Sacred Heart Mission Column

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Rather than booking out a fleet car, Sacred Heart Mission employees can hop on a beautiful handmade, early 1900s, European style bike to do their outreach work or arrive in style at meetings in the local area.

This initiative of fleet bikes came out of an emissions audit which found that one of the biggest contributors to Sacred Heart Mission’s environmental footprint was staff and volunteer travel, with many people using a car to travel just a few kilometres. A few employees indicated that they would be happy to cycle to and from (and during) work if there were adequate end-of-trip facilities such as a safe place to lock up their bike and showers.

This gave our ‘green team’ a project: to construct a bike shed with limited resources, and, if we dared to dream, get a fleet of bikes which staff could book out for work related commutes. Many of the Mission’s offices occupy former terrace houses with showers available so it was just a matter of informing staff of the shower locations.

After getting a few quotes, we realised that building a bike shed isn’t cheap. When Jessica Cerejo, a Sustainable Transport Officer from the City of Port Phillip, came to help us scope out a location for the shed, she told us about Super Tuesday. This is Australia’s largest annual visual bike count that happens between 7 – 9am on the first Tuesday in March. It is coordinated by the Bicycle Network which organises hundreds of volunteers to count for two hours and provides the data to local councils to help them plan infrastructure for cyclists. We were rapt to learn that each volunteer counter can nominate a community organisation to receive $50 on his or her behalf – fundraising for a bike shed by counting bikes which helps improve cycling infrastructure was pure serendipity.

Last year we pulled together 38 volunteers to count bikes for Super Tuesday at their nominated spots across Melbourne, raising a total of $1,900. Counters on Brighton Road, St Kilda, had a stressful time trying to keep tabs on the hundreds of cyclists riding past, while others in outer-suburban streets only notched up a handful of cyclists. In a funny incident, one counter, a staff member’s mum, had the police pull over to check on her welfare as a local resident had reported “an elderly woman sitting on the corner of the street for the last hour”.

The Super Tuesday money went towards the construction of a bike shed at a central location for employees and volunteers, in between our Women’s House and aged care hostel – One employee even had an old bike rack hoop he donated. The shed was launched on Ride to Work Day last October and there has since been a notable increase in staff members riding to work.

Now with the shed in place, a fleet of pool bikes was next on the agenda. For more than 10 years Richard Wierzbinski, from the Classic Bicycle shop down the road on Grey Street, has been supporting Sacred Heart Mission by donating bikes for auction at our fundraising events. He started the business with a sustainability focus, so donating two single-speed bikes for Mission employees to use as alternatives to cars, seemed a good fit.

Money raised from this year’s Super Tuesday count has paid for helmets, locks, saddlebags and safety gear and the City of Port Phillip has kindly offered to hold a bike riding workshop for our employees who wish to brush on their cycling skills or gain confidence.

The Mission is proud to be actively working to minimise our impact on the environment, particularly as climate change is said to impact most greatly on the people who are disadvantaged and socially excluded. So look out for Sacred Heart Mission employees stylishly riding past you on fire-engine red or royal burgundy bikes with a notebook in the basket.

A big thanks to Richard Wierzbinski at the Classic Bicycle shop, photographer Bec Walton and all the Super Tuesday volunteer counters who made this possible.

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