Now this whole business about a police crackdown and steep fines for loose shoelaces for anyone cycling in Sydney: you know it’s Australian motordom’s final gasp before drowning, right, don’t you? The death is evident however you look, even from space:
The same crackdown occurred in New York (since named America’s most bike friendly city) in 2010/11. Technically, I have been on the run from the law there since 2011. It was a typically humid Summer evening. The West Side Highway was between me, on the Hudson River Greenway, and my lodgings in Greenwich. I was riding across it with the pedestrian lights—you know, with six lanes of stopped drivers wishing they had voodoo dolls of a red headed guy on a Brompton. All I had was a circle of “sidewalk” to cross and I would back on legally sanctioned carriageway. (I’m guessing many of you know this spot well.)The moment my tires touched the sidewalk, dear reader, a giant fart sounded from a police truck stopped at the lights,. You would think its 3 occupants were assessing my infection control skills and this was my final exam before becoming a surgeon. I had infected the sidewalk with bike germs. Their siren farted at me again. You will be pleased to know I did as one would with any playground ruffian, and ignored them, with honed deaf ears and tunnel vision.
The period 2010/11 is not remembered as a sad one in New York’s history, but as one of triumph. Repressed differences were brought to light and examined. Reason prevailed.
5 years later, fellow Australians, our turn has come. Here too it is the premier city providing a flashpoint. If there is one thing I learned from my taste of oppression in New York, it is that this is a mind game. Like terrorists, they win if we change how we think.
These astronomical fines being metered for doing anything so dangerous as setting your chair in a draft are an invitation to psychological battle. Are you in? In that case here are 4 thoughts you might carry with you.
Thought 1: “I will not be a deputised by a police state.” There are laws against skinny dipping, dodgy copies of archicad, weed and 17 year olds drinking shandies at Christmas… I think. Are there? I really don’t care.
Thought 2: “Stop me, and I’ll wet my pants.” You could try shitting yourself, making yourself so stressed that you actually vomit, or simply crying on command and shaking all over. I would try each in said order. You pay taxes to this country and are entitled to react when being pulled over by cops, however you like! Being pulled over for living your life, a life that involves bikes, is a fairly significant and very private moment of crisis. A lynch mob of unthinking trogs, represented by state ministers of infrastructure and police, passing orders to D-class dunces in blue uniforms and permitted to carry guns, has got you alone in a corner. In past times they would have killed you. It is a proper occasion to shit. With any luck this will have the same effect on your assailants as it is said to have on some rapists, at once repulsing them and giving them the feeling of power they were ultimately seeking. If not, remember thought 3.
Thought 3: “My day in court has already been booked; they’re just finalising the date.” Your taxes also pay for judges and court rooms where you can be heard. I would not suggest spending days on some smart arse defence. Just tell the judge why you happened to be riding on the footpath at night without a helmet and with a blood alcohol level too high to be driving, and explain why, as a common person, you think the resulting string of fines—more than any heroine crazed burglar has ever been slapped with—feels as wrong as someone’s thumb in your arse on the train. Remember, you’re addressing a judge who has probably sent some politicians to gaol. We have an independent judiciary and common law. Thought 4 will help you accept any outcome.
Thought 4: “I will have a positive legacy.” A lot of my readers have already enjoyed longer lives than Adolph Hitler and will be remembered rather more fondly. Hitler, and the forgettable blob inventing these laws sent to test us, are eternal pariahs. The people movements and population explosion of the past century have taught us that we always have to put our heads in front of our hearts, and occasionally change: use trains more than trucks for our freight, use bikes more than cars for our transport, or whatever kind of change is required. These Hitler types, quite aside from the blood on their hands, are guilty of stymying progress. With more time in power they would devolve into witchdoctors and demand we give them our chickens in exchange for the rain.
The emotive pull of these laws toward roads for trucking and cars, is so much weaker than the rational pull toward rail and bike paths for sustainable transport, that we shouldn’t be afraid to stare down these witchdoctors. Another prophetic photo of their sagging old vision for Sydney: