Australia, where city living is outlawed.

When the law of the land makes living in the city more difficult than need be, can you say living in the city is outlawed? I would say that.

The thing about cities is they’re about cramming in people, not other big things like huge plastic rubbish bins that are emptied weekly by mechanical arms on the sides of huge trucks, or privately owned automobiles. But look at any new apartment being built in the city and most of the ground plane (where families could live) is taken up with car parking spots and places for big plastic bins. Look down at old districts on Google Earth. In Australia there are streets you can barely see for all of the cars and big bins that live permanently in front of the houses.

bins

Ask local governments why they don’t just collect bags from the street two nights per week, as in older dense cities in Europe, and you will learn about single contracts with private rubbish removal companies whose focus has to be on the suburbs, where just about everyone lives. Ask why bike infrastructure can’t be built so that city dwellers can get rid of their cars, and you will be told suburbanites need access as well, and it’s too far for them to go without cars. Tell them both arguments are from the mind of a donkey who has lived its life tied to a one meter chain, and they will tell you that you only speak for a handful of voters.

So you say, “No, I won’t do it. I will take that rubbish bin to the community garden and sneak my waste into your park bins.” Have no doubt, they will go to forensic lengths to catch you and have you hung from a tree.

“In that case, I will live without a car and my family will use active transport.”

Well they have laws against that as well. If one child is under 14 the whole family might ride on the footpath, unless a police officer interprets things differently, but even if you’re waved on, what’s the use? The law lets shop owners block footpaths with signage and cafe tables.

With or without a minor in tow, you’re asked to chain bikes on the footpath (or to be precise, air) yet you’re not allowed to ride on the footpath to get there. Where do our law makers, police, and issuers of driving licences recommend families transition from high speed carriageways to footpaths and back?

darby street

How would they have us transition from designated “shared paths” (most about 1 meter long) that we are permitted to ride on, to carriageways, when pedestrian-only paths join the two? Are we all to dismount for pedestrian crossings even when the paths either side are legal to ride on? If a child rides a scooter is their parent allowed to accompany them, as they would if the child were riding a bike? What are we really to make of those 10km/ph speed limit signs on shared paths? In all fairness are we expected to see every “[bike symbol] ends” sign, and then what?

Then what? Buy a car and find nowhere to park it. Then what? Move back to the suburbs and go out of your mind. Then what? Find another country to live in.

After only a few weeks back in Australia you can see I am almost exhausted. I have September back in Amsterdam and hopefully can make it to Christmas back here without going totally bonkers.