Not wishing to race too far ahead of Europe or Asia, the New South Wales Parliament has waited until the twenty-first century to release a report recommending land be densified near rail corridors. Thus far it has been rail authorities blocking development, “just in case”: just in case they want to widen their track gauges by a few hundred meters; just in case they want to use rail to transport matter with huge toxic clouds; just in case they find some way of making trains incredibly loud. Better to leave all those brownfields free of pesky residents who might one day complain. The report highlights the greater need to develop land near rail for TODs and communities that rely more on cycling and walking—ideas that must be 4 decades old. Yes, it hurts to live in a nation with a Planning Intelligence Quotient so low, you assume we’re fed knowledge on plastic spoons, and let most of that dribble back out on our bibs. Two weeks ago I was touring a rehabilitated gas works in Amsterdam and meeting with experts in the design of bicycle highways. This week I’m in a country where maps are marked with two colours: black for the factories and white for the workers. There are no shades of grey.
To my mind, this is the physical evidence of Australia’s lack of participation in the global economy of knowledge and ideas development. We don’t need former industrial land as places to meet and share knowledge, because for the most part we’re still just a nation of miners. We have a national planning institute who this week announced that bicycle transport is a pipe dream, and we should be planning for Segways. (Take note bike promoters: if you downplay the exercise inherent in cycling to sugar-coat it, you will invite more electric devices.)
Progress toward healthy, green and more liveable cities in the US, leaves Australia as the nation most inviting of ridicule in the first world—which does’t matter really, since we’re not trying to attract or retain clever people, just miners. We will most likely be the last nation on earth where bridges like this are admired. With some difficulty, I managed to cross it alive yesterday afternoon when I rode North from Launceston to clear my mind. Now here’s a challenge to Australian readers: can you see anything improper about it?
Written thanks to background research by Roberto.