Politics and the Art Inner-Urban Cycling

Following is a conversation between myself and Verity Firth, state member for Balmain.

Hi Verity,

I don't apologise for the tone. I'm out in this stuff every day and nothing gets better. If anyone should be apologising, it should be the government. You've been in power for 12 years and the results of your efforts to wean Sydneysiders away from their cars even occasionally is pitiful.

It's becoming increasingly difficult to take the government seriously as you have removed the previous two bike plans before virtually anything was implemented. The cycling community fully expects the same to happen to this one, too. As far we're concerned, this new "plan" is just another announcement. There is no process for submissions, no deadline. We also note that the two ministers behind the announcement have moved on. Of very serious concern to us is that Roozendaal is now the treasurer and he is a known anti-cyclist. Remember, this is the guy who said that cyclists should not be on the road during peak hour. As Roozendaal is going to be paying the bills from now on, we don't expect much.

We also note that the new Roads Minister, Michael Daly is a former NRMA employee. Enough said on that.

At least we agree one one thing: "that cycling facilities and community attitudes have a long way to go". So, what's wrong with Della Bosca's attitude? He cycles from his mother's place in Leichhardt to Parliament House. Why can't he be up front about it? A recent Herald story on him said that it "is understood Mr Della Bosca spent much of his time while he was suspended from cabinet swimming and cycling to lose weight." It is "understood" because he won't come out and say so. Is it that he is ashamed of being a cyclist or (I suspect that this is the real reason) he does not want to offend his petrol head constituents? If we had government members proudly saying that they are cyclists and they ride to work it would go along way towards fixing community attitudes.

You can read the Herald article here.
http://tinyurl.com/5zj5mc

I'm sure that when the new plan is finalised, it'll have lots of proposals for new infrastructure. The problem that many of us see with an infrastructure-led approach is that it gives you an excuse to not do anything when money is tight. It doesn't cost much to work on attitudes. Also, if history is a guide, I fail to see how painting bicycle symbols under parked cars helps us. I would rather restrict car access than build bicycle infrastructure. However, Eric Roozendaal, that well known traffic engineer, doesn't see that as a "common-sense" solution. God help us that this guy is now treasurer.

Some of us don't have short memories. I'm still smarting at the removal of the breakdown lane from the airport tunnel because cars are soooooooooooooooo much more important. I still recall how the bicycle community was consulted about the design of the bicycle path on the (now) Anzac Bridge. Their input was ignored and so we have the dangerous situation where the ramp on the city side hits the street outside a large block of flats. There is often a taxi parked across that ramp in the morning. Also, we're still waiting for the contra lane in Wilson Street to be finished.

Furthermore, as long as the RTA continues its policy of only funding shared facilities (i.e. not bicycle-only paths) as well as continuing to place road work signs on bike paths, nothing is going to change.

I know I'm sounding quite negative, but when you get to my age you'll start to see things in a different light. The recent history of cycling in Sydney is littered with broken promises and poor government attitudes. I don't expect it to be any different this time around. I know I'm sounding like a grumpy old man, but I'm sick of being classed as an eccentric because my preferred mode of transport does not pollute and requires very little in the way of infrastructure; nor does it require us to go war to sure-up fuel for it.

Perhaps you should come to a BikeSydney meeting and meet some real-life commuter cyclists. Our next meeting is 6:00 tonight, which is probably a bit too short notice for you. Our usual venue is unavailable, so we're meeting at the Sydney Park Hotel in King St Newtown and the corner of Lord St and you're most welcome. We meet on the third Wednesday of the month if you're interested.

At least you got back to me so I know that you know and I'm appreciative of that. Roozendaal must be too busy to respond to emails from cyclists.

Kind regards.

Chris Virtue

ElectorateOffice Balmain wrote:
> Dear Chris
>
> I was disappointed to read the tone of your email, especially as we have corresponded productively before. I absolutely support cycling, and not just through saying nice things. I think that the action I have taken while Minister for the Environment and as Member for Balmain shows this.
>
> As you would be aware, cycling planning and budgets are directed by the RTA and the Minister for Roads. However I believe that the Department for the Environment and Climate Change (DECC) needs to be a player in cycling planning. When I was Minister, I directed DECC to put significant resources and time into building up Environment's presence in cycling planning and to working with the RTA. This was the foundation of the "On Your Bike" program. We are now starting to see results of this work.
>
> We've achieved some great wins in cycling this year, including funding the Sydney Regional Bike Network Plan (announced in July) and developing a new $180 000 "AustCycle" cycling education and training program. I've also held three "Active Transport" Conferences to get interested people in the community – planners, councils, cyclists, schools etc – in the same room to talk about what we need to do on cycling in NSW.
>
> Of course I acknowledge that cycling facilities and community attitudes have a long way to go. But I would like to think that by working productively with planners and local BUGs things can get better - something that won't be achieved if we snipe at each other.
>
> As you may know I was recently appointed as Minister for Education, and Carmel Tebbutt has been appointed as Minister for the Environment and Climate Change. If you need to contact her office, the email is: office@tebbutt.minister.nsw.gov.au . However, I of course intend to stay active around this issue as Member for Balmain.
>
> King Regards, and feel free to contact me anytime,
> Verity
>
> PS: I've attached the release for the Inner City Cycle Strategy for your interest. This program was announced in July.
>
>
> *Verity Firth MP*
> *Member for BALMAIN*
>
> 112a Glebe Point Rd, GLEBE NSW 2037
> *Ph: *02 9660 7586
> *Fx: *02 9660 6112
> *EM:* balmain@parliament.nsw.gov.au
>
>
> /Please think of the environment before printing this email./
>
>
>
> NOTICE –
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>
>
> The New South Wales Parliament does not guarantee that this communication is free of errors, virus, interception or interference.
>
>
> >>> "Chris Virtue" 3/09/2008 9:42 am >>>
> But did you get on your bike today? Don't let these ignorant bastards win.
>
> You also need to tell Verity Firth because she's soooooooooooooooooooooo
> committed to cycling or so she says. Her electorate email is
> balmain@parliament.nsw.gov.au
>
> Her ministerial email is office@firth.minister.nsw.gov.au
>
> You could ask her how producing a plan that is not going to be implemented
> is going to help in those situations.
>
> Meanwhile, I saw a cyclist get pulled over by the coppers in King Street
> Newtown because he weasn't wearing a helmet. Puty they missed the cow in
> the red car aggressively tailgating me.
>
>
> > Got heavily abused by a driver yesterday on the way home, telling me I
> > shouldn't be on the road. Made me not want to get on my bike this
> > morning.
> >
> > Chris Morris Development Analyst
> > t +61 2 9921 4298 f +61 2 9921 8123
> > Minter Ellison Lawyers Aurora Place * 88 Phillip Street * Sydney * NSW
> > 2000
> > chris.morris@minterellison.com
> > www.minterellison.com
> >
> >
> >
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>
>
> *************************************************
> Chris Virtue
> In House Technologies Pty Ltd
>
> __O Don't blame me
> _`\<, I ride a bicycle!
> (_)/(_)
> *************************************************
>
>
>
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--
***************************************************
Chris Virtue

__O In House Technologies
\_\<, - a cyclist-friendly company
( )/( )

The revolution will not be motorised
- apologies to Gil Scott-Heron
***************************************************

Views: 76

Comment by Dabba on May 30, 2009 at 7:26pm
Isn't it interesting how pollies don't like being told that they are doing a piss poor job! Had the same with my local fe'ral member because Kevvy's boys held up funding for over 18 months on a 4km cycleway that had been promised by dishonest John's mob. All due to the need for transparency. Funding from a coalition government into a safe labor seat - how could that have been pork barrelling?
Comment by Chris Virtue on May 31, 2009 at 10:38am
Did you see that Albanese is providing funds for an entire 134 km cycleway in Victoria?

Check this out.
Comment by Andrew on May 31, 2009 at 11:32am
My letter just sent to the minister
"Minister Albanese,

While it is good to see you put money into cycling in Victoria, what cycling infrastructure are you funding in NSW? I find it disappointing that the City of Sydney have asked for cycling funding for such projects as the Harbour Bridge Cycling Link and they have been ignored. When can we expect similar announcements for NSW?"
Comment by Chris Virtue on May 31, 2009 at 11:43am
We be havin' a letter writers' group on ye olde SC. Nail ye colours to the mast there, matey.

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