Category Archives: Doing It Wrong

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.

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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.


You’re doing it wrong: Bike Racks

I’m hereby starting a new series of posts, on a topic I’m sure is close to all our hearts: Why other cyclists are doing absolutely everything wrong and should stop now please.

We all do it. We love doing it. Now I’m going to do it here.

First up, bike racks.

Specifically, the kind of multi-bike racks that many progressive workplaces have in their car parks, so their workers can arrive happy, flushed and awake – by bike – in the morning.

Apparently, none of you know how to use them. Let me show you a picture of some idiots doing it wrong.



Notice, if you will, the handlebars of the road bike at centre left crammed up against the tubing of the bike rack itself. Notice also the overlap of the handlebars. This results in drop bars entangled in cables, bar ends scratching bar ends, scuffed brake levers, gear cables pulled until your indexing is out of whack and all kinds of general horror. The high rack to the left is basically unusable because of the tangle of handlebars and nobody seems to have any sense of order. Worse, the derailleur of the road bike at centre left is right in the firing line should the commuter bike at centre-right be removed roughly by a less-than-careful owner. And these people obviously are less-than-careful because of the way they’ve parked. QED.

Protip: STOP DOING THIS. It’s an inefficient use of space and – to put not too fine a point on it – a fucking mess.

Also, helmets must be clipped to the stem and draped over your handlebars. It’s the rules.

Conversely, here’s how it’s actually done


On the left, my Trek Domane. On the right, m’colleague Tim’s Trek Madone. Nestled together in perfect harmony. Tim’s front wheel is in the elevated portion of the rack, lifting his handlebars clear of the rack’s tubing. My handlebars are free of obstruction and unlikely to be dinged, scratched or mangled when Tim removes his bike later today. And there’s no way I can wreck Tim’s derailleur, and no way he can wreck mine. And there’s plenty of space in the high rack to the left, should someone wish to use it, notwithstanding the idiot who parked there with his front wheel in the rear-wheel position.

This, friends, is how it’s done.

And this also applies to the wall-mounted racks some workplaces provide. Though apparently no-one at my workplace can figure those out either


Now write that out five hundred times and DON’T let me catch you doing it again.