Bicycle Network: Women's Cycling
Nicole Cooke: UK road cycling star praises Australia
Champion Welsh cyclist Nicole Cooke says the UK should look to Australia for inspiration on bike paths and facilities
Nicole got a taste of cycling in Melbourne during the Melbourne Commonwealth Games and came away impressed. In an interview for UK magazine Cycling Plus in 2006, she mentioned that the UK should follow the lead of countries like Holland, Germany, Switzerland and Australia by building bike paths and encouraging people to use them for commuting and short journeys.
Returning to Melbourne in 2007 to prepare for the Geelong World Cup, Nicole spoke with Bicycle Network's Jason den Hollander.
In your response to Cycling Plus mag, were you talking about bike paths to encourage people to commute? Or for recreation?
NC: Both really. I'm currently staying with family friends in Melbourne and they told me about commuting through Albert Park, plus all the other obvious locations I have seen like Beach Road and the Yarra Trail. You get to see parents out riding with their kids on trailers and people getting out into the beautiful environment.
Why are bike paths good?
NC: The way they are set up as shared paths allowing either cycling and walking is good. One of the earliest things I remember my Mum and Dad telling me was safety comes first. The bike paths provide this safe environment which is great for getting people started who can then potentially move on to other forms of riding.
Do you commute by bike in Lugano (Switzerland), Wick (Wales) or anywhere else you visit?
NC: When I am home in Lugano I use my town bike around town to get to the shops and so on.
Are there any bike commuters in Wick?
NC: Wick is a very small village, so not really.
Do you have any experience of commuting in the UK?
NC: As my brother and I became more confident we would ride to the next town. I did ride my bike to school, but it became more of a training ride to be honest, and over time I would add more distance and find hills to climb. My Mum and Dad also rode to work so our house was busy in the mornings getting our riding gear on and a brisk ride was a great way to start the day.
Is bad weather a reasonable excuse not to be a bike commuter in Britain?
NC: No. Britain has a similar climate to Holland. People still ride in bad weather. The difference is a cultural one.
Are there other difficulties for commuter cyclists in Britain that aren't such a problem for those in Australia?
NC: Again, it's a cultural difference. My impression is that people here are very sport- and activity- positive. In Britain, everyday people are unlikely to own a bike. Here everyone seems to own one.
Do you want to say anything specific about cycling in Australia?
NC: Here, sport is embraced. I have lived with Aussie cyclist Rochelle Gilmore when we rode on the SAFI team together in Italy and we discussed the difference in our childhoods. Rochelle talked about how much activity was in her school life with three or four sports on the go, all integrated into school time and school work, with full support from the teachers. It was her BMX riding early in her childhood that got her into road and track cycling.
Photo credit: Nicole Cooke wins the Geelong UCI World Cup, 2007 (CJ Farquharson, www.WomensCycling.net)