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Talking bikes with Laura Eadie
Laura Eadie is an environmental policy researcher, BikeWise City Cycling instructor, and a keen cycle tourer. We recently caught up with Laura to talk about life on two wheels.
Adrian: How did you first get into cycling?
Laura: I cycled to school when I lived in Canberra. We moved to Sydney and I kept cycling as a way to keep fit and go and explore where we lived on the North Shore. I didn’t cycle at Uni because I had nowhere to keep my bike but as soon as I started work, I was cycling for transport. I really got into it, as more than just transport, one day when I went for a ride through the Royal National Park at Christmas. I was coming up the hill near Waterfall and a roadie came up behind me and said ‘you can do it’. He encouraged me to ride all the way back to Sutherland. It was further than I ever thought I could ride. I remember getting home and thinking this is awesome, I can eat as much as I want! I started thinking about more places to riding and making plans to go cycle touring during my holidays.
Adrian: So you’ve done lots of cycle touring?
Laura: Yes, I did an awesome trip along the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I’ve also cycled down to the East Coast of Tassie and just this year I went to France and rode through the Pyrenees which culminated in watching the Tour for two days.
Adrian: What has been your most memorable experience of touring?
Laura: Coming to the end of the Camino de Santiago I was absolutely exhausted. It was about 9pm, summer-time in Spain, and the sun was just setting. For last 8 days I’d been riding through the country side and I hadn’t seen many people. I arrived in this big city and everyone was out on the streets and there was a real festival feeling. Realising that I had been able to finish the trip and ride 790kms just on my trusty old mountain bike. That was pretty awesome!
Adrian: What lead to you start working as a cycling instructor with BikeWise?
Laura: When I started commuting pretty regularly, I saw lots of other cyclists doing crazy things and that really concerned me. At that time, I was no longer doing the community environmental education work that I had been doing with the City of Sydney, so I missed that giving back to community work. The opportunity came to work with BikeWise though a friend who knew Patrick. That was just on 2.5 years ago.
Adrian: Did becoming an instructor change the way you think about riding?
Laura: It made me aware of how important it is to build up your spatial awareness. In interacting with people who haven’t done a lot of cycling, I realised that physical confidence and spatial awareness takes some time to build up and I took it for granted. I became aware just how confronting peak hour traffic can be if you don’t have the skills and the spatial awareness to know what’s going on around you.
Adrian: What are the key understandings that you hope people gain from doing a ‘Cycling in the City’ course?
Laura: If I was to take it down to just one essential message is that it’s possible for anyone to ride safely and effectively in Sydney. That’s the number one message. The most important thing we give people is the confidence to then apply the principles that we’ve taught them. The principles are also very important, but that’s four messages not one. If you want to know them, you’ll have to come on the course.
Adrian: Can you tell me a bit about your other work in the area of sustainable development?
Laura: I work for a think-tank called the Centre for Policy Development. It’s a non-Government research institute and it aims to come up with new ideas and research that change the way people think about current policy issues. The Centre for Policy Development is focused on making policy debate accessible to the general public. I run a program called Sustainable Economy which essentially asks: what should Australia be doing now to ensure that in 40 years we have a diverse and thriving economy? It relates to things like how we maintain our environmental assets, fisheries, forests, and agricultural land. It also looks at what types of industry we should be trying to develop to make sure we have a wide range of industries and job opportunities in the future.
Adrian: Do you see a connection between cycling and sustainable development?
Laura: Well just focusing on the transport side of things, I look at cycling as part of urban development policy. I think about what are the reasons cycling is taking off in Sydney and there are a couple. Sure, it’s fun and enjoyable -- Cadel won! -- but it’s also about congestion because it takes so long to get to work if you drive. It’s not just roads, public transport is also congested, buses are not always reliable, so there are major time and convenience costs involved. People are saying the current car driven approach to transport is not working for them so they’re going to explore something else. I think cycling has a real potential to change the way urban planners think about planning in cities. I think there has been a shift from a hard-core group of people who are cycle out of love or deep ethical concern to it being more mainstream. I think it’s because there are hidden economic benefits involved with cycling. People want to cycle because it’s the most convenient way to get around particularly for short trips.
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