Category Archives: Advocacy

On the unthinking marginalisation of women’s cycling

I pretty much missed the finish of last night’s Fleche Wallonne. Why? I was having an argument with Velonews. You see, they’d posted this tweet, which was greeted by a not-altogether unjustified response:


I, naturally, retweeted this. It’s common shorthand to think first of the men’s race, but this is a strong point. Marianne Vos has won Fleche Wallonne five times. So Velonews’s tweet is factually inaccurate, but colloquially, it mostly gets the point across.

Is this really a problem though?

Well yes.

You see, it’s lazy, and laziness does nothing to help rectify a situation of historical marginalisation. Women’s cycling has played second fiddle for years , but we’ve had some recent, though hesitant steps forward. La Course is a thing now. We get coverage – partial, it’s true, but coverage nonetheless – of the women’s race at De Ronde van Vlaanderen. We see the women’s world champs on TV. We got a smattering of coverage from the women’s race last night, and even got coverage of the women’s podium on the global feed. What we need right now is an active response to keep the momentum rolling.

So lazy journalism was always going to be noticed.

But what really particularly irked me was the response. Observe.


Yep, instead of just holding up their hands and issuing a clarifying tweet, Velonews decided to blame the character limit.

I copied their original tweet. There were fifty characters to spare. FIFTY.

It had nothing to do with the character limit. Besides which, you’re a journalistic publication. Words are your business. Make it work.

Such responses are as lazy and unthinking as the original tweet. Velonews, you fucked up. To use some deliberately ironic, lazy and sexist language: You need to man the fuck up and admit it.

And pull up your damn socks in future.


Bike Lane Cassandra, or Why I’m Tempted To Hang Up The Bike For Good. A tragedy in several paragraphs

Sydney is in the midst of a crackdown on cycling at the moment. Yes, I say cycling. Cycling as a whole and in general. It’s not just genuinely dangerous cycling infractions. It’s trivia.

NSW Police are fining and cautioning riders for not having bells or reflectors fitted – ignoring the fact that bells are largely obsolete following the release of the Sony Walkman, and that reflectors… well… haven’t really kept up with the march of LED light technology, which is now cheap, stunningly bright and extremely long-lasting. The NSW Government is hiking fines for pretty much every possible infraction, from not having your chinstrap done up right to the splendidly ill-defined and subjective “riding dangerously”.

Police have also reported fining a number of riders for ignoring red lights in the last few days. At this, my ears pricked up. Because I’ve talked about this before.

You see, back in 2012, I wrote a series of blog posts and spent quite a chunk of my time riding around and observing the Union Street bike lane in Pyrmont, one of the Operation Pedro locations during Thursday’s crackdown. And what I found raises worrying questions about the cynical nature of Operation Pedro. Continue Reading →

How to fix Sydney

I was just told in a cycling forum on Facebook that nobody seems to be suggesting solutions to Sydney’s absurd traffic chaos. The poster in question really only had “more rules and more enforcement of rules” as a solution, ironically, in a forum complaining about the NSW government’s new registration-by-stealth rules.

Laying aside for the moment that this statement is actually ridiculous and that many of us are proposing solutions until we’re blue in the face, here’s my multi-point plan to fix Sydney’s woeful transport network for everyone, pasted in from Facebook – with a few minor tweaks – to a more permanent home here.

We’re suggesting plenty of solutions and alternatives. CONSTANTLY

1. Overarching principle: Reduce reliance on private cars, especially single-occupant journeys, thereby reducing congestion and therefore traffic stress.
2. Modify Sydney’s shitty road infrastructure so that speeds are reduced on suburban streets *without* adding pinch points and other points of conflict. Sydney’s obsession with “traffic calming” doesn’t actually calm traffic. It makes stressed-out drivers sprint from speedhump to speedhump. While we’re at it, fix the dreadful pavements so that people can actually walk from A to B without breaking their ankles (and so that, say, wheelchair users can actually get around like everyone else)
3. More separated cycling infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users. This in turn will encourage more casual cyclists to leave their cars at home and ride or walk, thereby further reducing congestion. NOT SHARED PATHS. We don’t actually want to run down pedestrians, even if there’s a slim chance one of them might be Harold Scruby.
4. Be smarter about measures such as speed traps and RBTs. Trapping the same spot over and over drives regular rule-stretchers away from the regular spots and into the back streets, where their chances of conflict with pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and local kids are vastly increased. This happens. I’ve done it myself after ‘dropping in for a quick beer on the way home’ and being worried about how close to the limit I may be as I approach a regular RBT spot. A lot of my friends have done the same. We’ve talked about it. In furtive tones. I’ll lay odds if you’ve ever had a cheeky schooner despite having the car with you, you have too. And after a ‘cheeky schooner or two’ you should NOT be driving on poorly lit back streets.
5. More motorcycle cops with GoPros to catch and fine drivers attempting to text and drive. Holden Commodores just can’t enforce this rule. Seriously, how hard is it to just get this shit done? Get some GoPros, fit them to bike cops’ helmets, turn them on, wait a while. PROFIT. And dangerous distracted drivers get nickel-and-dimed off the road. Win-win.
6. Reduce motor vehicle priority at junctions. When cars can coast through for five minutes at a time but all other traffic gets 15 seconds to get their crossing done before another five minute wait, we’re looking at transport apartheid. Making pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised modes wait for ridiculously excessive time discourages active transport and drives more vehicle trips, because hey who wouldn’t want to sit in their car and diddle with their phone rather than stand at the roadside waiting for the Green Man to show up?
7. Stop building big dumb roads. Big dumb roads just move traffic from local congestion zone A to local congestion zone B. Big wide roads can’t empty out onto piddly narrow streets and Sydney is chock full of piddly narrow streets. WestConnex is just an expressway from traffic jams in Homebush to Traffic Jams in St Peters, and we all know it.
8. Congestion charge for the Sydney CBD, modelled on London. Couple this with removal of tolls on the Cross City Tunnel. Providing a fiscal disincentive on the magical cross-CBD congestion reducer is dumb like a box of really dumb rocks and whoever came up with the idea should be hung, drawn and quartered. With a steak knife.
9. Properly integrated public transport with sensible transfer options, including Park and Ride for suburbs poorly served by rail lines. Make timetables for key changeovers mesh properly. Provide shuttle buses if you must.
10. While we’re at it, run more public transport and run it later at night, encourage car share schemes. Encourage car pooling. Encourage flex-time and WFH options. Encourage anything that’s not people driving around alone in their air conditioned bubbles, bored to tears and with their mobile bloody handheld Candy Crunch machine phones within reach.
11. Mandate more off-street parking for new apartment and townhouse developments, thereby freeing up road space for projects such as bikeways (or, maybe, ANOTHER DAMN CAR LANE). Maybe even incentivise carless living in Inner-City suburbs like Balmain and Rozelle. We’re all overpaid hipsters here anyway, we can afford to rent a GoGet a couple of times a week. Some of us can even afford to garage our cars away from the Inner West’s absurdly overcrowded streets.
12. Get rid of the mandatory cycle helmet law, if only for bikeshare schemes. MHL has killed bikeshare in Melbourne and Brisbane, whereas other cities such as London and New York are thriving on it. There are other factors, sure, but it’s absurd to think a CBD worker would take a helmet to the office – or a tourist bring one on their sightseeing walk – on the offchance they might want to take a citibike from one end of the CBD to the other.
MHL is also known to be a discouragement to casual and new cyclists, as well as arriving foreigners such as myself, who look askance at a country that fines people for not wearing a plastic hat for a 200m trundle down to the shops for a bottle of milk. Enforce it on main roads if you must. Link it to the metre matters thing. 1.5m roads: helmet. 1m roads: optional.
13. Sack Duncan Gay. Send him off into the desert seated backwards on a horse wearing a giant papier maché head. Never think or talk about him again.

I have more. Lots more.

Since adding that, here are a few more. I’ll continue to tweak this post for a bit as more come to mind.

14. Stop NSW police conducting sting operations on “Jaywalkers”. Jaywalking is a made-up crime, with no victim except perhaps the hurt feelings of the little green lightup man, who feels rejected because you didn’t wait for him. It’s not just cyclists who feel put upon by Duncan’s Army. It’s also people who want to get to work on time but don’t want to wait for the absurd length of time the RMS have mandated for crossing queues (see “vehicle priority at junctions”, above)
15. Actually fix the broken magnetic sensors in Sydney’s bike lanes, thereby reducing at the drop of a hat the number of “running red light” incidents. Have I mentioned those bloody sensors don’t work, by the way?
16. Drastically reduce speed limits on single-lane roads and in areas with residential housing and/or high-density occupancy.
17. More bus lanes, with fewer private cars in them. The motorbike cops I mentioned earlier would be great at enforcing that. Lovely State Revenue. Mmmmmmm. Yummy.
18. Subsidies for businesses who want to provide end-of-trip facilities for their workers but don’t currently have them. Subsidise gym memberships, so incoming riders can get a shower before work, if the office lacks facilities at all.
19. Open Glebe Island bridge to foot and cycle traffic, and provide a level, off-street cycle expressway along the Inner West light rail corridor. The land is there, sitting idle, doing nothing for anyone. Open it up. Now. Do the same for other derelict corridors such as the Alexandria Canal, and easements long the Bankstown and Inner West rail lines. If necessary, put in raised cycleways . And stop putting “designated cycle routes” up 15% gradients on back streets while cars get a gentle 2.5% slope and all the road space they can eat. I’m looking at you, Darlinghurst.

and finally

20. Did I mention the bit about Sacking Duncan Gay? Fire him into the sea from a cannon and never think or talk about him again. A roads minister who ignores the expert advice of his own office is a liability and an embarrassment.

You are welcome Sydney. Totally welcome.

Why David Leyonhjelm’s Nanny State Inquiry will fail on MHL

OK, so maybe I’m a bit late on this one, and maybe the world doesn’t need yet another article on this topic. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking around this subject of late.

Senator David Leyonhjelm, ostensibly a Liberal Party member but politically located somewhere on the Libertarian side of Ayn Rand, is pushing for a Parliamentary inquiry into what he – along with many others – calls “The Nanny State” currently holding sway in Australia.

One of Leyonhjelm’s targets is Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL), something everyone seems to have an incorrect opinion on. Yes, I’m going to talk about those. If you find your anger reflex being triggered right now, you might want to go elsewhere and look at pictures of kittens for a while. Go on.

Continue Reading →

You’re doing it wrong: Red Lights

Right. Let’s just get one thing straight before we start. Some bike riders are morons. And they jump red lights even when they don’t need to.

Take this idiot, for instance


I pulled up at a red light on Lilyfield road this evening, and this idiot turned up. Here’s how out little exchange went

Idiot: <creeps forward as if to jump red, winds up as if to start pedalling>

Crankset: Don’t jump the red light, it makes us all look bad.

Idiot: Wuh?

Crankset: See this guy next to us? <points to taxi>. He’s going to see you jump the red light and in his head he will say “see, bloody cyclists, they’re all lawbreakers”. So don’t.

<light turns green>


Crankset: You are NOT A FUCKING PEDESTRIAN <rides off>

I really have few words for how vacuous his response was. “I’m a pedestrian”? Newflash, fucker. You are not a pedestrian. When you’re on a bike on the road, you’re a vehicle. You want to be a pedestrian, get off and push.

And I’m not joking when I say it makes everyone look bad. I’ve had the conversation, more than once, where a driver – or an actual pedestrian – kicks off and tells me that I’m a lawbreaker because cyclists always run red lights, even when I’m demonstrably NOT running a red light. I’ve even had punishment passes put on me in “revenge” for me running a red when in fact I’d gone through the same green light as the offending driver.

So don’t you fucking tell me that routinely running red lights is a completely victimless action. It gives fuel to bogan idiots who see riders as little more than obstructive meat.

Now, having got that out of the way, there are times when you probably have an excuse for jumping a red light. Here they are

  1. It’s raining, there’s no traffic around, and the electromagnetic sensor that should turn your light green isn’t detecting your bike.
  2. It’s six in the morning, the road is completely empty, and you’re riding in a fast moving bunch that could stack badly if someone stops suddenly
  3. The driver behind you has expressed an intent to run you over, and you need to get the jump on him
  4. The apocalypse has happened and you’re being pursued by zombies

That’s the lot. Now fucking stop it, you arseclowns.


A Bridge Too Fast?

In response to the SMH’s beat-up of yesterday

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Jason Brown <>
Date: Mon, Jun 16, 2014 at 2:41 PM
Subject: A Bridge Too Fast

Regarding Melanie Kembrey’s Monday piece on Pyrmont Bridge, I feel I might have to clue your readers (and writers) into Cycling 101.

A bicycle is a simple device which relies on momentum to provide stability. To put this simply, the slower you travel, the more of your attention must be devoted to keeping your bike upright. Stable when moving, unstable when stationary, grey area in-between. Pretty simple.
The fact that riders exceed 10km/h on Pyrmont Bridge is not, in the main, because they are hoons, or irresponsible, or bad citizens. It’s simply because tottering along below 10km/h feels markedly less safe, stable and controlled – to most riders – than cruising along just that bit faster.
This is just physics. Physics and human nature.
Putting it back in context, this makes Pyrmont Bridge – and in fact most ‘shared’ paths – a poor choice of cycle route. However Sydney’s infrastructure deliberately funnels CBD to Inner-West riders into this busy corridor, with few other routes available. Alternative routes are either stocked with hostile traffic, prohibitively circuitous or simply unworkable.
The solution? As David Borella states: More and better infrastructure, not griping about riders exceeding an arbitrarily-defined speed limit.
 SMH declined to print this, instead opting for two anti-bike responses, both attempting to tar the many with the brush of a few, one citing a cyclist running a red light and hitting a child, the other citing a cyclist hitting a pedestrian on a footpath in Earlwood. As ever, these solitary, context-devoid isolated incidents alone say nothing about the overall ‘problem’. I’m sorry they happened, but they’re NOT relevant to the larger debate. I could cite statistics of people being injured by drivers, by joggers, by skateboarders and, yes, by pedestrians. Isolated incidents are useless in examination of wider issues.
The real problem is that too little infrastructure is safe or suitable for multi-mode transport options. Too many roads are hostile to riders, forcing them onto footpaths or backstreets, where they come into conflict with pedestrians. Too many ‘planned’ cycle routes – Pyrmont Bridge included – are run in denial of the realities of multi-mode transport. Shared infrastructure should NEVER form part of a commuter route, yet that’s exactly what City of Sydney have done by funneling Inner-West traffic to and from the CBD over a busy pedestrian foot bridge (two, in fact, if you count the Anzac Bridge).
That’s the problem here. Not the stupid actions of a minority – Idiots will always exist no matter what you do – but the absurd cycling ‘infrastructure’ that Sydney riders must deal with day-in, day-out.

Taking it elsewhere

Credit: zilverpics on flickr. noncommercial reuse licenceI don’t know about you, but I don’t like letting my bikes out of my sight. Sure, on a cafe ride I’ll park it, unlocked, somewhere nearby, but at any other time, the bikes do not leave my side. Ever.

I don’t even like to lock the bikes to public bike racks. We’re looking at several thousand dollars worth of carbon and alloy apiece, not $100 K-Mart specials. I think I’m fairly justified in this, given that bike thieves have plenty of techniques at their disposal to break bike locks. Not only that, but being race bikes, everything is quick-release, meaning it’s pretty damn difficult to secure everything – wheels, seatpin, accessories. It becomes a logistical nightmare. Not to mention the possibility that some clown may just take it upon themselves to break something instead of just stealing it.

So generally, if I’m doing a local shop run, I take my bike into the shopping centre with me, and wheel it around. Maybe you do the same. Or maybe I’m weird. Continue Reading →

Sydney Waste Services and dangerous driving

Sydney Waste Services: Responsible driving? What's that?

Sydney Waste Services: Responsible driving? What’s that?

This morning on my ride to work I was subjected to a very dangerous close pass in a door zone by a garbage truck carrying the logo and contact details of Sydney Waste Services. The incident happened on Harris Street, Pyrmont, between Miller Street and John Street, heading North.

This is a mixed commercial/residential zone with a long strip of short term parking on the left, already a potential danger zone in and of itself.

I’d just turned left out of Miller Street on the green arrow and was heading along Harris at perhaps 30km/h when the garbage truck I’d passed at the Miller Street lights thundered past me at close range. The truck was maybe 15cm from the end of my handlebar as it appeared, and it felt like I was squeezed towards the parked cars as it passed along.

I yelled out, naturally, “Too close!”. The left-side window was open and a dismissive hand emerged, accompanied by what sounded like a “fuck off”.

Nice, huh?

(post updated 27-3-14, see footer for detail) Continue Reading →

Changes. But for the better?



In the wake of a terrible few weeks for cycling, a dooring in Melbourne, a nightmare rear-ender in Brisbane and multiple riders being hospitalised in Sydney – all seemingly due to inattentive car users – a few Sydney clubs have been making changes.

Eastern Suburbs Cycling Club, the club directly affected by the shocking Sydney incident, have removed Southern Cross Drive from their ride roster entirely. Randwick Botany Cycling Club havetaken a different tack and are now endeavouring to make their club rides vehicle-supported, with a tail-end vehicle equipped with “cyclists ahead” signage.

I’ve seen mixed opinions on this, and I’m not sure of the full implications of these two announcements myself. But I do have some commentary.
Continue Reading →

How to turn a cycleway into a don’t-cycleway in three easy steps

Cook’s River Cycleway is part of the Ryde to Botany Bay Cycleway here in Sydney, and it runs basically past my house (well, about half a kilometre from my house)

This being the case, it’s been a semi-regular part of my riding since I got back on the bike in January 2012. Back then, of course, I had fortnight legs*, so it was very nice to have a relatively low-speed stretch of flat-ish path, away from traffic. I used it a lot.

It has things wrong with it, but what doesn’t?

But lately, there’ve been a few changes, around where the cycleway meets Broughton Street in Canterbury.

First, let’s explain how it was, with the aid of a handy overhead view known to specialists as “a map”

Broughton Street Continue Reading →