It's been a busy couple of weeks in cycling. Last Wednesday's Ride to Work Day encouraged people to share - or sample for the first time - the joy of commuting by bicycle. At the weekend, more than 14,000 people took part in the Around the Bay in Melbourne, while some 10,000 "took the lane" across the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the Spring Cycle (I rode with my nine-year-old nephew, Aidan, who has already locked me in for next year). In Queensland, there was the Brisbane to Gold Coast.
But perhaps the most interesting news item was last weekend's launch of the Australian Cyclists Party.
A week is a long time in politics, and for the past seven days I've been tracking some of the developments as the party rolls into life.
Or rather, sprints into life. The Cyclists Party hopes to challenge in the upper house in the next state elections in Victoria and New South Wales – and due to the stringent demands of the latter's regulations, the party needs to submit a membership list in a few weeks' time to be eligible for the NSW elections in early 2015.
More than 750 members are needed. After recruitment drives at various cycling events in the past week, founder Omar Khalifa told me on Sunday that they have just crossed the half-way mark.
And then what? It's a long journey from registration to ballot box: the formation of party policies, selection of candidates, organising a campaign and decisions on preferences are just some of the steps. On Saturday, it was reported that micro-party preference expert Glenn Druery, who happens to be a keen cyclist, has been giving the fledgling party some (free) advice on some of these matters.
So, do we need a political party for cyclists, and what might one achieve?
An upper house MP would be able to speak up for cycling without fear or favour. It's true we have many cycling advocacy groups in Australia, and they have an important role to play. An elected representative would be able to give them a voice in Parliament.
For too long, cycling has been treated as a political football by some politicians, with scant regard for the lives put at risk by such cynical posturing. It would be great to get hold of the ref's whistle for a change. If an upper house was finely balanced, the ACP might be able to seek key concessions from major parties. Increased spending on cycling infrastructure and legislation to protect vulnerable road users (such as a minimum passing law) are two items that spring readily to mind.
But will people vote for a cyclists' party? There are certainly enough potential voters out there – as Bicycle Network's Garry Brennan told me last week, more than 1.1 million people ride a bicycle every week in Victoria alone. Harness all those ballots and you've got a landslide, but the question is - how many of them would see cycling issues as significant enough to earn their vote?
If the party fails to win many votes, would that be used as evidence that cycling issues have little support?
Other pitfalls for the emerging party would have to include policy squabbling. Khalifa, who has a background in advocacy as a former CEO of Bicycle NSW, has been at pains to point out that the party is for everyone who cares about bicycling, from the Lycra brigade to commuters to utility cyclists and everyone in between.
Already, he's being pinged by people who say they will only support the party if it has a particular stance on a specific issue. Cyclists sometimes spend more time squabbling among themselves than they do in fighting for the rights of all riders (People's Front of Judea, anyone?), and the party might struggle to rein in those tendencies.
But think of the possible benefits of such representation. Australia has much to do when it comes to the management of roads and urban spaces. A city with lower speed limits, with a congestion charge and priority given to active transport and mass transport over private motor vehicles, is a happier, healthier city for all. Cyclists included.
Would you join or consider voting for the Australian Cyclists Party? What do you think a political party for cyclists might achieve? Any policy suggestions?