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Bicycle Network: A history of volunteering

From 18 to 24 May 2020 we're celebrating National Volunteer Week. Usually we celebrate with special events and parties in our offices, but because of COVID-19 we're doing it a bit differently this year.

We'll be recognising the amazing work that Bicycle Network volunteers do with some special online stories and celebrations, including inducting new life members and people to our honour board.

However, before we do that we thought we'd go back to the start and look at Bicycle Network's history of volunteering.

How it all started

Today, we are Australia’s biggest bike riding organisation, supported by almost 50,000 members across the country. For 45 years, we’ve been working towards our mission of creating a nation of bike riders; we support people who ride bikes, work to help develop better places to ride and have built a whole portfolio of programs and events which change people’s lives. And at the heart and soul of everything we do, often working tirelessly in the background, are a team of passionate and dedicated volunteers and they’ve been there since day one.

Bicycle Network was established in Melbourne back in 1975, when a group of passionate, like-minded people came together with the common purpose of uniting the bike riding community. Inspired by the need to give bike riders a voice and to put bikes on the political agenda, Keith Dunstan, Ron Shepherd and Alan Parker worked tirelessly to get the organisation off the ground and together they formed, as we were then known, the Bicycle Institute of Victoria.

Kicking off iconic events

From there we grew quickly, and after three years we had 3,000 members on board and a team of passionate volunteers who were key to the establishment of many of our events and activities.

In fact, one of our most iconic events, the Great Vic Bike Ride, was one of such events to be established by volunteers. The idea for the event came about after Keith Dunstan and one of his colleagues Jeff Hook took part in a similar event in Iowa, USA.

In 1984, the Bicycle Institute of Victoria invited people to ride from Wodonga to Melbourne on what was originally intended to be a one-off event. It was a major success, with almost 3,000 riders taking part on what would eventually become an annual ride and one of the key dates on the bike riding calendar.

An early Great Vic run by Bicycle Network
A rest stop on the first Great Vic Bike Ride in 1975, including devonshire tea for 50 cents!

In 2019 we celebrated the 36th anniversary of the Great Vic, with almost 4,000 riders taking part and a team of over 300 volunteers there with us every step of the way.

Keeping us moving

It’s now been 45 years since we were established and as an organisation we’ve changed a lot in that time. But one thing remains the same, and that is that our volunteers are still the heart and soul of everything we do.

In the past 12 months alone, we’ve seen more than 2,000 passionate volunteers dedicate their time and skills to helping us run our key events, programs and activities.

They come from all states and territories across the country, and sometimes even from abroad, to volunteer their time. Whether it be by keeping our riders fed and hydrated at United Energy Around the Bay, by collecting important data on Super Tuesday, by serving on the Board, by keeping our event equipment maintained at our workshop and helping keep things under control in the office.

That’s why this National Volunteer Week, we’re saying thank you to everyone who has generously devoted their time to our organisation – from our founders back in 1975 to our current team of volunteers in 2020 – for helping build Bicycle Network into what we are today.

Click here to see Bicycle Network's volunteer honour board and life members.

Click here to read more about the history of Bicycle Network and the people who shaped us.

To keep track of all National Volunteer Week celebrations you can follow us on social media and use the tag #NVW2020.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.

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