NSW’s first Minister for Active Transport and the linchpin behind the soon-to-be-launched Northern Rivers Rail Trails have shared the Leadership prize at this year’s We Ride Australia Cycling Luminaries Awards.
In a first for the annual awards, the quality of nominees prompted the judges and organisers to split the prize into separate categories for elected officials and volunteers.
The award ceremony, held on 25th November as part of the inaugural Micromobility Conference & Expo, was told the winner of the leadership prize for elected officials, NSW Active Transport Minister Rob Stokes, had “wholeheartedly embraced” micromobility and “advanced cycling as a strategic priority for the future prosperity of NSW”.
“His appointment as NSW Minister for Active Transport marked a monumental advance for cycling leadership in Australia,” the awards ceremony MC and We Ride Australia board member Osher Gunsberg told the audience at Sydney’s Royal Randwick Racecourse.
“He has demonstrated bold leadership, setting increasingly ambitious targets to improve cycling safety and in turn, increased participation that lays the foundations to make cycling a genuine transport option in NSW.”
“If we are going to do something serious about our health budget, if we’re going to do something about people’s wellbeing, if we can do something about the future of the planet, cycling has to be a big part of the solution” – Rob Stokes.
In a recorded acceptance speech, Rob Stokes said micromobility should be Australians’ first option for transport where appropriate and every Australian should have the right to be able to cycle safely in their neighbourhood.
“I want to do everything I can to help achieve that goal,” he said.
“In accepting this award, I really feel a bit of an imposter because what I’ve been able to do as a Minister is … empower the incredible talents of public servants who in the past have been in an environment where they have been scared to speak up and not empowered to be able to do their work.
“All I’ve really been able to do is create an environment where that great work has been able to flourish.
“I do so for no other reason than it is common sense. If we are going to do something serious about our health budget, if we’re going to do something about people’s wellbeing, if we can do something about the future of the planet, cycling has to be a big part of the solution.
“We need to make it easier and safer for everyone regardless of age or ability to navigate our streets under their own pedal power or using e-bikes.”
Volunteer Leadership Award
The Leadership Award for volunteers was presented to a founder and central figure in the Northern Rivers Rail Trail Committee, Marie Lawton.
The ceremony was told Marie had displayed tireless leadership and tenacity to head the campaign for a 135km rail trail traversing the whole of the Northern Rivers region.
She said the award was a tribute to the entire Northern Rivers Rail Trail Committee, which has been working together, largely unchanged, for the past 10 years.
Marie said rail trails “are going to take off in NSW”, especially once Stage 1 of the Northern Rivers Rail Trail, between Murwillumbah and Crabbes Creek, is officially opened in January.
In another first for the awards, organisers also agreed to the judges’ request for the addition of an honorary mention, presented to WA Minister for Transport, Rita Saffioti.
Announcing the category finalists, Osher said the WA Minister has been responsible for record investment for cycling in that State.
A total of $347 million has been earmarked for cycling in WA between 2022 and 2025, including $62 million for principal shared paths for cycling and pedestrians.
The finalists also included former AusCycling Chair Duncan Murray, for his role in bringing all of the nation’s competitive cycling disciplines together as part of AusCycling, and Newcastle Cycleways Movement Inc president Sam Reich.
“AusCycling would not have been possible without the vision and drive of Duncan Murray, pursuing the vision of making Australia a nation of bike riders,” the ceremony was told.
The initiative brought road, track and dirt racing and the disciplines’ 52,000 members together as AusCycling from the 1st November 2021.
The ceremony was told Sam is a “great example of bringing everyone along for the ride”, as an inspiring advocate of cycling and walking, both in his home town of Newcastle and nationally.
Bike Culture Award
The 2022 Bike Culture Award was presented to the Bikes Palya program for young people and communities in the Aṉangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara (APY) lands in SA.
Palya means ‘great’ in Pitjantjatjara and the program has been running since 2005 for rural and remote communities across SA, and spilling over into the NT and WA.
Bicycle SA’s community engagement manager, Julia Dempster, accepted the award and said the not-for-profit organisation had no ongoing government funding.
“I’ve seen first-hand the power of the bike to impact on young people living remote. It brings empowerment, in brings joy and socialisation, it brings health and exercise,” she said, hoping to attract organisations able to provide financial backing for the program.
Julia paid tribute to her predecessor in the community engagement role, Joey Fagan.
“Without him, Bikes Palya wouldn’t be where it is,” she said.
Built Environment Award
Canterbury-Bankstown Council won the 2022 Built Environment Award for its role in upgrading of the Cooks River, Bay to Bay Shared Pathway project.
The 29km link – one of the oldest shared pedestrian and cycling paths in Sydney – passes through the local government areas of Canterbury, Ryde, Canada Bay, Strathfield and Bayside.
The upgrade brought significant improvements in safety, usability and experience along the pathway, which is an important transport link in the inner west of Sydney from Settlers Park in Ryde along the Cooks River to Botany Bay.