Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Just another week

Taking a week off in Queensland, I flew back to Sydney yesterday with some reluctant feelings. In Brisbane, I’d seen some significant efforts in make the city more cycle-friendly. There was better infrastructure and bicycle parking. The Queensland state government had also set some very ambitious targets to make cycling 8 per cent of trips by 2011. There was even a road education program aimed at improving motorist-cyclist relations.

So why hasn't this spread south of the border? Here is one little observation about the different fortunes of cyclists in each state. When you enter the world ‘cycling’ into the search function of the NSW’s Ministry of Transport you get 9 hits, 7 of which contain the weasel-like prefix of ‘encourage/enhance/promote'… ‘walking and cycling’. Search for ‘cycling’ at Queensland Transport and you get 370 hits including one main referral page.

Catching up on the news in Sydney this week, I felt stuck in this quagmire of negativity. During the week the British transport writer Christian Wolmar was reported in the Herald as saying:

Sydney's cycling infrastructure is 10 years behind that of London. "And believe me, London is by no means at the forefront of cycling,"

And as we all know:
"You have to be much more careful here than in London because the drivers here are so much more hostile."

Over at his blog, Wolmar tells us what he really thinks of the State Government:
The state government, incidentally, seems to be run with the same underlying right wing values that characterise New Labour, and which ultimately get exposed by the voters – it is about as popular as Brown’s government and is widely expected to be voted out of office at the state election next year, but then the opposition is also in chaos, unable to know how to respond to climate change. It is fascinating how some of the same issues as in Britain arise at the other end of the world, specifically the cul de sac into which right wing Labour (or Labor, as they write it here) drive themselves when they get mesmerised by the business lobby.

Wolmar’s earlier comments were picked up on the Sunrise morning television program where two random guests with no knowledge of cycling where interviewed on the matter.

Find more videos like this on Sydney Cyclist

As one finds in the media, this issue of driver aggression was quickly pushed to the side, then each of the guests gave us some of their clichéd criticisms of cyclists before moving to great heights of comedy with some original jokes about lycra shorts.

Finally this week, what we all expected happened as the more-than-dubious Pope-Fest Authority Act has been used to legitimatise the removal of the Park Street bicycle lanes. Did we expect anything to get them back? Well maybe I hoped as much, but seriously, if they really need temporary bus lanes for World Youth Day, why did they use permanent red paint?

In highschool, Howard Scullard's From the Gracchi to Nero was probably the best book I ever read. It had some memorable stories that resonate in times like these:

I need another holiday!


David Hembrow said...

An interesting post. As someone who moved from the UK to the Netherlands in order to be part of a proper bike culture, where cyclists are respected, I can assure you there's nothing much worth copying from Britain.

Christian Wolmar got it right when he said that London was by no means leading the world.

Here, on the hand, it's a completely different thing. If you want a cycle friendly environment, I think it'd be better to get officials from Australia to look at the Netherlands than at the UK.

The clip from the TV programme is quite hilariously awful...

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