Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Battle for Randwick City Council's Transport Soul

It is being billed locally as the "The Battle for Randwick City Council's Transport Soul".
Next Tuesday night (22nd June) highly respected Greens Councillor Murray Matson will go head to head with the absurd No Parking Meters Party Councillor Charles Matthews over whether unregistered bike riders are a subsidised danger to the community.

Matthews is running for the NSW state upper house on a hard-line policy that bike riders represent both a safety threat and an economic burden on the state. As if yet another crack pot, right wing extremist in our Upper House wouldn't be an economic burden! His position flies in the face of the mountains of published evidence that cycling provides huge economic and environmental benefits. Matthews previous achievments include chairing a Randwick Council Committee that awarded a Community prize to himself! The Council has since had to institute new rules that Councillors cannot award themselves such honours.

Matson is a former Mayor of Randwick who helped pioneer the annual Sydney Body Art Ride, a "semi-naked bike ride" from The University of NSW to Maroubra beach on the grounds that it
would help save the planet and raise money for charity. The event subsequently raised over $60,000 for the Children's Cancer Institute while generating positive publicity world wide, attracting tourists and highlighting the progressive work of Randwick City Council.

Councillor Matthews describes Matson as his "worst enemy."

On Tuesday night Matthews will be attempting to force through a motion that other NSW Councils be lobbied to impose a $50 annual registration fee on bike riders. The votes of the various councillors will be watched with great interest by the local community.

Matson will oppose the motion on the grounds that it will act as a disincentive to New South Wales residents trying to adopt a low carbon foot print and who are already sacrificing a lot for the common good.

Matthews has attempted to justify his bizarre motion in a number of suburban newspapers with provocative comments designed to garner publicity for his bid to become a publicly subsidised crusader in our Upper House along side other ratbag extremists like Australians Against Further Immigration, the Citizens Electoral Council, the Shooters Party and Fred Nile's Call to Australia. The Country Party, a small rural party with no ties to the National Party, has the chauvinist slogan "Australia for Australians" on its campaign leaflet. The Riders' and Motorists' candidate, Piet Baird, is a former ASIO counter-terrorist agent. It is quite clear that the right is making a concerted effort to maximise its vote in the upper house by flooding the ballot paper with various front groups in order to support the Liberal-National Coalition or Nile's Call to Australia.

The Cumberland Courier reports that Matthews has even tried to establish a link between bicyclists and violent crime! Cr Matson will attempt to find a link between Cr Matthews and reality, although no-one expects him to succeed. (Thanks Moz) The same paper outlines Matthews crackpot economic "rationalist" analysis of the community cost of bike riders. He claims that although a lot of money was spent getting cyclists onto the roads, they paid nothing in return. Even the RTA has rejected Matthews ill informed proposal.

Thankfully Matson has countered by speaking up for the bike fraternity. He said today, "The NSW bike lobby has been thrown into emotional free fall by news of the No Parking Meters Party motion at Randwick. Up until now they were used to being regarded as lycra glad urban heroes who went out and tried to reduce road congestion by dodging death every day on un separated bike paths. Now suddenly its' they themselves who are being condemned as the potential killers! Matthews has also added insult to injury by insisting that they should be paying for the practically non-existent bike paths that are actually threatening their lives."

Cr Matthew's motion to Tuesday night's meeting reads as follows.

"That this Council submits a motion to the next Local Government Association Conference requesting all NSW Councils to adopt a state wide approach to introducing registration fees for bicycles in all Local Government areas, such motion to read as follows:

That all NSW Councils, as part of their respective transport plans, look at ways of introducing a registration fee for pushbikes in their Council area. This fee would be payable to the Council and would ensure that cyclists pay their fair share towards the upkeep of roadways and cycle ways in the Council area."

Cr Matson has slammed the wording of the motion as unthought through because bike riders already pay Councils their fair share to up keep roads and bike paths either directly through their own rates or indirectly via the rates that their land lords pay. The No Parking Meters Party has just declared that it stands for the economic persecution of bike riders.

Cr Matson has also called Cr Matthews political usage of the Eastlakes death as shameless. He said, "This will be an unfair rate slug on a section of the community that the No Parking Meters Party thinks it can intimidate into silence by shamelessly exploiting the death of that poor woman in Eastlakes."

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Pedal power in Sydney

Business is booming for Sydney’s bike shops, with the roll out of Sydney Council’s cycling network and State Government support for a regional network linking 164 Sydney suburbs.

Clarence St Cyclery opened the country’s first women’s bike shop in May and customers are rolling in, store manager Jenny Fay said.

The increase in custom was significant and many women were looking for bikes with baby carriers, she said.

“We have every type of female cyclist coming in from regular commuters to high performance athletes, to recreational and weekend cyclists to mothers who want to carry their child on the back of the bike. We have a lot of women coming in wanting to get a bike with a baby seat,’’ she said.

“Our commuter and recreational bikes have shot through the roof, as has the high visibility apparel for people riding at night. We know there are more people riding to work because they are buying the clothing for the darker evening journeys back home.’’

Ms Fay said the new bike paths were making cyclists feel safer. “They are alleviating that fear that you have no chance on the street with cars,’’ she said.

Sydney motorists have become more aware as well.

‘’Drivers are beginning to realise that bikes are part of life and that they are getting more popular, especially for shorter trips. It’s a nice feeling when you are passing cars stuck in traffic,’’ Ms Fay said.

More women also were realising that commuting by bike not only saved time and money but also made gym fees redundant. Ms Fay quoted research commissioned by Sydney Council that predicted a 66 per cent increase in bike trips by 2016.

Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has pointed to sections of the research which found that an inner city regional bike network would deliver at least $506 million - or $3.88 for every dollar spent - in net economic benefits in 30 years.

Cr Moore said women made up 70 per cent of people taking part in the council’s free cycling courses, covering bike maintenance and responsible riding.

“More than eight out of 10 people say they would take up cycling or ride their bikes more often if there were a safer cycle network,’’ Cr Moore said.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Bedroom Philosopher - Northcote (So Hungover)

This is a new music video directed by my friend Craig Melville a couple of weeks ago. I gave him a hand organising the cameo rock star appearances. And yes it does include bicycles. What hipster music video would be complete without a fixie?

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Melbourne - how to run a city

I just got back from doing some filming in Melbourne. I'd never been to Melbourne so in my spare time I went exploring. I was very impressed. Melbourne is such a beautiful, liveable city. Everything seemed to be just a little bit cleverer. Street Art, trams, stylish people hanging out in lane-way cafes, beautiful, well planned architecture, heritage, parks but my personal favourite was the bicycle infrastructure. I took lots of photos which you can see here.

It was nice to come back to Sydney, it's so much warmer here! But I really do think we could learn a lot about city planning from our friends in Victoria.

Even the post is delivered by bicycle in Melbourne.

One of the crew told me the best coffee in town was at a place called Cafe Racer down on the promenade at St Kilda. It was a long walk and I was seriously missing my bike by the time I arrived but the coffee was worth it. Imagine my delight when I realised the whole cafe was dedicated to the service of cyclists!

The next day the crew dropped me off in Federation Square where I came across this.

Apparently it was only installed last week! I put my two bucks in and off I went. The bike was a bit heavy and cumbersome but there are no hills so it was pretty cool. I was able to explore the whole cbd in a couple of hours. Everywhere I went friendly people stopped me to ask how the bike was going and remind me that I should be wearing a helmet. (n.b. I soon learned not to admit to being from Sydney, the friendliness evaporates pretty quickly when you say that...)

Another problem was that I didn't have a lock or lights but I'm sure they will sort all that out soon enough. It was pretty awesome. The next day the crew told me that when they filmed the opening of the scheme for ABC news a young woman got fined $110 for not having a helmet after riding just 20 meters! The poor publicity officer probably had a nervous breakdown...

All the kids ride too. Instead of being delivered to school in a huge, child crushing 4wd, you see them wobbling along following Mum or Dad on their bike. They get upset when a car cuts them off but the parents just laugh and say "come on kid, you're alright"

Another funny thing was that I didn't see a single recumbent, even grumpy men with beards ride two wheelers in Melbourne!

And dogs do their own shopping!

Bike parking at the bakery

Bourke Street Bakery has recently opened a new shop at 2 Mitchell St, Marrickville. While cycling and coffee have always gone together, presently there is nowhere to tie ones bike up when visiting the bakery – not even a street pole. The bakery is located in the area with the highest percentage of cycling trips in NSW and it should do more to encourage sensible transport options for local customers.

We the undersigned request that the Bourke Street Bakery Marrickville demonstrate their support for cycling, sustainability, and the Marrickville community by encouraging its customers to ride to the shop and provide them appropriate bicycle parking facilities.

Click on this link to sign the petition. It takes two minutes.