Cycling in Sydney Australia
Not a sight you see on December 25 but, the next day, riders are out in force... On the Akuna Bay route
There are several traditions I observe each year on the morning of the December 25 public holiday (usually; last year being an exception). One of them is to go for a longish bike ride. Another is to write something about it here – mostly to exult in how little motor traffic there was, to whinge about how few other cyclists I saw on my ride, and to harangue my reader for missing out on the best morning of the year to ride. I don't know why I bother since my reader seems to be paying no attention, judging how cyclist numbers keep plummeting. But that's not going to stop me.
This year's observed rider rate was no exception, as might be expected, given recent statistics released by the Australian Bicycle Council. The ABC figures showed that all government efforts at increasing rider numbers had failed, indeed there were fewer cyclists than six years ago, so the goal of doubling participation would be abandoned in the hope such a tactic would work better. No doubt these efforts included things like the ongoing NSW police Operation Pedro and Dunce Gay's advocacy exercises in removing cycleways, increasing fines to obscene levels, and demonising bike riders generally. With Dunce now out of the way, things can surely only improve.
But I digress. You want to hear numbers, I know.
OK, then. How does twenty (20) in 60 km sound? I'll give you multiple choice options:
(c) Utterly dire
(d) All of the above
Yep, that was it. Twenty other riders between 7.00 and 9.30 a.m. over that distance on a popular North Shore circuit and on some otherwise well-used shared paths. A mere 0.3 cyclists per km, when the figure of one/km is a low benchmark I have observed in previous years. I'm going for (d) and maybe adding (e) Diabolically Awful, and (f) Totally Irresponsible Waste Of Good Riding Time. For shame, Sydney Cyclists!
All right, there were possibly some mitigating factors. The weather was one. It was dismal. There was a threat of rain. But that was all it was, a threat. Yes, there was some drizzle. But drizzle is not rain. Yes, the roads were damp in places. But even so, there was hardly any spray off the Lynskey's tyres. Yes, it was cool, with temperatures hovering around 15 degrees, according to my Garmin. Actually a blessed relief from the heat of recent days. A couple of times I felt my rear tyre slip, under sudden braking and on a steep, out-of-the-saddle climb. It was necessary to be cautious, especially on downhill bends. But, in reality, it was glorious out there, and even some of the few motorists seemed to be infused with public holiday spirit, showing patience and allowing extra overtaking space.
My route took me north along Pacific Highway, where I saw my first two riders. One was on the footpath, even in the minimal motor traffic conditions, such is the hostile vibe that bit of road gives off. I descended Fullers Rd to Lane Cove National Park's Riverside Drive, normally a hotbed of cycling activity early on weekends and holidays. No-one. Oh, there was a woman on a strange, small-wheeled, bicycle-shaped-object powered by a treadle system panting up the hill near De Burghs Bridge who I counted as number three.
Onto the M2 shoulder, then the shared path up to Kissing Point Rd. Crickets. One guy riding down the road as I exited at the Turramurra side. A fifth rider was coming out of KCNP, while number six was the bloke wearing the official French 2011 Paris-Brest-Paris shirt who overtook me on the descent to Bobbin Head. I was somewhat annoyed I didn't get the chance to find out who he was and compare notes, though it's been 22 short years since I was there.
By the time I reached the bottom of the hill, the tally had doubled, (without government assistance, or perhaps because of lack of it) and a few riders were descending as I climbed towards Mt Colah.
There was a 16th rider remounting outside an open cafe at Asquith (which blows that excuse out of the water) and another bike parked beside him (which doesn't count; I need to see riders).
From there all the way home via my patented backstreet route plus bits of still-quiet Pacific Hwy, I saw a mere four more riders.
I've said it before and I'll say it until I'm blue in the face: I simply can't understand such blatant failure by bike riders to take advantage of the year's best riding day. What am I missing? Is there something else on today??