It may be the piercing heat or perhaps the two weeks off work but I've come to realise that I am a bicycle advocate. I don't lobby politicians or connect with focus groups. I advocate for bikes through the very things that I love doing most: design, writing and cycling. When I first moved to Canberra 5 months ago I bought a beautiful new mountain bike. Canberra is well known for its off-road trails and I just didn't think my white Dahon would make it. But when it came to changing tack from road cycling to mountain biking I discovered that it was a very male-oriented activity. So I designed a high vis poncho that I could wear on the road and allow me to be seen on the track. Then I discovered that off-road in the middle of summer means only one thing. Flies. How the blasted things can stick to your face when you're hurtling down a hill remains unknown to me. So,after a number of trials, I came up with a light cotton face mask. Although it looks a bit creepy,it kept the flies off which added to my hysterical enjoyment of riding downhill on gravel tracks. And when it was time to purchase the case of wine necessary for the Xmas activities, back to the road we went, cycling 80km return (that's a lot for me) to a winery just outside Canberra. Having purchased the wine and ordered next-day delivery, back on the bikes we went, now in 36 degrees witha howling North westerly - though luckily it was behind us. It was a very romantic day! I sent this photo to my kids to show them what the holidays meant for me. My daughter's response - did you get new shoes? I've never been that fond of road bike shoes though I understand that there may be a second hand pair of Italian leather ones on the way thanks to Ebay and internet friends. What strikes me most about cycling in Canberra is that while there isn't really any traffic (I moved from Melbourne) it does move very quickly. So, after a few brushes with vehicles which seemed to not see me too well, I designed a high vis jacket. Made in two pieces, the sleeves in cotton and the swirl in fluro wool, I feel like Cher as I cycle along with the flaps of the jacket lifting in a semi circle behind me in the wind. Whilst I can't see myself from behind, I suspect that I'm highly visible. Amidst all of this I've been developing a light weight balaclava for winter, high vis fingerless gloves, an autumn cycling dress and my newest addition, a knitted (though waterproof) cycling bag. The front of the bag uses the weaving function on the machine so the opportunity for multiple designs is endless. The knitted bag sits over a lightweight waterproof bag and the front pockets are lined with waterproof fabric so all in all, things should stay dry! I haven't had a chance to photograph any of this properly but hopefully it will all be ready in mid February.
As far as writing goes, it's been a busy few months. In August Steven Fleming (author of the seminal book CycleSpace) and I presented to Pedal Power, then Gilbert Grace (ArtCycle Sydney), Steven and I presented at Rapha during Sydney Design. Following on from this, we wrote an article on Reimagining Australia by bike which was published in The Conversation. I was delighted to see that we had over 3300 readers and it was retweeted many times. In December Steven and I presented at the National Museum of Australia.
The presentation "Australians Dream of Speed" included models of Steven's innovative slip lock construction to demonstrate how cycle specific buildings could be designed to still fit with all the building regulations. In between we've been writing an ARC grant which is due in April. The premise of this research is that cultural institutions have the ability to contribute to sustainable development in Australia's regions.
We hope to use the NMA Freewheeling: Cycling in Australia touring exhibition as the location of the study and if successful, we hope to follow the exhibition around Australia, running design workshops and cycle tours to engage people in discussions about how cycling could contribute to their communities.
We've had papers accepted into Velo-City in Adelaide and we've submitted a presentation proposal for Museums Australia conference in Launceston in May. Soon, our next article will be published in The Conversation. This one explores the response to the recent proposal by global architectural firm Foster & Partners to develop an innovative segregated path above London's railway lines. SkyCycle is receiving a great deal of attention and interestingly much of it is negative from bicycle advocates. So, as a bicycle advocate who is about to fold herself into a tiny seat for 24 hours so that she can experience London for two weeks, I can let you know what I have discovered. Bicycle advocacy comes in many forms and I for one look forward to again seeing pink Bromptons in the centre of London snaking their way through lorries and buses! Who knows what they will inspire this time. Back in February. Happy cycling