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A chat with Pip Carroll of Melbourne Bikefest

Finally we’re experiencing some warmer weather in Melbourne – and have you noticed the increased number of cyclists these days?

It all bodes well for the upcoming Melbourne Bikefest, a 5 day festival being held at 1000 £ Bend which will celebrate all things cycling related in our city. Today’s I chat with Pip Carroll, the director of Melbourne Bikefest. Thanks Pip!

Pip, tell me a bit more about your background and what inspired you to startMelbourne Bikefest?

My background is pretty varied, I’ve been running a business called Ambiguous Horse since 2006 that specialises in management, marketing and producing for the arts and cultural industries. So I’m always working on something different. Ambiguous Horse, supported by a volunteer committee produced the Melbourne Bicycle Film Festival from 2007 to 2009.

Earlier this year we decided to branch out from the BFF and create a new event designed especially for Melbourne – and Melbourne Bikefest was born!

We wanted to celebrate and support an emerging bike culture in Melbourne, one that is less focused on sport and recreation and more interested in bikes as a means of daily transport, integrated into other parts of life. The more people that choose a bike over a car, the better the road conditions will be for everyone, including motorists. For people to choose to ride however they need to identify as bike riders, and through Bikefest we hope to create something more people can see themselves being a part of.

What is Melbourne Bikefest all about? What can visitors expect to see or experience?

Melbourne Bikefest is about celebrating bikes in everyday life. This doesn’t mean that you need to ride one everyday to enjoy it though! In fact there are only one or two events in the entire program that actually requite you to be on a bike. Most of the program is devoted to other cultural activities – art, design, music, fashion, shopping, forums, workshops, and advocacy projects. Bikefest really is more of a cultural festival about bikes than a ‘cycling’ event.

The majority of our activities are held right in the middle of the city at 1000 £ Bend. We will offer Bicycle Valet Parking for anyone that rides, but it’s a very easy place to get to via public transport. Over 5 days the space will host events and activities from morning to night, all against a backdrop of art and interactive installations. Plus a bar!

At the end of the day it’s really just about having a good time and giving people a glimpse of life on two wheels.

What is your one must-do recommendation for Melbourne Bikefest?

I’m always reluctant to choose just one thing! We’ve programmed Melbourne Bikefest so that you have the opportunity to experience several different activities all in the one visit. However I would say that the Bikefest Great Debate will be a night to remember, we’ve got together some amazing local comedians to put a light hearted spin on the argument that ‘Bikes are the best form of transport’. It features Charlie Pickering, Hannah Gadsby, Bart FreebairnLawrence LeungHarley Breen,Andrew McClelland and is moderated by Josh Earl.

My other recommendation, for those that like to dress up (and who doesn’t?) would be the Melbourne Tweed Ride. Leaving from the State Library steps, it’s a slow cruise in salute to times gone by. Hopefully it will help redress some of the crimes against Lycra we see all too frequently on the streets of Melbourne.

Why do you like cycling, and particularly in Melbourne?

Wow I like riding a bike for so many reasons, where do I start? First up would have to be sense of freedom I get riding. If I have a frustrating day, chained to the desk, feeling like I’m not getting anywhere, stuck in the treadmill of life, riding home just unravels all of that immobility and delivers a palpable sense of achievement.

I’m also one of those people that has subconscious punctuality sabotage syndrome – I think I can get anywhere in 20 minutes. Thankfully on a bike in Melbourne it’s mostly true.

And do I need to mention the great things it does for your butt?

Finally, where do you like take your bike in Melbourne?

I like going to the Penny Farthing Espresso (206 High St, Northcote +61 3 9482 2246). It’s just up the road from my house and has a welcoming and relaxed vibe. The coffee is good, the food uncomplicated and satisfying and they always seem to be exceptionally well staffed with polite and good-looking Gen Y employees. What more could you ask for?

Down the road is The Movie Reel (69 High Street, Westgarth +61 3 9486 8866). It’s a great old school DVD hire place that’s good for a bit of eavesdropping on a Friday night. They have an amazing range. I reviewed some bike movies last year and they had every title I asked for. Plus they don’t mind if you tell them the fine belongs to your ‘housemate’.

I’m partial to popping down to the Ceres Organic Market & Shop (Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East +61 3 9389 0100) on a Saturday morning. It’s a lovely ride down along the Merri Creek and it’s great to see the chickens that have laid the eggs you’re about to eat. There’s also something very satisfying about whipping your credit card out in the open air.

Also nearby is Fowlers Flowers (488 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill +61 3 9489 9114). It’s next door to another favourite café, Mixed Business (486 Queens Parade, Clifton Hill +61 3 9486 1606). Their arrangements are simple and beautiful and inspire me to clean the house so the flowers have a more fitting backdrop.

Melbourne Bikefestt is being held from Wednesday 24 November to Sunday 28 November.CycleStyle is one of the sponsors – if you see me at any of the events or speaking on a forum, please come say hi! For more program information, click here.

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