Pedal Brisbane: Inspiring people to cycle

Normally, it’s an empty concrete breezeway with life-sized replicas of humpback whales suspended from the ceiling and the sounds of recorded whale song wafting in the air. It’s a pedestrian throughway separating the Art Gallery and the Queensland Museum at Brisbane’s Southbank, one that I walk briskly through in winter when it becomes a chilly concrete funnel for cold winds and one that I stroll slowly along when summer heat hangs in the air outside. Last Saturday, I spent the whole afternoon there. It had become a corridor of cycling chic, inspiration and fun.

As I walked up the stairs from the State Library, which was still recovering from Thursday’s fierce storm, an amplified voice said, ..it’s up to the people. If you want more bike lanes and better bikeways, you have to write to your politician. Politicians don’t get much mail about it and if they don’t get mail about it, nothing will happen. A program of speakers (in “Spokers Corner”) was in full swing.

The scent of fresh paint led my eyes to a line of seven bikes all painted stark white. Each had the beginnings of a colourful design and an artist concentrating on where the next brushstroke should be placed.  I looked further along the normally empty passageway to see it filled with people, bikes and optimism. I’d arrived at Pedal Brisbane, a day-long exhibition, a collaboration with the Queensland Museum, to celebrate, highlight and promote cycling culture.

…this exhibition carried a message of what cycling can become – a means of self-expression and a two-wheel journey to transforming individual lives, cities and societies. It’s a grand vision but it’s possible.

If your most familiar image of cyclists involves some combination of racing bikes, fast riding, sweaty lycra, large groups of cyclists on the weekend roads and in the coffee shops, then Pedal Brisbane added another vision. It highlighted the fringe of cycling culture that combines style and function to create a lifestyle of riding for transport, pleasure and exercise along the way.

I saw bamboo bicycles, timber bikes, electric bikes for more speed with less sweat, foldaway bikes for people with limited space to store a bike, and a Dutch cargo bike for transporting small children and groceries and other goods in a stable two-wheel pedal powered carriage. It expressed the edge of cycling culture that involves innovation, art, design, film, photography, advocacy and initiatives to bring more people to bike riding, and bike riding to more people.

For me, the Pedal Brisbane exhibition carried a message of what cycling can become – a means of self-expression and a two-wheel journey to transforming individual lives, cities and societies. It’s a grand vision but it’s possible.


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