Bike North is one of the largest Bicycle User Groups in NSW with over 500 members. And it is very active! The Bike North patch covers a huge area north of the Parramatta River across nine local government areas (LGAs), stretching from Willoughby west to The Hills and north to Hornsby.
The founding members met at a Bicycle NSW Advocacy Workshop in 1996. They were keen to improve cycling in their area. But they soon realised there was no BUG in northern Sydney to work with councils on the bicycle plans and shared path projects that were beginning to emerge in several areas at the time.
Bike North does two main things: provide its members and others with safe and enjoyable cycling experiences and advocate for improved cycling conditions.
A jam-packed rides calendar
In the last 12 months, Bike North ran a whopping 517 rides! That’s well over 40 a month. Over 4,500 participant-rides travelled over 211,000km. That is over five times around the Earth. Chapeau!
“Each ride is led by one of our trained ‘Ride Leaders’. These champions volunteer their energy and expertise to select and lead rides from Bike North’s library of hundreds of specially prepared routes,” explains President Phill Hart. “All Bike North members have full access to this library of rides, so they can also do them on their own or with friends.”
Bike North members Jeff, Beth and Greg on a group ride in Lane Cove National Park in 2021 (Image: Bike North)
To help people select rides that suit them, each ride is graded from easy to hard. You will know how far and fast you will be travelling. “There are relaxed, level routes such as a peaceful jaunt around Sydney Olympic Park. The most challenging rides include a 100km monster climb up the Old Pacific Highway and back, with four big hills to burn those thighs,” says Phill Hart.
“Most importantly, you’ll know where the coffee stop will be!”
Bike North supports its members to complete a Bicycle NSW-approved Ride Leader Course. There are currently 40 qualified Ride Leaders among the Bike North ranks! This pool of well-trained and enthusiastic leaders helps maintain a very full calendar of rides, week after week.
A group of riders being led by Bike North Ride Leader Brian Lynne (Image: Bike North)
Most of the rides are in the northern area of Greater Sydney, but they often range much further afield. Each year, Bike North runs multi-day ‘tours’ in Cowra, Nowra, Port Stephens and beyond. Sometimes a Ride Leader will organise an overseas trip. “When you read this, a large group will be making its way down Italy, from the border with Austria,” says Phill Hart.
The biggest ride of all
Say what you like about Bike North, it knows how to put on a great Big Ride Day. A few times a year, a large number of group rides head out in separate directions, and then converge for an organised lunch. It is a popular way to meet with old friends and new. The growing success of these days can be measured in the number of people who take part. The last one had almost a hundred participants!
What else keeps Bike North members busy? A lot of advocacy!
Dedicated Bike North members work very hard to improve cycling conditions across northern Sydney. Bike North is active in nine council areas: North Sydney, Willoughby, Lane Cove, Ku-ring-gai, Hornsby, Hunters Hill, Ryde, Parramatta, and The Hills. The advocacy team, headed up by David Thomson, is increasingly successful at persuading decision makers on projects large and small, most notably through its social media and a gold-class online mechanism for engaging with candidates for local and state elections.
Bike North and Bicycle NSW met with Alister Henskens, Member for Wahroonga, in June 2023. David Thomson orchestrated a successful election campaign for the March 2023 State election. Letters were sent to all candidates in the Bike North territory with information about priorities for active transport and the current strategic and policy context. Then candidates were given an opportunity to respond to questions to help Bike North members and the broader community to select a preferred candidate. In April, the elected MPs were invited to face-to-face meetings with Bicycle NSW. Such meetings help build a working relationship for the next 4 years. Left to right: Peter McLean, CEO Bicycle NSW, David Thomson, Bike North Advocacy Co-ordinator, Alister Henskens MP and Phill Hart, Bike North President. (Image: Bike North)
Major northern Sydney projects
Bike North members have been key advocates for bike riders in several major projects that are currently underway. For example, the Warringah Freeway Upgrade requires constant oversight, attendance at meetings and detailed submissions in the battle to get the best outcomes for bike riders. “The project’s continued encroachment on active transport facilities highlights serious flaws in the NSW planning process,” says David Thomson. “In better news, the Sydney Harbour Bridge Ramp is on track to start construction in 2024. Finally, after decades of community advocacy!”
David Thomson, Bike North Advocacy Co-ordinator and Francis O’Neill, Bicycle NSW Head of Advocacy, at the Ridge Street bridge during a site visit with Transport for NSW staff in September 2022 to discuss the terrible impacts of the Warringah Freeway Upgrade project on the active transport network. The ramp was demolished soon afterwards. (Image: Bicycle NSW)
Other successes include Bike North’s very first win, the implementation of Browns Waterhole path. Since then, there has been significant investment in cycling infrastructure in Ryde, Willoughby and Parramatta council areas. The Meadowbank to Rhodes cycle and pedestrian bridge provides essential connectivity for transport and recreation riding. The Lane Cove tunnel project delivered the Epping Road bicycle path and the cycleway along the Gore Hill Freeway, engaging closely with Bike North at all stages.
Furthermore, councils are increasingly willing to consult Bike North on cycling issues in their areas. “If you are interested in contributing your knowledge, skills or passions, we invite you to contact your local Working Group,” says David Thomson. “We look forward to your support in building on 26 years of making cycling better for our communities.”
Want to join an existing BUG in your area or form a new group?
Find out how to become a member of your local BUG or set up a new BUG here.
This is part of a new series of stories featuring the many active and dedicated BUGs throughout NSW. We have recently written about the Inner West Bicycle Coalition, CAMWEST and the Western Sydney Cycling Network. Next up are BIKEast and the Newcastle Cycleways Movement.