The Bicycle Network wants to create happier, healthier, cleaner communities, by getting us all out of our cars and onto our bikes.

The independent, not-for-profit organisation backs a series of initiatives designed to encourage people to integrate cycling into their daily activity, including the Happiness Cycle and the Ride2School Program. Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards believes that by encouraging Australians to become more active his group will be able to prevent many of the illnesses caused by a lack of exercise.

“A staggering 2 out 3 people don’t get enough physical activity, and as a result of that half of those are going to suffer a major preventable illness,” he said.

The Ride2School initiative seeks to reverse this trend when kids are still in school, so that they ultimately become more active adults. The number of kids who ride their bike to school in Australia has dropped dramatically since the 1970s, when 8 out of every 10 kids would commute by pedal power or on foot. Before the launch of the Ride2School program just 2 in every 10 travelled to school by bike.  

“In the 2000 schools we work with that number is now up to about 48 per cent of students who are getting there by active means, so we have seen real behaviour change in those programs,” said Craig. 

The eighth National Ride2School Day takes place on March 19, 2014. It’s expected that 300,000 registered students will walk, scoot, skate or ride to school, creating a shared culture of active travel which the Bicycle Network wants to instil in Australian children.

Bicycle Network started out in Victoria in 1975 as a community-based group which aimed to encourage cycling by creating opportunities to share knowledge and experiences.

Since its beginnings, the Bicycle Network has grown from a handful of cycling enthusiasts to almost 50,000 members across Australia today.

The idea is to get people to integrate exercise into their daily activities, rather than attempting to make time for it to happen.

 “One hundred years ago only 10 per cent of people cleaned their teeth, and now just about everyone does,” said Craig. “Now we don’t even think about why we’re doing it, we just do it, we know it’s good for us, it feels wrong if we don’t do it, it’s just built into our daily routine. That’s what we’re trying to do with bike riding.”

The Happiness Cycle, a new partnership between the Bicycle Network and Coca-Cola, aims to improve the health of young Australians by encouraging them to ride bikes.