimming aids. Maybe my purpose has now changed from learning how to swim to swimming as best I can with the ability and tools I have. At the end of the day, swimming is a good cross-training activity for bike riders, providing low impact, whole-body exercise while maintaining endurance for riding.

During February I’m taking part in the Starlight Super Swim, raising money for the Starlight Children’s Foundation to put a smile on the faces of sick kids. My target is to swim 7km and raise $500. You can track my progress or donate here!

As always, keep challenging yourself and never give up – unless you hit your head on the pool wall doing backstroke. Then it’s time to get out for the day and try again later.

If swimming is not your thing, you might like to try other cross-training activities that will benefit your bike riding such as running, hiking, strength training, yoga or pilates. Depending on the activity, these will help build your core, overall strength and fitness and bone density!

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to cover yourself with a value packed BQ membership.

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Events

Running the Brisbane River Loop

If you ride a bike in Brisbane, chances are you’ve ridden one of the several versions of the River Loop. Our Membership Coordinator, Amanda, decided to add running the river loop to her goals list for 2022. Her recap is below!

When I was building up my running fitness for the Sunshine Coast 70.3 in September, I decided I wanted to put it to use for at least one more long run after the event. On my regular Brisbane river loop ride, I kept seeing the same group of people running in the opposite direction in the Chelmer area. So, thanks to that group of runners wearing intraining singlets, running the shortest and least hilly version of the river loop went on my goals list for 2022.

I rode a recce of the version I had in mind, and it measured around 27km. The longest distance I had run previously was 23.5km along the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail. Running all sections of the BVRT was on last year’s list! My river loop version was only a half marathon with a park run tacked on. What could go wrong?

I planned to run the loop 2 weeks after the 70.3. Recovery wasn’t great after the event but I managed a couple of 5km runs in the lead up to the loop.

Starting at ‘Florence’ the Kombi at Southbank, I headed across the Goodwill bridge for an anti-clockwise loop. I never felt comfortable during the run. It was about 5km to the Regatta ferry terminal but it felt like 20km. I kept plodding but was dreading those hills at the Indooroopilly golf course!

I kept up the gels, Gatorade and water. By the time I got to Tennyson with about 8km to go, I started having knee issues, so I stopped and stretched. Determined not to walk, I took the shortcut to the Corso past the pink house and the AFL fields. I met up with my husband and he ran the last 6km with me. Every 500m of those last 6km I had to stop and stretch my knee. Definitely still not walking until the Kombi! I was 200m short of 27km, so naturally had to keep going to round it up.

I’m now working on my 2023 goals. Do you have anything on your list? Keep stepping outside of your comfort zone and challenging yourself!

See more about the Brisbane River Loop and other great places to ride on our Where to Ride page.