CAMWEST: Cyclists’ Action Movement West

Feature — Meet Ian Macindoe

Ian Macindoe Introduced

Ian started CAMWEST, our bicycle advocacy group, 21 years ago in 1987 to bring about better cycling facilities in Western Sydney. Here he shares some of his thoughts, memories, and hopes for advocacy. This interview was conducted about 2001 (and was updated by Ian in 2008).

Ian, what led you to want to start a bike group?

I had recently returned from the US and was working at Mt Druitt Hospital in 1986 and started riding my bike to work. One day I decided to ride to my brother’s house at Kellyville on a weekend and was so appalled by the traffic and state of the roads that I felt something should be done about it. I had become aware of Bicycle NSW and wrote a letter to the Minister for Main Roads, with a copy sent to Bicycle NSW.

A little later I moved to my brother’s house at Kellyville and while I was there became aware of the proposed North-West development sector, in particular the Rouse Hill and Parklea development. I felt that it would be good to have bicycle facilities put in place at the planning stages of these new developments rather than having them retro-fitted later on. I decided to put an ad in the local paper about forming a group to do something about this issue and to my amazement four people answered the ad, including Stan MacDowell who remained in the group for many years as Treasurer. We decided on an acronym for the name of the group that included something that sounded active and militant and easy to say therefore ‘Cyclist Action Movement West’, although the group’s focus was initially on the North-West sector, which reflected where the members came from, not the whole of Western Sydney.

Initially the group met in each others’ homes before deciding to meet in a neutral place. They were able to meet at the Quakers Hill Primary School for at least a year as the then president had a contact there. The main projects in the early days were maintenance and improvement of the Mt Druitt cycleway, with little success, and many meetings with Baulkham Hills Council regarding the North-West sector development.

One of the first big breakthroughs in the early days was to convince Blacktown City Council of the need to have a bikeplan. This was assisted by a presentation to council which included new information to the Council that the plan could be developed on a dollar-for-dollar basis with the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA).

That leads nicely into my next question. What do you think have been CAMWEST’s biggest achievements?

In my opinion, it’s been just keeping the organisation going. I’m pleased that there remains sufficient interest for the organisation to continue. I also believe that CAMWEST, along with Bicycle NSW and other BUGs, has changed the culture and attitude of society and government towards cycling. There has been an enormous change over the past 21 years since CAMWEST first began. The RTA, in particular, treats cyclists as a more legitimate form of transport. There was a big shift in the culture of the Dept of Main Roads when it became the RTA and their new leader, Bob Morris, commenced. Bob Morris was a cyclist.

CAMWEST has also played a significant role in educating decision makers and other stakeholders on the needs of cyclists and the correct way to go about consulting with community groups and implementing facilities for cyclists.

CAMWEST has prepared numerous submissions over the years regarding proposed new developments and trying to ensure cyclists’ needs are taken into account. This has included consultation regarding the Parklea and Rouse Hill developments. CAMWEST was also instrumental in the on-road cycling infrastructure on Sunnyholt Rd, Blacktown. CAMWEST, on reflection, has sometimes tended to be neglectful of following up on developments after we have put in submissions to check to see whether our suggestions have been taken up.

Geoff Holland was a dynamic member for the 5–6 years in which he was involved in CAMWEST. He was particularly strong in the areas of road safety and ensuring that the details in planning proposals were accurate. He was very technically minded and not afraid to challenge those in authority.

Other more recent achievements have been the development by CAMWEST for Parramatta Council of a Bikeplan, Baulkham Hills Bikeplan, Bankstown Bikeplan, Hawkesbury Bikeplan, and the Bay to Mountains Cycleway proposal. The latter is an approximately 60km cycleway, which has been supported by the Government and has now been implemented. Recently (2008) the western end improvements to the Parramatta Valley Cycleway on the northern side of Parramatta River have been completed.

In my opinion as consumers of the cycling infrastructure, CAMWEST needs to be more diligent in acting as ‘watchdogs’ to ensure that infrastructure is properly implemented and maintained.

What have been the biggest disappointments over the years?

Oh, there have been many; but perhaps it’s my general pessimistic philosophy that leads me to expect that things will often not turn out as well as we would hope. I find the motto “Pessimism of the intellect, opportunity of the will” to be a useful attitude, meaning ‘don’t expect too much, but keep trying nevertheless’. I’ve often assumed intellectually that we may not get very much done but we have to have a strong will to push on. Persistence is very important and you must follow up. You have to repeat yourselves many times before the message gets through. My own developed motto runs along similar lines: “Ask for loaves, fight for slices and be grateful for crumbs”. So I guess that because of my pessimistic attitude and understanding of bureaucracy, I have been able to persist with advocacy for so long without becoming disheartened. I felt like quitting around 1989 when there were a few meetings where only two people attended.

How has CAMWEST changed in its make-up over the years?

Over the last few years (late 90s) there has been an expansion in members particularly from the Parramatta and Baulkham Hills Council areas. The Tizzana winery ride seems to have been instrumental in attracting some new membership, thanks to Danny Hannan who was also CAMWEST President for several years. Membership has tended to hover around 6-10 people over the years until around 2000 where membership has exceeded 15. Before the recent expansion in members, I hadn’t been confident of the future of the organisation if I ceased to be involved. The average age of the group has decreased in recent years but it remains an all-male group with the exception of one member. I have one concern that we are too geographically concentrated with the majority of our members residing in a few adjacent suburbs (Westmead, Winston Hills, Northmead and Baulkham Hills). There are large areas in Western Sydney where we are not represented. We’ve never had members at Penrith, Auburn, Bankstown, Fairfield and Liverpool. Fairfield issues are covered somewhat by another BUG. But we now have good representation in Holroyd local government area and also in Blacktown.

What are your hopes for CAMWEST?

I hope the organisation thrives. We need to keep recruiting new people as it is inevitable that members will come and go as other commitments take over their lives. It would be nice to think that we might actually grow and therefore increase our influence. It is important to harness members’ motivation to pursue issues they are passionate about. But it is also important that as an organisation we take up other opportunities that come our way

Your Thoughts

So what do you think? Do you agree with Ian that there are many areas in Western Sydney which are not well represented? Do you have any advocacy successes or frustrations you want to share? Let us know at contact (AT) camwest.pps.com.au, and we’ll publish your thoughts. Join our mailing lists; Get in touch!

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