Tuesday, September 30, 2008

So much randomness

In relations to Treadly and Me's question (What's going on in NSW for Bike Week?), yes there has been plenty happening but I think its mostly been reported in the local papers. The previous Saturday, ASHBUG ran its second bike education training course working to improve basic bike skills. The course was well attended by 25 women (no blokes!). Last year when we ran this course, I remember having a rant about low quality department stall bikes and people who keep their seat too low. This year I was supprised to find the opposite problem. One rider had a beautiful $2K road bike but no bike training skills. The seat was correctly positioned for her height. The problem was she'd little experience just riding a bike, let alone a top quality racing bike. I tried to explain that it was like learning to ride a motorbike with a 1000cc engine. Anyway, we put the seat down and worked on some basic skills like pushing off and stopping. Again I have to wonder what the bike shop was thinking? (and I know the person who sold her the bike). It made me wonder if sometimes there is a pressure or desire to look the part of the roadie but without doing some time in the dag-land of the recreational cyclist.

One of the coolest bike week events I went to was at Willoughby Council. Not only did they do the regular courses and rides, but they ran their own version of the Bike Film Festival and it was really well attended.

On Sunday, Waverley Council did something creative by running a photo comp as part of its family bike day. There was no supprise in me not winning the photo comp, however I think I know the person who did and so I'm very happy for her. In other BikeWeek news, I saw that another local council had ran a competition for children where they had to colour in an image of a kid on a bike to win a helmet. I know the helmet debate is a nasty one and I've seen enough smashed helemts to want to wear one. However I'm increasingly drawn to believe that the use of helmets as well a bright fluro saftey vests offload the dangers of cars rather than making drivers more responsible roadusers. By making helmet use the message we use to celebrate Bike Week, we are perhaps consciously trying to promote bikes, but unconsciously supporting a view that cycling is dangerous and children and parents should be worried about letting there kids ride bikes. On a simlar point, Transport Impacts has recently highligted the real language politics of being identified as a 'vulnerable road user'. Dave Horton has also written about this issue in terms of childrens road education:

… rather than producing strategies to tame the sources of dangers on the road, road safety education tries instead to instil in ‘the vulnerable’, primary school children, a fear of motorised traffic, and then to teach them tactics to escape from road dangers as best they can. A minority alternative approach, road danger reduction, concentrates instead on making travelscapes less dangerous per se, by reducing numbers and speeds of cars, and improving enforcement of speed limits. In other words, current road safety education, perhaps reframed as citizenship studies in mobility, could be very different. We do not have to teach tomorrow’s adults to fear cars, or to adapt to the inevitability of motorised metal objects tearing through their lives by incarcerating themselves in such vehicles. ('Fear of Cycling', 2007, p138-9)

On the topic of road safety, I've just come across this cool website called Mental Speed Bumps. Its by the Australian "artist, social inventor and street philosopher" David Engwicht. Engwicht claims to have made the same discovery as Hans Monderman about the negative uses of signage and road design which encourages drivers to act more dangerously and denies the socal life of streets.

Another interesting Australian writer I've also just discovered is Dr Paul Tranter. Over has his website he has some great papers on the concept of "effective speed" which he has been pushing in his recent research.

Effective speed can be calculated using the formula:
“Speed = distance divided by time”, where
• distance is the total kilometres traveled, and
• time is the total time devoted to the mode of transport (including the time spent at work to earn the money to pay all the costs created by the particular mode of transport). In the calculation of car speed, the time required for car travel is rarely adequately considered. Most drivers consider only the time spent in the car while it is moving (and perhaps while it is idling) when estimating their average speed. They ignore the considerably larger amounts of time that must be devoted to their cars. As well as the time a driver must spend sitting in a car, he or she must spend time earning the money to make the car travel possible. During this time, the driver is effectively going nowhere; hence their speed for this time is zero. When this time is taken into account, along with other time devoted to the car, it is apparent that the car does not save us as much time as we think it saves us.
What I like about this concept is the way it bypasses ideology debates over cars vs bike vs public transport, but rather focuses on critically analysing the broader costs of car use in itself. This is an issue that doesn't seem to get much press.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Vain attempts at Bike Art

For NSW Bike Week, Waverely Council is having bike photo competition (entries close today). Its called "Celebration of the bicycle". I've never really understood the way cycling has emerged as a sub-genre within the arts community but maybe David Byrne could explain it to me? Anyho, I've entered two photos in the competition. This one of a Sydney bike commuter which I've called: "Dancing in the Streets"

My second thought is I should have called it "Never trust a cabbie" but I didn't think the judges would go for that sort of thing.

Yesterday I took another sojourn into the world of bike art photography. I rolled out my personal mobility fleet with an attempt to create an arty bicycle composition shot. I called the photo "autobikeography".

The photo contains every bike I currently own including the red Malvern Star which I've had since I was 12 or so. None of the bikes are the same colour.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why let car hoons have all the fun?

More info at http://www.madeinqueensfilm.com/

Bike muzak






Uploaded by myshot2004


World Music




Sunday, September 14, 2008

Cycling and the politics of fear

Its been another interesting week in Sydney-town. On Thursday I was forwarded the details of an anti-cycleway flyer that had been put in mailboxes on the eve of the election. It seems that "Only in Sydney" could we get a campaign against the city's plans to develop a cycleway network.

Here’s what it said:
What the Council isn't saying before the election
that many cyclists won't use.
After the election the City Council is planning to spend $34 million putting concrete block barriers along 55 kilometres of City roads including in your street to create the cycleway.
That's around $400 per domestic ratepayer!
These concrete block barriers will make life difficult for local businesses and residents. The cycleway will
_ Destroy local parking and amenity
_ Remove road access to homes and businesses
_ Cyclists will still use the roadway to avoid other cyclists
_ Turning motorists and cross traffic will have 4 lots of cyclists to avoid
_ “Wrong-way” cyclists on bi-directional cycleways have 10 times the accident risk at
intersections than if they used the roadway
_ Many residents will be forced to compete for parking in already crowded side streets
_ Where the street is wide enough to allow parking to be retained beside the cycleway
children will leave the car onto a 40cm concrete block in the roadway instead of the kerb.
There's no time to waste. Act now!
Ask what is happening in your street. Choose a candidate who will protect your interests as a resident, property owner, business person and voter! Insist Council involves you in decisions concerning your street Bourke Street, Darlinghurst/Redfern/Surry Hills is one of the first streets listed to have a bidirectional separated cycleway. The proposed design shows possible loss of trees, loss of parking, loss of local amenity and disregard for the safety of all road users.
Residents and businesses were not consulted until late in the design process and still have not received any answers to their many concerns. For more information and a list of streets we have identified so far go to:
For more info visit www.sustainablesydney.net . (email: friendsofboukestreet@hotmail.com )
Authorised by: R Marriot, PO Box 319, Surry Hills 2010. Printed by: Officeworks 91 O'Riordan St, Alexandria 2015.
I have no idea who are the people behind the flyer and whether or not they are linked with that previous group of people who’d protested against the Bourke St cycleway, but I generally don’t try to get worked up about these things (too much). One of the funniest things I thought was how the flyer emphasised a fear of loosing car-parking spaces yet its website is called: www.sustainablesydney.net. That takes a lot of chutzpah. Maybe they meant some other car. This perhaps:

I'm no political analyst, although I do know a thing or two about workings of some resident action groups (nb: large pdf). However, it seems to me that this flyer was really about more than the cycleways/CoS cycling strategy. It was politics pure and simple: the art of revealing and concealing interests in the games of getting power and influence. I see the anti-cycleway politics as an attempted wedge-politics/politics of fear to get some traction against Clover Moore who has done much to champion cycling the City of Sydney. Why else would the flyers turn up on the night before an election? Fortunately it didn’t seem to work just as those other flyers didn't work for the Liberal Party when they were given to voters on the eve of the Federal election in Lindsay. Check out City of Sydney local government election results HERE to see how Clover and the Greens did.

To my mind, the anti-cycleway campaign may have been targeted at the wrong demographic. I recently read an article on gentrification and transport behaviour called, Modalities of the New Middle Class: Ideology and Behaviour in the Journey to Work from Gentrified Neighbourhoods in Canada, by Martin Danyluk and David Ley at the University of British Columbia. In a comparative study of travel behavior in three of Canada’s largest cities (Vancouver, Toronto, MontrĂ©al), they found:
Our results show that residents of gentrified areas are more likely than other commuters to ride a bicycle to work, even when controls are introduced to remove the effects of distance to the downtown core. At the same time, they are less likely to be users of public transport, despite their political support for the notion of the public household. This surprising disaffiliation may in part be the result of transit’s inability to compete with cycling and walking for short to medium-length trips. In addition, we see that, as surveys suggest, gentrifiers buy into the amenity package of inner-city neighbourhoods that greatly promotes walking and cycling while discouraging driving.
Funny stuff huh? It turns out that many inner-city people really like cycling and the forms of urban amenity that can be had when cars are not placed in the centre of urban life.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

All the King's Horses

The last week has been nothing short of amazing for political pundits in NSW. With the Iemma, Sartor and Costa trio all gone, a new generation of political heavies has taken over. One of the more interesting revelations was that our new Premier Nathan Rees is a serious road cyclist, as the Sydney Morning Herald reported:
Todd Smith trained with Rees for five years until injury and work commitments ended their cycling careers in the 1990s. When training for a race, they would ride every day and clock up 1000 kilometres a week. They would cycle more than 200 kilometres over six hours on a Saturday. "He was a very, very good rider, an A-level rider and very tough in the head," Smith says. "Nathan never got to the professional level but he could have, given the right circumstances and opportunities.

"He was very dedicated and very level-headed, a great guy to go training with because Sydney is a hard place to ride and a few of the guys would get worked up but Nathan would be the one defusing the situation."
So the new Premier knows a thing or two about road rage against cyclist. Thats good to know. Perhaps he might be interested in supporting a public education campaign on cyclists rights and responsibilities? NSW seems to be the only state without one.

In another random cycling & politics story, the new Health Minister John Della Bosca has returned from his post-Iguana-gate exile with a high profile portfolio and a slim and trim new look. As was reported:
It is understood Mr Della Bosca spent much of his time while he was suspended from cabinet swimming and cycling to lose weight.
It seems that the bike has done wonders for Della Bosca. Not that long ago he looked like this:

Or, as one cartoonist illustrated him:

So, this week has seen the ascendency of a new Premier who is a hard-core roadie and a new Health Minister who has taken to cycling for good health. But will this help the NSW Government actually do anything to improve cycling in the state? I can only hope so.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008