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Wollongong is Australia’s solely UCI Bike Metropolis. What does that truly imply?

WOLLONGONG, Australia (CT) – The eyes of the biking world are on Australia’s eleventh largest metropolis, Wollongong, which is at the moment internet hosting the 2022 Street World Championships. All through the occasion, there’s been a stunning proven fact that retains developing throughout lulls in commentary, in occasion brochures, and on bus cease promoting.

It’s as follows: Wollongong is Australia’s solely UCI Bike Metropolis – the truth is, it is the one one in the complete southern hemisphere.

So how did the economic metropolis of Wollongong set itself other than extra fancied home biking locations together with Melbourne, Adelaide, and Canberra?

The reply is a little bit of a round one. It begins with the Street World Championships themselves – not awarded to Wollongong as a result of it’s an internationally famend biking metropolis, however due to funding from native and state authorities. After which, it acquired a UCI Bike Metropolis label as a result of it’s internet hosting the Street World Championships.

Photograph: Matt de Neef

That commendation comes through a program that was, after a hiatus, reintroduced by the UCI in 2016, sitting underneath the group’s ‘Biking For All’ pillar – successfully its advocacy arm, with a said aim of “tackling local weather change, air air pollution, city congestion or weight problems and bodily apathy”.

Since 2016, 20 cities or areas have been awarded as Bike Cities – a few of which seem to be no-brainers from cycling-mad international locations (like Copenhagen in Denmark, and several other places in Belgium, France, and the Netherlands).

Another UCI Bike Cities are a bit extra stunning. Among the many 2021 crop of inductees – together with Wollongong – had been such unlikely locations because the Turkish province of Sakarya and the second largest metropolis within the UAE, Abu Dhabi.

Cyclists on the Abu Dhabi Tour. (Photograph LB/RB/Cor Vos)

The frequent thread working by means of all of those Bike Cities is the truth that they’ve paid for internet hosting rights for an array of UCI occasions. Typically the correlation appears pretty brazen – the Abu Dhabi announcement arrived on the very same day as that metropolis’s affirmation because the host venue of the 2022 and 2024 UCI City Biking World Championships, in addition to the 2028 UCI Gran Fondo World Championships.

That is to not say there’s an incredible cover-up underway – the UCI is pretty clear about it. Take, for instance, a doc pitching the Bike Metropolis program to potential suitors, which states:

“The UCI Bike Metropolis label helps and rewards cities and areas which not solely host main UCI biking occasions but in addition put money into growing group biking and associated infrastructures.”

To be eligible, there are two standards to fulfill:

  • 1. Internet hosting main UCI biking occasions [ “at least one UCI World Championship in +/- 4 years, with at least one other major UCI event (a UCI World Championship or UCI World Cup or UCI Gran Fondo World Series event)”.]; and
  • 2. Investing in Biking for All.

Though the complete program is pay-to-play by design, there’s not essentially an issue with that. It may give a metropolis the nudge to take a position extra closely in biking; even the presence of a World Championship may construct a extra welcoming surroundings for future cyclists. However it may additionally present a possibility for greenwashing, as within the case of Abu Dhabi, or really feel extra like a participation award than an correct reflection of the best way issues really are.

Remco Evenepoel in coaching forward of the Wollongong Street World Championships. (Photograph by DIRK WAEM/BELGA MAG/AFP through Getty Photographs)

For Wollongong, there are strikes towards improved biking infrastructure. Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery instructed CyclingTips that the announcement of his metropolis as a UCI Bike Metropolis “acknowledged our ongoing efforts to help biking alternatives for all. We have invested closely in a spread of biking infrastructure together with pop-up cycleways, the continued growth of our shared path community, the Cringila Hills Mountain Bike Park, a brand new Criterium Monitor, and native bike tracks for group”.

As not too long ago as final yr, nevertheless, town’s plans to turning into a biking metropolis had been described as an “uphill battle”, going through opposition from state authorities. Based on one native councilor, there was “trepidation at being named a bike-friendly metropolis”, and “there’s nonetheless an extended approach to go”. Bold targets for will increase in participation are in place, however Wollongong isn’t any Copenhagen Down Beneath – bike infrastructure tends to be painted traces on footpaths, haphazardly beginning and stopping, usually spitting riders onto roads dominated by vans, or darting throughout three-lane arterials.

That nuance can get misplaced within the fast soundgrab, nevertheless. A world World Championships viewer will hear commentators say that Wollongong is the one Bike Metropolis within the Southern Hemisphere, and count on a world-leading biking vacation spot.

They’re unlikely to appreciate that label comes with a internet hosting payment exceeding €8 million ($8 million USD/ AU$12 million), amplified by “a communication plan constructed on the UCI’s varied channels” – highlighting an aspirational view of what this lovely however bike -agnostic metropolis would possibly develop into for cyclists.

Matt de Neef contributed reporting.

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