In the news

Global news first, and Rapha (or “claim the Roadpha” as I’m planning to call them) have given their Festive 500 grand prize to a couple seeking a 7th trimester abortion.

I’m not questioning their right to cycle on high speed B-roads in the country, in darkness, on ice and with columns of cars up their arses. It’s good for me that they did it: my next sojourn on whatever roads they were riding is sure to be 0.000001% safer for their raising awareness among a few of that district’s drivers.

What I’m questioning is Rapha’s choice, with its awful soundtrack, when other entries (like the one below from someone I know) had charm and many dimensions:

Come on Roadpha, we know you’re just expanding your market. The last  person on earth (with cash, I mean) who would ever have need for your cycling attire would be a mother, with a newborn and nowhere safer than a 100kph zone in which to ride. Capture her in your market and you have captured everyone! You have certainly left no excuses for dudes not to buy all your kit for rides in the country.

This is Roadpha’s whole schtick. At the point of purchase they kind of need us to believe that nothing can possibly run into chartreuse. What awaits us out there is a world of scenic drives with no drivers, where our greatest stressor will be matching our socks to our bike frames. (Were it not for their stuff filling my wardrobe I would add a few words of dissent.)

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I can’t complain about having no place to ride. There’s a 50 or 60km round trip from my house hugging ocean cliffs before following a rail trail dappled with shade. The worst bit is a 1m wide shoulder in a 50kph zone that goes for a few hundred meters. Otherwise, it’s off road or on roads (like the one above) that are one way with speed humps and basically just for sightseers. I ride through catenary tunnels and up switchbacks, you name it. I do the “festive 500” every two weeks without even thinking.

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The problem here is the governing regime, that I could broadly characterise as old farts. We’ve got a commissioner for emergency services who has just been done for drink driving, and a minister for transport who (you can tell from this interview) is a lowlife troglodyte turd. You can help victims of the NSW Police state by signing this petition against proposed new laws to quadruple fines for any normal behaviour if it so happens to involve bikes, and also make us carry ID whenever we’re cycling. Where though? Where do we carry it? When we’re popping down to the beach, say? Up our arses? From strings on the ends of our leg ropes? 12631566_10153973719874962_6908815744382833117_n

Really, they’re just making up “laws” on the fly, like Kim Jong Un, Lee Kuan yew, or any dictator.

I keep telling myself that at least things are worse in Amsterdam. There, the president of “Amsterdam City” (what we would call the chamber of commerce)  is in the press saying cyclists are the real problem, and that what the city needs is more cars. Read his compelling case in this two paragraph assortment of word grabs.

There is one thing though that has impressed me this week, and that is Australian traffic engineers building cues for us to ride on the footpath. Broadly speaking pavement cycling is illegal in most states of Australia, a throw back to the 70s when 9 year olds like me were told we had to ride on the road motioning to drivers with Vogue gestures later popularised by Madonna.

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All that ended the day bike-and-dude stencils started appearing on footpaths, principally in Sydney under mayor Clover Moore—god bless Clover Moore!

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The nation needed no more encouragement. Riding to the shops on the footpath, half the time with no helmet, was back on the agenda after 40 years of they saying we couldn’t. Following is my iPhone vid showing how the new deal is playing out in roundabout design. In contexts where low density increases distances leading most people to drive out of habit, the corresponding scarcity of pedestrians and cyclists means it is reasonable (if not ideal) to let bikes wander from the carriageway to the footpath and back. Roundabouts are where they are most likely to want to. It’s not a blanket solution, but it seems to serve the needs of both risk averse and “vehicular” cyclists.

I’ve been thinking lately as well about the recent great victory, how it came to pass that the number of cyclists around the city centre here where I live (and in yours too, most likely) has increased ten-fold in 5 years, with most of the new cyclists on old fashioned bikes, and half of them flipping the bird to Big Brother by not wearing helmets. I don’t think we attribute quite enough praise to some of the bicycle importers who helped make this happen. In Australia in 2009, 3 Pashley retailers (in Woolongong, Melbourne and Perth I recall) and Morgans Bicycles in Sydney, were the only ones selling bikes to those of us following the cycle-chic wave out of Denmark. We would have to wait a further 2 years for bakfietsen to arrive; Dutch Cargo Bikes in Melbourne were the ones who took the big gamble. (A container load had landed in Australia from China a few years before that, but they were so shonky we can disregard all of those.)

My god there’s a lesson here about harnessing consumerism for good. None of us cared about mobility or public health. We just dug the ads from Velorbis.

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I stumbled upon my long forgotten flickr account recently (though Yahoo won’t help me log in!) and was surprised myself by just how much I was fetishising new bikes. My own classic bikes that I got at the time have since worn through their original tires and chain (one through a frame!) and are fairly well rusting all over. I don’t think about replacing them though, or building some ultimate titanium version. I just ride them and fix shit when I don’t have a choice—it’s been the same relationship with all of the bikes that I’ve raced.

The bike boom is wavering, because, after retro bikes, there’s nothing else bikeish to buy. I’ve got an article coming out in the next issue of Momentum where I argue that over-the-top bike friendly real estate will be the log on the fire, and that cycle chic was merely the kindling.

And aside from thinking all that I’m just chillin’.

2 Comments

  1. crank. says:

    Good to see a few others just ‘normal’ cycling around your hood. If Dunc’s army doesn’t quash that, I’m moving to your town.

    • Steven says:

      Dunc only cares about the road from his home to his office. He doesn’t look any further afield when making up laws.

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