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Monday, 16 November 2009
Page: 11819


Ms OWENS (7:11 PM) —I thank the member for Oxley for moving this motion. Most of us would be aware that Bernie is himself quite a keen cyclist, as am I. I know probably as well as anybody that building cycling infrastructure is an investment in health and wellbeing and community liveability.

I had not been on a bike since I was at primary school, which was about 40-something years ago, and a friend of mine asked me to join a ride from Sydney to Canberra to present a petition for Work Choices. I agreed to do that ride, so I got on a bike again for the first time in 40 years and rode once around Parramatta Park, which is about three kilometres, had to push the bike up the hill and had sore muscles for two weeks. Six weeks later, I rode the 300 kilometres from Sydney to Canberra and was well and truly hooked. I have been riding consistently since then. I have lost about 15 kilos, my heart rate has dropped about 25 beats and I have become a person with much more energy and focus than I had before. I now not only a ride a lot but also race in the masters’ competition.

I recently went online to get a photo of myself riding because I wanted one for a particular website. I looked at the shots of the A- and B-grade riders. They were riding round corners and looking really tough, pedalling like mad, gritting their teeth and sweating. I thought, ‘Great, there will be one of me.’ So I went down to D-grade, which is me—men’s D-grade, mind you—and there I was: I was going around the corner, I was hanging off, my knee was sticking out and my shoulder was down. It looked absolutely fabulous: I was gritting my teeth and pedalling like mad, and behind me were two guys in their 70s riding along as if it was no problem at all!

That is well and truly my experience of cycling: because it is easy on the knees, you never forget how to do it and it is easy to get back into it, people in their 70s and 80s are still competing. In my electorate, I have Keith Oliver in the over-65 category who has won well over 15 world championships; Geoff Stoker who won four world championships in the masters’ games and the recent world cycling games and broke two world records two weeks ago; and a group of men called the ‘legends of Parramatta Park’, all of whom are well over 65 and one who is in his 80s, who have ridden from Brisbane to Sydney and from Melbourne to Sydney with me—a distance of well over a thousand kilometres.

About eight of them joined me recently for a ride from Canberra to Sydney. Even in their 80s, they still race up every hill that has a name and compete in the sprint for every town sign. Even if you are riding 1,000 kilometres, you still have to sprint if there is a town sign and you sprint up every hill that has a name, and they can still beat me if they attack as a group, even in their 80s.

Cycling is an extraordinary activity that people can continue to do for their life. For many riders, as they get older, riding on the roads is no longer the option it was when they were younger. I am sure that Bernie rides on the road regularly—and so do I—but a lot of people as they get older, and women in particular, are looking for a much safer option and they are looking for those paths. In my area the M7, which is one of the best pieces of cycling infrastructure in the country, provides people the opportunity to ride as commuters, recreationally or in training on the one path. The water pipe, which is a cycling path built on the old water pipe through Prospect, is another one. Until recently it was 25 kilometres without a road. There is construction going on at the moment and we are fighting for its reconnection, but 25 kilometres without a road is an amazing piece of infrastructure.

We have many new paths being opened up in Parramatta. There are two new ones that have been funded by the federal government: one across the mangroves on the Parramatta River and another one that links Parramatta to Blacktown. These are incredibly important pieces of infrastructure that make it possible for people to get back on their bikes and do so safely.

I cannot commend this motion enough. We all talk about health; it is one of the big issues. Preventive health in particular is incredibly important, and providing people with facilities where they can exercise easily and in a fun way is unbelievably important. I commend the motion to the House.