Cyclists protest for bike paths

 Bronwyn Barnett

Before the days of MAMILS (Middle-aged Men in Lycra), titanium bike frames and weekend cyclists crowding suburban cafes for brunch after an early morning ride, for everyday citizens the bicycle was either the only transport they could afford, or a way of getting from Point A to Point B.

In Canberra in the early 1970s a cycling boom pushed the need for planning of better infrastructure for bike riders. The first cycle path was built in 1973 and ran from Dickson to the Australian National University.

This however did not satisfy cyclists wanting to commute from their homes to work or school who were forced to use major roads to do so. On 21 October 1974 issues of safety and the unpleasantness of car emissions led to action by over 50 cyclists.

This protest ride started at the intersection of Belconnen Way and Coulter Drive at 8 am, continued along Belconnen Way, Macarthur Avenue, then the Sullivan’s Creek cycle path into Civic. One of the organisers, Mr HM Rawson of Weetangera, indicated that the protest would continue if the issue was not acted upon.

In 1976 the National Capital Development Commission established a program for a Metropolitan Cycleway Network, a 100 km network of paths designed so that cyclists could ride without coming into contact with traffic.

This cycle path network is now promoted as a great way for tourists and commuters alike to get out into the fresh air and see Canberra from a different perspective. A scenic experience due in part to these protestors, and not a bicycle helmet or piece of lycra amongst them.

This excerpt was shot by a CTC-TV cameraman from a camera platform atop one of the news cars. Journalist Malcolm Bodley conducts his interviews whilst riding a bike and holding a microphone attached by cable to a CP16 film camera. One of the interviews is with Member for Fraser Ken Fry. This piece was likely to have been broadcast during that evening’s CTC TV news bulletin; bulletins in this period were broadcast from 6.20 pm to 6.30 pm Monday to Friday.