The Aggregated Municipality of Bicycling Districts, Australia

It is good for some European cities that their bicycle modal shares are in the order of one or two thirds. How though would life be made better for me by living in Utrecht or Lund as compared to living in Inner West Sydney, or O’Connor in Canberra, or on the peninsula near Newcastle beach, or in New Farm in Brisbane, or Fremont Seattle, or East of the river in Portland, or in Lower Manhattan… such a list could go forever of bike friendly districts sitting like islands surrounded by cars. From my residence in any of the districts I’ve mentioned I could finds schools, shops and a job to suit me at the other end of a safe and relaxed bike route. Why should I care if most other people in the city I lived in spent their lives driving to work to buy cars, if their part of the city was something I only glimpsed rarely, as from a bike/pedestrian overpass?

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This rider is thinking: “who are those sucker down there?”

In some ways the bicycling life is even more pleasant in districts of the kind I have mentioned than it can be in cities with double digit bike modal shares, like Copenhagen or Malmö. You can chain your bike where you like, bring it inside of most buildings and ride where you like (on the road, on the footpath, on the bike lane, or straight over the grass if you like) in a city without many cyclists. You’re as much of a treat as people with frisbees, or anything else that’s not common. In cities like Amsterdam, with more bikes than people, property owners and police are watching bikes closely. If they let one through the cracks, they know thousands will follow and bring the whole place to a standstill.

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But I’ll admit, there is one particular downside to a pocket of bike riding bliss in a city where the car reigns supreme. You can be guaranteed any such district is going to be served by city officials and politicians who don’t have a clue about bicycle transport. When he leaves the city administration block at the end of the day, the statistically average road engineer in a car-centric city is himself returning to car land. Even if he rides a bike or takes public transport, the district to which he returns will have been built upon streets from the fifties or later, streets that really were made for cars.

If he’s not a road engineer but works for the city in waste, he can’t even come up with some way of collecting rubbish from properties not as wide as his own.

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If he is a planner he spends his days wording rules to ban clothes lines or rainwater tanks from ever being seen from the street. More important than who made the earth, is who mows the nature strip or how many meters should a one storey building be set back from the boundary. Do you really think cretins like these can design for a mother like you, if you live in a dense part of town?

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So I’m offering my services as a city administrator to the people of every bike friendly district throughout this fine nation of a few cyclists, Australia. Why pay exorbitant land rates to your council when for a fraction I can provide your neighbourhood with a much better service? Why pay higher rates for your 100sqm parcel of land if you live in a terrace house, than someone pays for a 500sqm block in the suburbs, the latter costing far more per household to service?

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Why subsidise the Australian pipe-dream when you could let The Aggregated Municipality of Bicycling Districts, Australia (aka “AMBDA”, or Dr. Behooving, if you prefer) take care of your rubbish, maintain your storm water pipes and provide new years eve fire works! And as a special introductory offer to every new district, I will rip up all of your crap infrastructure and smother your hood with genuine infrastructure for cycling, in the first year.

So now I bet you’re asking if your district qualifies for my service. You can see by my readiness to rip it all up that any bike infrastructure you may have already is no indicator. What matters is being able to answer yes to the following questions:

  1. Does  your district have a network of streets laid out in the age of the horse? (Understand, the bike is just the horse’s replacement).
  2. Is it flat? (Understand, there is no such thing as a bicycling city or district on the face of a hillside).
  3. Is your district generally immune from the impact of arterial roads?(Understand, peninsulars are usually immune, as are city centres without any through-roads but ring-roads to take cars the long way around. Anyway, you’ll know by the general lack of road noise at night.)
  4. Is there a paucity of car parking space?

If your answer is yes to all, drop a comment below, ideally with a link to a map highlighting the streets you would like to have annexed. A letter signed by half or more of your neighbours might help me push it all through a bit faster. Eventually I would like to take over management of every street that was surveyed in Australia prior to the introduction of trams.

Notes:

1. This is an old post I forgot to publish. I haven’t been consistently blogging and don’t plan to for at least a couple more weeks. I’m basically chillin’.

2. An axiomatic premise underpinning the post you just read is that streets made for cars don’t deserve cyclists and certainly don’t deserve to have cyclists buying or renting houses along them, or patronising their shops, or having cyclists sending kids to those schools. The suburbs will naturally go back to farmland in time. The silent steed belongs on streets built for the old-fashioned steed, or better still the kinds of streets that I’ve been designing (though not building, yet) that would be purpose built for bike transport. Adieu.

low view3. The featured image for this post is of the city administration building in Portland Oregon, arguably the defining work of the postmodernist movement.

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2 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    Steven, NCC is re- designing Young Street, the Main Street through Carrington. Whilst life is a little more relaxed on the island thanks to the absence of through traffic, a mate of mine, who ended up a planner, once told me that it is worth to get it right, rather than to have everyone ignore the rules. On that basis, you should definitely drop in your card on king street!

    • Steven says:

      I wonder when the last household travel survey was conducted? My guess is nearly 10 percent of residents there are using bikes for their commutes. I’ll look forward to having a look at the road works!

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