Keeping us safe… (updated)

August 8, 2017 at 16:58 | Posted in bicycles | 6 Comments
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I got pulled over the cops the other day. Rather excitingly, it’s the first time I’ve ever been pulled over with lights and sirens blaring!

The reason was that I was riding like cyclists do in 98% of the world – that is to say without a polystyrene hat. In Australia, of course, this deviant behaviour is considered a criminal offence. And not a minor one – the fine is $325. That’s the same as a car driver not giving way to pedestrians on a crossing flashing amber, and drinking alcohol whilst driving.

I spoke to the officers, and explained I have an exemption, and showed it to them. It remains to see if they accept it or if I get a ticket through the post. But what a waste of everyone’s time.

Still, it seems the NSW police are keen to ensure vulnerable road users are suitably penalised for daring to use a Sydney road network that is hostile towards them. A few days later, I was in the city and witnessed no less than five motorcycle cops booking pedestrians who dared to scuttle across a pedestrian crossing when it wasn’t green. Given that this is right outside Sydney Central Station and there are a lot of pedestrians needing to cross, that there is relatively few vehicles, and that the green time for pedestrians is woeful (about five seconds every three minutes), you can hardly blame a few people for crossing on the red man.

But no, the NSW police were there, handing out tickets ($72, if you were interested). Whilst I watched, I saw two cars drive through on very amber lights ($325, as explained above), and one on red ($433), but rather than jumping onto their powerful motorcycles to catch the miscreants putting people’s lives in danger, they just chatted amongst themselves.

Great to know our safety is so important to them.

Update:

In recent news, it was reported that the number of fines issued to cyclists rose massively last year  – $1.99m in fines, compared to $0.33m the previous year. The number of injuries also fell, by about 7% – but cycling participation fell about 25% (from 17% of people to 12.5% of people regularly riding bicycles). This means, of course, that cycling actually became more dangerous last year. All those fines and police activity have driven people off their bikes, and made it more dangerous for those that remain.

And, true to form, I was pulled over yet again this morning. This is on a ride where I saw perhaps 4 drivers using a mobile phone, and close to 10 drivers driving through an amber or red light. So a pretty typical ride. The road safety priorities in NSW (and Australia more generally) are truly f—-d.

police again

City cycling without ID

December 6, 2016 at 11:13 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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cyclewaysIt’s Positive Tuesday again. Eagle-eyed readers will note that I’ve exceeded the initial promise to do six good news stories, but I figured that pushing on can’t be a bad thing. Apart from anything else it improves my mood, even if you are getting sick of the relentless positivity.

And there’s two bits of good news this week. The first is that the NSW government has dropped the requirements for bicycle riders to carry ID. This bizarre law was slated to come in in 2017, but now it’s not going to happen. To be honest, I had a suspicion from the beginning that it wasn’t going to eventuate, given the various legal and logistical hurdles any such legislation would need to overcome. It was always about creating another headline to beat-up cyclists, and given that this desired effect was satisfactorily delivered, I guess the rabidly anti-cyclist NSW government figured there wasn’t anything else to gain and quietly dropped the idea. What has been interesting though is all the cycling ‘advocacy’ organisation who previously supported the law now coming out can claiming they never wanted it, and were instrumental in getting it scrapped (take a bow, AGF). With advocates like these, who needs enemies…

And so onto the other bit of good news. I had occasion to ride through the city at peak time last week, something I now rarely have cause to do. And what struck me was how many cyclists there were. Yes, there have been reports that cycling levels have declined slightly (the NSW government are rejoicing at this, given that have also just dropped any targets they might have had for cycling participation). But when you ride in the city, you can’t help but be struck by how many cyclists there are. The best part about this for me was how courteous the motor traffic was. On my normal route to work I am a lone cyclist, and I experience inconsiderate driving often. But it really seems that, in a place where motorists are used to cyclists and accept that they are legitimate road users, they behave better. This cheered me up no end, and reinforced to me the feeling I had after visiting Manly. In NSW we have the most anti-cycling government anywhere in the world. At every turn they find ways to discourage, punish and harass cyclists. And yet cycling is happening in large numbers, with what feels like unstoppable momentum. Duncan Gay won’t kill it. The best he can do is constrain it a bit, but when finally we get a more progressive government, I sense the cork will pop and suddenly there could be a surge in cycling, benefiting everyone who lives and works in Sydney and NSW more generally.

Don’t get discouraged folks. Just keep pushing those pedals. The revolution is coming.

College St Cycleway – RIP

July 26, 2015 at 10:50 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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college stI don’t normally have reason to ride through the eastern part of the CBD, but the other day I did need to, to get out to an exhibition in Moore Park. I sort of followed my nose, and by happy chance found myself on the College Street Cycleway.
I bowled along merrily, enjoying the respite from the city traffic. My otherwise happy mood was somewhat darkened by my reflections on the future for that particular cycleway.

Successful though it is, carrying thousands of cyclists a day (far more people than are carried by the adjacent traffic lane) today is the day it starts to be ripped up, sacrificed to the motordom-worshiping ideology of the NSW state government.

Even before the current government took power, the now roads minister, Duncan Gay, was pretty forthright on his views on bicycles. Basically, he sees them as toys, a nuisance, something that gets in the way of ‘proper’ traffic. He’s also fairly soft on public transport. No, the proper role for his department, and vision for the metropolis of Sydney, is to squeeze as many private cars into it as possible, to the detriment of everyone else who is merely ‘getting in the way’. The solutions he has come up with for this are various, but include narrowing already crowded footpaths, banning car share spaces, building eye-wateringly expensive motorways that terminate at some of Sydney’s most choked streets, forcing cyclists to register and, of course, ripping out cycleways.

Oblivious to the international consensus on urban planning that transcends political boundaries and sees cities such as London, New York, Seoul, Paris and Montreal embrace enhanced access for pedestrians, cyclists and public transport, Duncan Gay bowls on relentlessly, throwing out one-lines about ‘latte-sipping chattering classes‘ whenever he is challenged.

It’s enough to make you weep. And get angry. Still, for today at least, you can feel better by going for a nice calming ride along College Street, admiring the views of the park and the cathedral. Enjoy it while you can.

 

Another cycling pot-pourri

June 19, 2015 at 12:00 | Posted in bicycles | 2 Comments
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Some more bits and bobs from my travels, none of which are interesting to justify an entire article..

Public Bike Share in Sydney

bikehiresydneyWho knew there was a bike share scheme running in Sydney? I came across this outside the Ibis hotel in Darling Harbour. Three dusty bikes, looking little used. Apparently helmets are available for free from the hotel reception. So that’s all right then.

At $11 for an hour, it seems a little steep, and there’s only two stations in Sydney. But I suppose if you wanted to spend $11 to get from the Ibis to the Holiday Inn it could be handy…

The CoS, of course, would like to implement a proper municipal system, but won’t do so unless there is a relaxation in helmet laws, in order to avoid the white elephants installed in Brisbane and Melbourne.

Chatswood Bike Lanes

bikelanechatswood bikelanesqueezeThere’s a bike lane near where I work – or at least the sign for one. although whether this counts as a real one is not 100% clear, as according to the road rules it has to have a ‘start’ sign as well. This is the type of ‘door zone’ lane that has been associated with at least two fatalities recently, and cyclists generally would be well advised to avoid them – either take the lane or ride on that nice empty footpath.
However, Chatswood council do like to dial things up a bit, by not only installing such lethal infrastructure, but by then narrowing it at an artificial pinch point. One imagines that this pinch point was initially there to slow motor traffic, but clearly to thus inconvenience drivers is unacceptable. So instead drivers are invited to power through with a full width lane, whilst cyclists get even more squeezed against the parked cars. Removing two car parking spaces to give cyclists space was also clearly not on the agenda…

Bike on Bike action

bikeonbikeblog I once again recently ended up with a bike stuck at work, so needed to bring two home at once. It’s something I’ve done many times, but it does make me somehow happy to ride along with a bike on a bike.

 

 

Adding Utility

bikebasket Chillikebab jnr wanted to up the practicality of her bike, so used some of her birthday money to buy a basket. Top choice, I say, and perfect for collecting interesting leaves, twigs and other artifacts from the park. Clearly a budding utility cyclist.

 

Riders on the storm

April 29, 2015 at 20:49 | Posted in bicycles | Leave a comment
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‘The storm of the Century’. “Stormpocalypse’. These were the headlines after Sydney recently copped some bad weather. Some areas north of Sydney had some truly appalling weather – with significant flooding, houses washed away, and tragically a number of people died.

Central Sydney, however, got some heavy rain and it was a bit windy. Yes, there were a few local streets a bit flooded. A fair few trees came down. Some houses were damaged a bit. But it did seem a bit odd that the Sydney Morning Herald seemed to devote so much space to the problems of umbrellas being turned inside out. Umbrellageddon indeed…

pathblockedThings did all get quite exciting when the NSW Premier, Mike Baird, told everyone to go home early to avoid the storm. This prompted a mass exodus from our office, and many people offered me a lift, as surely I wasn’t going to ride?

Well, of course I was. As I said to my colleagues, I’d get wet, but get home on time. They were going to be stuck in a traffic jam for five hours. So I rode home, and yes, it was wet and rather windy, but not that bad. I did pass a lot of stationary traffic, however…

The next morning, there was a problem, however. A tree had come down over the path leading to Gladesville Bridge, completely blocking the way. This is the only way to access the path over the bridge, and is a busy commuter route. The steel fence made it rather hard to get round, although I (and several others) managed to lift our bikes over and then climb over ourselves.

pathclearSo the following morning I took a pair of secateurs (I couldn’t fit anything bigger in my bag), with a view to cutting my way through. Cutting through a fallen tree with some small shears is actually rather hard, I discovered, but I am rather stubborn and once I get started I like to finish. So I hacked away at the thick foliage, working the blades round and round each branch until it yielded. After about an hour, I had cleared a small path through. Just as I finished, someone rode through on a mountain bike, barely slowing down. My path was open!

I did report the fallen tree to both the council and the RMS (Sydney roads authority), but as yet it has not been properly cleared. I daresay there is quite a backlog of work to be done; however one wonders if the trees that blocked major commuter motorist routes were attended to rather sooner…

Finally, I must tip my hat to this mystery cyclist, whose image has been flashed across the globe as he powers through Sydney floodwaters. If ever there was a picture that demonstrated the practicality and exuberance of cycling vs the impotent, soulless scourge of the motor vehicle, it is surely this!

 

cycliststorm

New commute

March 11, 2014 at 18:42 | Posted in bicycles | 3 Comments
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mowbrayI have a new job. And with the new job comes a new location – I am now riding in pretty much diametrically the opposite direction, heading west to Chatswood, instead of into the city.

Although not especially different in terms of distance (just a few kms more), it couldn’t be more different in terms of route. Previously I could ride into work in the CBD pretty much on separated bike paths / SUPs the whole way. Now I have to negotiate the cycling glory that is Gladesville Bridge before braving the wonders of Mowbray Road.

It’s interesting in a number of ways, and has certainly given me pause for thought about many aspect of cycling in Sydney. I am the only person in my new office who rides to work. In the city, I was one of many. My office in the CBD was right on the Kent St cycleway. Built it and they will come.

2014-03-11 20.35.17Some facts. My new route takes me from Five Dock over Gladesville Bridge, then on to Centennial Avenue and then right onto Mowbray Road. I follow that over the Pac Hwy, and then a few kms further on turn left down some local streets to get to Chatswood. It’s about 13km, and is mostly uphill on the way there – which makes for a good workout in the morning, and a cruisy ride home. That means it’s quicker coming home – 33 minutes as opposed to 38. I fired up Strava again, and this is what it had to say (this was from the ride home).

It certainly made me realise how spoiled I was before. ‘Spoiled’ and ‘Victoria Rd SUP’ and not words that often go together, but for all its faults there is something to be said for getting out of the traffic. Anyone could have ridden my old commute, but that certainly isn’t the case with the new one.

I now have to mix it up with cars. Lots and lots of cars. For motorists the route is very stop-start, with queues at the various traffic lights frequently so long that it takes two or three phases for the cars at the back to get across. My tactics for this vary; on Mowbray Road I filter through the cars, either on the left or down the middle of the two lanes. Heck, I’m not sitting there just because all those idiots chose to take two tonnes of metal to work. Burns Bay Road is a little more tricky, as it’s uphill. This means I end up getting stuck in the jam, and then in turn holding up the cars as the traffic moves and I’m grinding up the hill. I’ve actually taken to riding up the hill on the footpath – just because it’s faster for me, as I don’t have to keep stopping. It’s far from ideal (and slower than riding on the road would be if the road was not busy), but as it is my average speed is pretty much exactly the same as the traffic.

On the faster sections (which is a lot of the ride home) I’m mixing it up with the cars – for much of the time going faster than they are, zipping past on the inside and then filtering at the lights. It’s kind of exhilarating, and not something you do much of in a CoS cycleway. But this is riding for the 1% of lunatics, not normal people. It speaks volumes about cycling culture in Sydney, the safety record for bicycles and just how high the barriers are to making cycling an everyday activity. I also see a little more aggression from motorists, with some close passing and crazy swerving in front of me at traffic queues. It’s not bad, but again it’s something you are insulated from on even a very poor SUP.

My new co-workers are somewhat bemused by my behaviour, and even after three weeks still ask me ‘still riding then?’, as if it is some kind of aberration and I will soon give up. One of the women in my team drives eight kilometres to the office – and it usually takes her about half an hour. On a bad day close to an hour. To me, this behaviour seems much more extraordinary than riding. My allocated parking space outside the building goes empty – which does make me smile somewhat. I’m tempted to get a bike rack installed in it. Built it, and perhaps they will come…

Bike cops, bridges, taxis and bike lanes…

March 22, 2013 at 08:34 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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bikecopsI’ve had a bit of a bad run of it lately. The bike cops are doing another helmet  blitz on Pyrmont Bridge, and I’ve been stopped three times in the past couple of weeks. Had a lovely chat with them, but each chat costs me $66 – this the penalty in New South Wales for the heinous crime of riding a bike slowly in an area with no motorised traffic whilst wearing an ordinary hat.

Whilst I have no argument with the individual cops (they are doing what their command have told them to do, and it’s obvious they think it’s a waste of time), one of the things that does bug me is that there are so many better things they could be doing. Like looking out for the kind of driver behaviour that actually puts cyclists at risk. Bike cops would be perfect for this – very easy to keep up with cars in peak time traffic, and then pull them over when appropriate. But no, their commanders seem to think that bike cops are only useful for policing people on bikes.

taxi in bike laneI was reflecting on this on the way to work when I came across a taxi driver merrily driving up the King St bike lane. He’d dropped someone off, but why he felt he need to drive in the bike lane to do so I have no idea. It’s illegal, inconvenienced a whole bunch of cyclists and is potentially dangerous. I took several pictures, and was thinking ‘where are those bike cops when you actually need them!’.

Later that day I was riding home and a pedestrian on Pyrmont Bridge kindly warned me that the bike cops were on the bridge again. Thanking him, I hopped off and walked, and sure enough there they were. They hadn’t seen me riding, so no ticket, but I did go up and have a chat. During the conversation I said,

‘I was hoping I was going to see you guys today, as I have a crime to report!’

Their eyes rolled a little (this must be an occupational hazard for policemen), and asked me to explain.

I pulled out my phone, and showed them the pictures of the taxi I had taken that morning. To their credit they were very interested, asked me to email them the pictures, if I had a description of the driver and so on, and if I would be happy to be a witness if it went to court. I agreed, and thanked them for their time. They then rode away. Possibly because they had other matters to attend to or perhaps – I like to think – so that I could get back on my bike to continue my ride without the embarrassment for all concerned of either watching me hobble up the street in my bike shoes or having to come after me to give me another ticket.

And I’ll wait to see if I hear back from them about the taxi driver. I hope they throw the book at him!!

Night time wonderland

May 25, 2012 at 00:53 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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It was a lovely day when I set off for work this morning – a fabulous day for a ride, in fact. It stayed nice all morning, and then in the afternoon the low cloud came in, and it began to rain.

Cold, wet, drizzly rain. I had a rehearsal again tonight, so afterwards faced the delights of a fairly long ride home, on the laden Radish, with no waterproofs or even sensible rain clothing – I was wearing cotton pants and a sweater which had already got quite sodden just from the short ride to the rehearsal venue.

I set off after rehearsal to the commiserations of my fellow musicians. ‘Don’t envy you tonight!’ they called out, as they got into their cars. And as I set off into the traffic, the cold wind whistling through my clothes and the rain soaking my legs I could see the attraction of a warm car.

But no ride is ever really that bad, and I soon started to warm up. And as I reached the Sydney Harbour Bridge, I had real reason to celebrate riding. The low cloud hanging over the city was such that it was obscuring the top of the great arch of the bridge. The lights that illuminate it were casting their glow into the mist, and the structure was clearly visible, lit by an almost ghostly light. The cloud lay over the top, and it looked for all the world like that great bridge was holding up the sky. Really beautiful; I have ridden across that bridge thousands of times, but there are always new surprises.

As I approached the CBD, the taller buildings were too pushing up into the cloud, and right in front of me as I rode was an apartment block; a bright yellow light at the top illuminating the mist like some kind of urban lighthouse. Magical, magical stuff. The cold and wet was forgotten as I surveyed the wonderland around me.

And who else was enjoying these views? Not the poor people in their cars, that’s for sure; peering through their rain splattered windows, the glare of the streetlights blocking out the view. No, my friends were wrong. They should envy me; this wonderful city is putting on a special show and I am the only one getting to see it. And all because I ride a bicycle.

 

I took a few pictures with my phone, but they don’t really do justice to the views. Still, perhaps you get the idea.

 

Cities are for people

February 2, 2012 at 14:29 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I started back at work on the third of January – earlier than many people, who took off that week as well. What really struck me was how quiet the city streets were. There was virtually no traffic; when I went out an lunchtime the streets were deserted.

There were still quite a few pedestrians, however. And of course, the traffic lights were still giving the majority of the green time to the non-existent motor traffic, with pedestrians (or at least those not prepared to jay walk) forced to wait for several minutes just so they could cross an empty street when the green man told them to.

It really highlighted the problem we have in Sydney. The amount of traffic on those days is the amount of traffic we should have on any day. Congestion charging, punative taxes, road closures  – do whatever it takes to get the city streets less busy. And then let people, rather than cars, have the streets. Let people be able to walk from one end of the CBD to the other without endless waits at traffic lights on every corner.

Of course, many readers will cry out that this is impossible; that traffic has to be in the city for it to function, for economic activity to occur and for people to be able to work. Well, I don’t agree. On those days in early January, there were the usual number of buses, taxis, delivery trucks and couriers. Yet the streets felt empty. It was the private, single-occupant cars that were missing. Only about ten percent of people get to the CBD by private car – and yet the rest of us (the 90% who make better choices) allow that small, selfish minority to clog up our streets, make it hard for us to get around by bus and bicycle, and force us to wait ages just to cross the street. Get rid of ’em, I say. If they really don’t like it they can go somewhere else – and I reckon than the 90% of the population that remained would be so much more happy and productive to be in a people-friendly city they could make up for the economic activity undertaken by that selfish 10%. Heck, I’d work 10% more hours if the streets could be like this all the time…

Fingertips

December 7, 2011 at 20:38 | Posted in bicycles | 1 Comment
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I often take pictures or think of possible blog posts as I ride along, but often they turn out not to really be worth a whole article. So here are a few tidbits and odds and ends from the past few months that I thought about.

 

One of the problems with the City of Sydney’s excellent new bike lanes is the traffic lights at each junction. They just never seem to go green, as the sensors (designed for cars) just don’t work for bikes. The RTA (who owns them) blames the City of Sydney, which I think it a bit odd. They put them in, so surely they should take responsibility for making them work properly? Anyway, some very professional laminated A4 signs have gone up on some lamp posts to tell cyclists what to do – position your bike right on the centre of the sensor, where the dots are. Unfortunately, the centre of the sensor is in the middle of the lane, and most cyclists like to wait on the left, so they can rest their foot on the curb, as you can see from the picture. The upshot of all of this is the lights often fail to go green, meaning cyclists go through on red, to undoubted cries of ‘scofflaw!’.

 

 

The picture on the left is what people who drive to work have to endure. Trapped in their cars on a beautiful spring day. The picture on the right is what I enjoyed on my bike – the shadow of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge projected onto the water by the morning sun. Lovely.

 

 

This rather intriguing object was chained up outside a cafe in Sydney recently. It is a bike shape cut out from perspex. Upon closer inspection it turned out to be advertising NRMA home insurance. Personally I wouldn’t recommend the NRMA; they are very anti-bike, and famous for stunts like this one.

 

 

 

Burns Bay Road in Lane Cove used to have a horrible door-zone bike lane in it, but recently I rode along it and found it had been removed. Wonderful! It was truly much more pleasant to ride along; I could ride at a safe distance form the parked cars and uneven surface, and passing vehicles gave me space. Unfortunately it was only temporary, and it has now been reinstated, albeit about six inches wider. Sorry Lane Cove Council, it’s no better; that horrible lip in the road surface just where you might ride is a hazard; and indeed this type of bike facility has been implicated in at least one recent tragic fatality. To stay safe and clear of opening car doors you have to ride to the right of the line, but this frustrates passing motorists who pass too close to try and force you into the ‘bike lane’. Just take away these horrible things; honestly it’s more pleasant and safer without them.

 

I washed the Radish the other day, and took off the panniers and racks. I’n not sure how she feels about being pictured in the nude, but for your delight and delactation here she is.

 

 

 

 

These rather odd bike racks have sprung up in Balmain. I think the idea is that they turn a regular lamp post into a cool bike parking station. However, I can’t help feeling that there’s no real advantage compared to just locking your bike to the post.

 

 

 

PS There is a special prize for anyone who gets the reference in the title to this post…

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