My friend, Bruce and I, have got into the pleasant habit of riding our bikes around Sydney.
Since both of us are sort of retired, we do this on weekdays, wandering wherever we like, sometimes up to 40 kms.
Since my bike is power assisted, and and his is not, I’m supposed to wait. But sometimes I forget how hard it might be for Bruce to get up a hill.
Last week, we filmed our ride and and, in order to make it a bit different, a bit special, we gave ourselves a task.
We decided to count the number of other bikes we saw, and even perhaps count the various types, though we somehow forgot about that. You’ll see why.
Here’s the movie. It’s funnier than I expected it to be, not always intentionally.
I think it’s really quite tragic that this spectacular city, on that beautiful day, was empty of bikes.
As you see, even though the facilities for bikes are very poor, there are wonderful places for wheelie wandering, and one just naturally wants to share them with the world.
Going to Tourist info web sites, I made a rough calculation that there were probably about 50,000 visitors in Sydney that day, and as far as we could see, not one on a bike.
What a loss both for them and the city.
You read about the great success of the Velibs in Paris over 20,000 bikes available on the streets with just a swipe of a card.
These handsome machines are not just for tourists, but locals too. The first half hour is free, encouraging the quick ride and leave.
Many other cities in Europe and North America are getting on the street bike bandwagon, Montreal, for instance, with Toronto soon to follow.
Here are some Montreal Bixi’s, a delectable name they came up with through a public competition
From a tourist point of view, they are all cheap transportation which allows the exploration of out of the way nooks, such as you see Bruce and I discovering in Sydney on our ride, a very nookish city.
From a revenue point of view, they are great too because the spread the tourist dollar like a gentle rain over the whole garden of the urban economy.
Not so at the moment, tourists are bussed around on pre arranged shopping routes, their dollars dripping always into the same pockets.
There are so many street fairs and farmers markets of various sorts in and around Sydney now. Imagine the number of tourists on bikes they’d attract.
Here’s my local farmers market on a Sunday morning at Avoca Beach
Mine, the only bike in sight. Bikes can be rivulets of good energy trickling theough the urban landscape
All the excitement and profit of the wander-street-bike-revolution we now miss out on, and will forever.
That’s because of our helmet laws. it’s impossible to rent helmets through a self help system like Velib.
Hygiene problems, legal problems in terms of the helmets having to fit properly, and….
.…and since in almost every other country, one has the choice to wear a helmet or not, that is, one is treated like an adult.
How do you think the German or Japanese tourist is going to feel being told by a machine that he or she must wear a helmet or face a fine, deportation to Xmas Island, etc.
Like the introduction of the cane toad, the helmet was well intentioned, but like that turgid toad, there have been unintended consequences, those we have to live with.
Not a totally apt comparison, but thought provoking I hope
Let’s count the ways. 30% reduction in cycling with consequential increase of obesity, and no increase in cyclist safety.
Revenue loss and a wowser image gained in the eyes of visitors.
A nation of somewhat feral drivers who’ve never had to learn to be nice to bikes, who’ve never been calmed, tamed by bikes.
A population who, using their cars to drive even the shortest trip, don’t take their climate change transport options, and obligations, seriously. All in all not a very good deal.
I actually like my helmet and might well continue to wear it. But guess what, I would like, is the choice
Like to the shops on my quiet streets with no helmet. Wrangling those blue and white buses you saw in the movie, well, yes, quite possibly with the helmet.
Frankly, I had not given the whole matter much thought till I met Sue Abbott, and heard about her upcoming trial.
It will be an interesting test of sorts to see whether the media cover that trial.
I’ve alerted many sections of our ABC, the conscience of our nation, to her story
Will they, do they, see the wider issues, I wonder, and will they be prepared to take them on, and presumably the lobby groups behind them?