State of the BUG

Last week we had Ride To Work Day, where the sun shone through the trees on a lot more bikes parked at the Forum than I usually see, and we heard a few short speeches over a breakfast courteously provided by the Forum’ cafe.

It marked one year from the beginning of NUBUG, where I heard speeches that suggested frustration from cyclists but no sense of continuity. It inspired me to begin this organisation, which in its first year has accumulated 150 members. It has held 2 social rides, and weekly meetings where interested members talk about what should be improved over a coffee or a beer.

The time has come to think about how far NUBUG has come, where we want it to go, and who will take it there.

NUBUG’s goals
Some of our goals are hard to reach, such as lobbying for a network of cycleways in Newcastle, or convincing the university to built lights on the cycleway on the western boundary of callaghan campus. Because of the scope of these demands, they will take time to be fulfilled.

Other goals of NUBUG have been easier to achieve. Our main focuses have emerged as safety and convenience, because it is being safe that enables enjoyable cycling, and poor safety is what scares a lot of people into their cars. Meanwhile, convenience makes cycling a pleasure, not a chore.

NUBUG’s actions towards its goals
To improve safety and convenience, we shared our knowledge of the best routes around Newcastle on the NUBUG Master Map. That was developed more recently into three routes into university that were adopted for this year’s Ride To Work Day. Both of these maps remain publicly available on NUBUG’s website, To enable students and staff to ride safely, our stimulus package included front and rear lights, and maps of the safest ways to ride.

There has also been considerable effort towards making a route between Newcastle and the University official, with the ultimate goal being council-made signs directing cyclists along our route.

Our relationship with the university
Safety problems identified by NUBUG members have been quickly addressed by the university. In one case, the response came within a day of NUBUG’s complaint, although our other complaint with an odd drainage mechanism outside the Hunter Building has only recently been addressed by the university. In any case, it is great to see that NUBUG has a positive relationship with the university, which allows us to be constructive, not confrontational.

This year, the sites and roughly the design of bicycle parking facilities were chosen with help from NUBUG. Next year, the comprehensive transport plan will be made with input from NUBUG. Already, the university is thinking with us in mind. Unfortunately the construction of those facilities lags far behind schedule, but whatever progress has been made should be seen as a positive.

Our relationship with NUSA
NUSA likes to see student activity on campus, and NUBUG, which promotes sustainable transport, consequently has a good relationship with NUSA. As I have been a NUSA councillor this year, I have been able to report directly to council what we have been doing, and this led in part to a $200 donation from the enviro collective, to fund our stimulus package.

Our relationship with NUSport
This is yet to be established, because there are constitutional conflicts between being a NUSport club and a NUSA club. A possible plan for the future would be to affiliate a second NUBUG as a NUSport club, and we would need to distinguish between NUBUG (Social) and NUBUG (Competitive) members, as is done by the rowing club. Anyone could be a member of both. Our relationship with NUSport could involve holding races, and even formalising teams, training and selection for Newcastle’s University Games team. This depends on what NUBUG decides to do in the future, and what NUSport would like to do.

The Election
This year, NUBUG has directed itself towards co-operation with NUSA and the university, and developing relationships with them. In the coming year, I would personally like to see NUBUG develop a relationship with Newcastle Cycleways Movement, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University Sport. As this year draws to a close, we need to decide who will decide NUBUG’s new direction.

NUBUG is not a very formal organisation, and its executive roles are flexible. Students have varying workloads, and are prone to suddenly disappear, so it has to be this way. So, our executive, apart from President and Treasurer, has no permanently defined roles. Any member can take part in our meetings and our actions, and at any time they can stop, because they are not obliged to continue. We do, however, need to have annual elections to decide who holds the central positions.

I would like to call for nominations for executive positions in NUBUG. These include Treasurer and President, and any other role that a member might deem necessary. To give an indication, and also to recognise their contribution to NUBUG, I will list the 2010 executive:

President: Thomas Marshall
Calls meetings and elections; makes regular contact with all members and passes on requests for them; liaises with Facilities Management and NUSA; resolves decisions that haven’t been made by other executives; is ultimately responsible for the success or failure of any undertakings of the organisation. I will not be continuing in this position, as I graduate this year.

Treasurer: Karl Keating
Transactions out of our bank account are done by Karl, and a log book of income and expenditure is kept. NUBUG does not make a lot of transactions but Treasurer is an important role.

The two primary executive positions must be held by students. The following positions may be held by students, staff or alumni:

Bike Love Corral Co-Ordinators: Marte Kinder and Daniel Endicott
Dan and Marte did bike fixing this year, and co-ordinated NUBUG’s relationship with the bike-activist community in Newcastle. Both are alumni and have expressed interest in continuing to operate their bike fixing at the University (and Facilities Management is seeking to better accommodate them). They both put more time into NUBUG, through the bike fixing workshops, than anyone else including myself. Their dedication to bikes and sustainability is admirable.

Events Co-Ordinator: Gus Elligett-Potts
At the beginning of the year, NUBUG’s Secretary was Steffen Hesping, who left the university in June. Dave Birdsall was IT Co-Ordinator by title but never attended a meeting. Gus was Events Co-Ordinator by title, but his role took on secretarial and IT duties. He organised a social ride, launched the website, got us our .org domain, did some of the footwork for the stimulus package, and next year will join NUSA council, keeping NUBUG’s close link there.

Nick Batt
Nick has never formally taken an executive position, but has been key in liaising with Newcastle City Council for the official bike route, so his participation is worth mentioning. His role could be described loosely as secretarial or in connection to Council or Bike Routes.

The Poll
Nominations will close on the 17th of November, and voting will be open from the 24th of November until midnight on the 30th of November. Voting will be done online, by emailing the name and position of any contested position to this email address. If positions are not contested, voting will not be necessary. All votes will be kept confidential.

The new executive will be able to decide the direction of NUBUG and what it means. It could make the difference between activity and apathy; between co-operation and confrontation. It could be more political, more sporting, more administrative or consultative. If you think you could take NUBUG in the right direction, nominate yourself to a position. If you want to hold races, nominate yourself for Races Co-Ordinator. If you want to lobby the RTA for cycle paths, nominate yourself for RTA Liaison Officer. You can invent any role you want so long as it is relevant to NUBUG.

I hope you made it through all of this. It took a while to write.

Thomas Marshall


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