Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ken Dinnerville Memorial Handicap

On Sunday, I did my third open road race at the Ken Dinnerville Memorial Handicap at Dapto. The race was a 90km handicap where the field was divided in at least 6 different groups sent off at different time handicaps. We had 14 riders from Dulwich Hill split across different groups. It was a quite exciting race and there were a few points when I was leading the race during the second lap of the course. My favourite moment was coming over the Marshal Mount Hill on the second lap. I was at third wheel and it was a huge buzz to see so many spectators crowed along the road cheering us on just like some of the mountain stages in the TdF. I managed to stay with the winning group of riders for most of the race but got dropped on my third and final ride over Marshal Mount Hill. The lessons learned were to always stay as close to the front if you have any hope of being a contender. Secondly, to climb hills at those speeds, I need to cut some junk from my trunk.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Psychopathologies of Driving

Why, one might ask, should normally reasonable and considerate human beings behave in this fashion once they get behind the wheel of a car? What are the springs and sources of this combative attitude which is so much better controlled when the subject is on two feet?
Frustration, it is said, is the breeding ground of aggression; and, whatever else one may say about the public highway, frustration abounds. However, it would be too simple to explain ubiquitous displays of aggression on the road by arguing that such actions are the natural response to the abysmal stupidity and criminal carelessness of our fellow-citizens in their cars. After all, anyone who, late for an appointment, tries to walk briskly along a crowded city street, heavy with slow-moving shop-gazers, will not improve his speed of progress if he angrily pushes aside his fellow-citizens, swears at them, or threatens them with physical assault. Yet this is precisely what a number of drivers in their vehicles do when pressed for time. No doubt the isolation imposed by the design of the automobile confers a certain immunity from retaliatory action, but it is unlikely that most fist-shaking motorists give a thought to possible consequences should they encounter the victim of their vituperation in less avoidable circumstances. Mercifully, such confrontations are rare, and when they do occur most of us have the grace to apologise, while secretly bolstering our self-esteem by the belief that our behaviour was fully justified by the folly or negligence of the other person. Yet, isolation alone cannot be the whole explanation of these unbridled displays of anger on the road. Such anger may be aroused by the irritating behaviour of other drivers who seem joined in a conspiracy to impede our progress. Overweening impatience is in part a common cause of dangerous driving behaviour, yet a moment’s reflection should convince us that however hard we drive in crowded city streets the amount of time saved will be infinitesimal in proportion to the emotional energy expended and the danger caused.

Some years ago a contest was arranged between two cars to be driven across a city area. One driver had to observe all signs, traffic lights, and speed regulations. The other was allowed to ignore all three if he could do so without endangering the lives of other road users. The law-breaking motorist arrived at his destination just – and only just – ahead of his law-abiding antagonist. It follows, therefore that our reactions and behaviour on the roads are not determined by rational appreciation of the circumstances. Instead, we appear to be at the mercy of emotional forces which compel us to act as we do, often in total defiance of our best interests and knowledge of our real needs. (pp127-129)

F.A. Whitlock, 1971, Death on the Road: A study in social violence, Tavistock: London.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Shadenfraud with Dr Nelson

From Today's SMH

The Climate Institute has released research showing richer households have more cars and use more petrol than poorer households, so have the most to gain from an excise cut.

In 2005, an average low-income family spent $28 a week on petrol or diesel, while a high-income family spent $62.

Nearly a third of low-income households had two or more cars compared with 84 per cent of rich households.

The institute says dropping the fuel excise will also boost demand for petrol and add to pollution by creating the impression of a permanent price drop.

To genuinely help shield lower-income earners from rising prices, the government should use better-targeted and more effective policies than cutting the fuel excise, the institute said.

Boosting public transport and lifting fuel efficiency standards would be a good start, it said.

According to Phillip Coorey in yesterday's SMH

Such stunts are the domain of populist, attention-seeking minor parties made safe in the knowledge they will never have to deliver them.

In the short term it may put pressure on the Government. In the long term it threatens the Liberals' economic credibility and creates a huge headache for whoever leads the party to the election.

Nelson framed it as consistent with the Liberal tradition of cutting taxes. He cited Howard's "decisive action" in 2001 to reduce excise by 1.5c a litre and abolish the twice-yearly indexation of excise to inflation.

Bunkum. Howard was motivated by flat panic, not altruism.

He had been caught trying to diddle people by 1.5c a litre when fulfilling his promise to reduce excise to ensure the GST caused no net increase to the price of fuel.

And just as he was caught, world oil prices soared. The GST fiddle was only a minor contributor to the price rise but the electorate blamed it for the lot.

It was an election year and Howard did what he had to do.

Otherwise, Howard always cited as economic madness calls to cut excise in response to rising world prices.

"It is easy to embrace opportunistic calls for reductions in the budget surplus and reductions in revenue," he said in 2000 of calls for a 5c cut.

"In the present climate of international levels of interest rates, of our concern about domestic interest rates, we see no merit at all in running the budget surplus down by the order of $1.5 billion to $2 billion."

An oil sheik need only fart and Nelson's excise reduction would be wiped out by the price fluctuation.

Angry consumers would be demanding another cut while the government was still trying to patch the original $2 billion hole in its budget.

It was a wildly irresponsible promise, especially when a pension increase, now one of the most pressing imperatives and something Nelson also supports, is going to cost billions.

And Milne in The Australian

The anti-Nelson Liberal critique of his formal budget-in-reply speech, which by any test wasn't bad in presentation terms, comes down to this: Nelson's commitment to cut 5c a litre from fuel excise in order to bring down petrol prices ends up with a much greater price tag than its $7 billion to $8billion cost to the budget.

And it is this: the decidedly populist commitment, without immediate offsetting savings, threatens the best political card the post-Howard Coalition still has to play: its credibility as an economic manager.

Those Liberals criticising the Nelson fuel tax initiative point out that it was an easy option continually rejected by cabinet during the Howard era. Why? Because of the huge hit on revenues and the relatively small impact on pump prices.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Contested Streets

I've just stumbled across this doco called Contested Streets. It looks excellent. I've ordered a copy and want to organise a screening this year.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Brendan wants Bitty

In Dr Nelson's budget response this week, we came to see an rather lame attempt at automotive popularism. Nelson wants to make a 5 cents per litre cut on the fuel taxes. He claimed that this proposal would be "modest but meaningful", yet it would also cost the government $1.8 billion a year in lost revenue. According to Dr Nelson:

This is a modest but meaningful way of helping all Australians - families, small businesses, pensioners and working people so dependant on their cars... Ninety per cent of Australian households have a car. Right now, they all need some help. Real help.

The short-term popularism of such a policy is embrassing. Rather that accept that world oil markets are changing (like a liberal), and that oil prices will increase as demand rises and production falls, Nelson is effectively trying lure an automotive public with a quick fix that might improve his popularity problem, but it won't improve peoples' mobility problems. Petrol prices will continue to go up, and the five cent saving will be made effectively meaningless if not already gobbled up by the oil companies. Remember the first home-owners grant? All it did was raise the bidding and further inflate housing prices. My guess is that Nelson wants to see if Rudd will cave in and follow the automotive popularism. However, I’m fairly confident that if Rudd wants to keep any green credentials he'll let Dr Nelson hang himself (or let Turnbull do it for him). We'll have to wait and see. The whole scenario of cutting taxes on petrol makes me ponder some more rather vulgar psychoanalytic thoughts. This is something I often do. I see the car as a breast like object that we are all supposedly ‘dependent’ on with petrol being the good mothers’ milk. Dr Nelson’s tax cuts are nothing more than an attempt to pacify the automotive public with a petroleum-like ‘dummy’. Nelson’s super-nanny state aims to make us feel better. In it, we are all addressed us as a nation of needy ‘motorists’ rather than a nation of citizens with different mobility needs.

Isn’t it time we grew up a bit Dr Nelson? Isn't it time we thought beyond this popularist BS*?
This doesn't look likely, I think Brendan wants bitty:

Canberra trip

The Canberra Bicycle Museum has a wonderful collection of bikes ranging from the pre-safety 'hobby horses' right through to today's carbon time trial bikes. There were also some amazing creations including an ice bike, tandem unicycle (yes it is possible) and war bike with spring tires. Its well worth a visit if your in Canberra. There is also a great collection of films and archive materials that you can go through in the library. Unfortunately its only open on Wednesdays.

Dreams on Wheels
(don't despair, its coming to Sydney and Melbourne!)
The Dreams on Wheels exhibition has been setup to celebrate the re-openning of the Danish Embassy, and what better way to celebrate Danish culture than the bicycle. The exhibition presents and excellent overview of how the bicycle is intergrated into everyday life within Denmark. The exhibition celebrates Danish bicycle manufactures, Danish urban planning (with the work of Jan Gehl), and the history of competitive cycling. On the night I was there, Stephen Hodge gave a wonderful lecture on the Paris-Roubaix giving a first hand account of the cobbles and the experience of being a domestique for riders such as Sean Kelly in the late 80s. We then watched the Danish doco "A Sunday in Hell" on the 1976 Paris-Roubaix which was the best cycling doco I've ever seen.

ANU is a probably the best campus for cycling in Australia. While I was there I visited the university's sustainability office ANUGreen. There is an excellent set of facilities for bicycle parking across the uni. ANU also has a bicycle co-op giving students bicycles for $50. The bicycles can then can be sold back to the co-op for $30 once students have finished their degrees. The uni also runs a 'Go Green, Get Lean' program. I found out that 40% of students and staff travel to uni by either bicycle or public transport. I also found out that if you take your bike on a bus in Canberra, you don't have to pay a fair. It appears to be the complete opposite as to what we have in Sydney where you can't take a bike on the bus, and if you take one on the train you pay double. Clearly we're still in the Dark Ages.
Canberra is a great city to cycle around, however I noticed that the drivers were actually more aggressive that I thought. I think most people in Canberra use the footpaths and the off-road bicycle lanes. So, when a roadie like me turned up, the car drivers were probably less used to seeing someone take the lane. I took my fixie down on the bus. It worked out to be the perfect bike to travel with because if I was traveling with a bike with a dereailuer and gear-levers, they would probably be much more vulnerable to damage. It took only 5mins to pull my fixie out of its soft bike bag then put it back together. The flat terrain of the city also made it perfect for cycling with only one gear.
No gears, is no problem in Canberra.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bypass: The Story of a Road

I’m heading to Canberra tomorrow to check out the Dreams on Wheels exhibition. I am lucky enough to convince myself that this activity is part of my ‘research’ when I should be cranking out the next paper or another interview transcript. To even further delude myself of scholarly productivity, I’ve taken to reading a novel called Bypass: The Story of a Road. Written by Michael McGirr, Bypass is the story about the Hume Highway as it runs from Sydney to Melbourne. McGirr, a 40yo washed out ex-priest, decides to ride his bike along the entirety of the Hume. As he goes from town to town, he weaves together a biography of the road with its history, local folk-law, personal observations and his own story of the journey. McGirr makes a lot of humorous comments. For instance:

Roads are political. Building them is a sign that somebody is the boss. Hitler built the autobahn to impress underlings. Osama Bin Laden built roads in Sudan in the early nineties after he had been exiled there, to let the people know he was a force to be reckoned with. There are men who concrete the driveway every time the daughter brings home a new boyfriend.

Furthermore, as McGirr rode through my old suburb of Ashfield, I had to crack up with laughter at the astuteness of his observations:

[I] had reached Ashfield where I turned onto the Hume Highway itself. There is a point in every city where the number of coffee shops and cafes is suddenly exceeded by the number of automotive businesses, a point where latte land gives a way to a fantasy of wheels. This is what delineates city from the suburbs and every year in Sydney the place moves a little further west. At the time I was riding it was easy to locate. It was marked by a hybrid business in Enfield where you could get your vehicle washed while you had a cappuccino.

So far, I’ve just rolled through Picton in the book and have learned the history of the Truckers blockade at the top of Razorback in 1979, which nearly bought Sydney to a standstill. I hope to read my way to Goulburn before my bus takes the Federal Hwy turn off to Canberra.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Jason and the broken kettle

In Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, there is a famous story in which he explores the problem of denial and unconscious thought processes. It goes like this:

.. the dream… reminded one vividly of a defence put forward by the man who was charged by one of his neighbours with having given him back a borrowed kettle in a damaged condition. The defendant asserted, first, that he had given it back undamaged; secondly that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it; and, thirdly, that he never borrowed a kettle from his neighbour at all. So much the better if only a single one of these three lines of defence were to be accepted as valid the man would have to be acquitted. (Vol 4, Pelican Freud Library, p197)

For Freud, unconscious thought processes involve no logic or contradiction. Acts of denial and disavowal involve processes whereby one projects certain ‘realities’ about the way things are, such ideas can comfort us from the psychic injuries incurred by recognising we may have done something wrong, stupid or cowardly. Of course, life and our relationships with others are full of such happenings, the challenge for all of us is to be aware of when we are ‘acting out’ in such ways. Bart Simpson’s “I didn’t do it, no body saw me do it, you can’t prove anything” is a modern day version of the broken kettle. The story of the broken kettle indicates that sometimes in our effort to protect our conceptions of ‘reality’, we go too far and start to construct contradictory justifications that only serve to reveal the work of fantasy within our minds. In fact sometimes we can come up with also sorts of horse-shit to convince ourselves that we did nothing wrong.

Enter Jason of Claymore.

My car stalled
(then it magically got better and I drove off from the scene of an accident)

My girlfriend said there's no damage, its not our fault, lets go...

(but neither driver nor passenger had anyway of checking for damage because they were both too scared to get out of the car with the angry group of cyclists).

Because I don't sorta, I'm intimidated by the police, I don't like the police, I don't really like them that much... some are good, some arn't, I'm intimidated by the police, and I choose not to do anything about it, cause... there is no damage to my car, there's a tiny scratch on my boot where a handle bar must of hit...

I think we'll leave this one for the jury to decide! Another Bonfire of the Vanities.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

"Ban these elitist wankers from the road and give the car driver a medal."

Thank you Stephen (10:57am) from Quakers Hills

And hell gets hotter and hotter. Bad things comes in threes. Even our Olympic champions riding at up 60km/h have not been spared. Here is the story of today's horror in both the Telegraph and the SMH

Its going to take some time to digest all this. I've saved all the readers 187 comments from the Telegraph for little critical analysis. However, the 'buts', 'no regos' and the 'its their own fault for...' amass amongst the this pit of stupidity running (sorry, driving) through this city.

Go here to see Ben Kersten give a first hand account of the incident.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Your lucky day in hell

Today has not been a happy day in the land of bike love. It seems to be one of those times where idiocy rules supreme and one wonders if they are slowly falling into a world of paranoid delusional fantasies and developing a persecution complex. Remember bumping into fellow Howard-haters a few years ago and they’d start talking about moving to New Zealand if Howard won another election. Did they go? Of course not, but they enjoyed thinking about the idea of escaping to another place. Well I feel like that right now. Something is rotten in the State of NSW and I’m not talking about the developer contributions or the electricity sell off. To begin with, it was reported that the NSW State Government plans to use 3 billion dollars from the sale of the States electricity to part-fund none other than another friggin private motorway (the M4 East). We’ve only spent the last 20 years building more private motorways (M2, M5, M7, Cross City Tunnel, Lane Cove tunnel, Harbour Tunnel, Eastern Distributor etc), while we've keep a railway system that has barely improved since 1915. All the motorways seem to have resulted in is more traffic and longer commuting times. As this recent report revealed, Sydney’s traffic is crawling, not commuting’. The fact that petrol prices are ticketed to go through the roof is just the icing on cake. What a joy it is to live in such truly unenlightened times.
In other news, a local resident group in Surry Hills has started a campaign against the new separated cycleway that is planned to be built on Bourke Street this year. The cycleway is meant to look like this. Note all the trees.

However, some ambiguity in the planners report, has lead some residents to claim that the entire street would be clear-felled.
Of course, we know that the evil cyclists are really out to destroy the trees. That’s the kinda thing cyclists like doing. This protest has nothing to do with the fact that the residents may lose a few on-street car parking spaces (of course not!). Why would residents covertly aim to protect car-parking spaces when they really love trees?

And so the legacy of the Rum Corps and the Emerald City goes on. If Red Ken' is looking for a new job, please apply here.

Hell is getting hotter. Today brings news that the only ‘actual existing’ bike lane in Sydney-town is about to disappear. Sure it will be a bus lane, great for 30km/h bike hoons like myself, but what about everyone else? The Boulevard of broken dreams – Park and William Sts – was meant to be the main east to west access way into the city. Then the state gov. got nervous facing a motorist revolt over congestion heading into the city and anger against the road changes brought about by the now-bankrupt Cross City Tunnel. So, they decided to take three blocks of bike lanes back to make one more westbound lane, leaving only a semblance of a cycleway in disconnected parts at the top of Park Street and the exit ramp head up to Kings Cross. In seems that the saga of bike planning in Sydney is moving from the ridiculous to the sublime.