I’ve had some highs and lows lately. One high was presenting my grand vision for Singapore to the various heads and CEOs of that country’s peak planning bodies (the URA, LTA, HDB and NPB). That was nice. Another high has been getting new saddles for each of my road bikes: a carbon railed saddle with the improbable brand name of “Fi’zi:k” (you have to be an African Bush-Man to say it); and a Brooks Swift for my vintage Colnago.
But life’s disappointments still get me down. I spoke to an adviser for a community grant scheme. I wanted to know how the presiding committee might view an application for funding to produce drawings and models of urban design strategies that would help the community imagine life after cars. The response was that the community could not benefit from a bike plan, because people are dependent on cars. Oh dear. I mustn’t have explained myself very well.
And today I met Andrew Nikolic, handing out how-to-vote-Andrew Nikolic forms at my local poling booth. I believe he is about to become my federal representative in Australia’s government. I asked Andrew Nikolic what he planned to do for bicycle transport, and Andrew Nikolic told me he would promote bicycle tourism. “No,” I said, “what are you going to do for bicycle transport? Kids riding to school. Mums riding to shops. Seniors using bikes for mobility.”
At this point Andrew Nikolic told me which bunch ride he leaves with each morning, and which interest groups he’s been speaking to about cycling. I know those interest groups. Their office holders have panniers to do their shopping, but to most of their members “bicycle transport” means transporting their bikes in their cars to the beginning of trails. In countries like mine, bike user groups are bound to get in the way of genuine advocacy, simply due to their membership base. But then Andrew did invite me to meet him when he gets elected.
I’m also depressed that I joined the Australian Greens party but am often left wondering why. I was impressed by their bike policy, but have heard nothing on the matter since they announced it. What I hear more of, now that I’m on their mailing list, are indications that they are less interested in sustainability than conservation. Conserving forests as places to drive to is of no interest to me whatsoever. Neither do I care very much about plastic shopping bags, that only leave my house in the bin, which means they have zero impact on landfill or global warming whenever I used them. Some greens party members I’ve met strike me as old monied nimbies, ready to blame mountain bikers for every wallaby they themselves kill with their jeeps, probably on their way from greens party fundraising dinners to their old money manors.
Two weeks to go until Bike Hour! I’ll find out this time if it has a life of its own.
There’s one thing that’s working well for me though. In a word: Sydney. The evening of talks I was a part of last month with Professor Angelina Russo and artist Gilbert Grace was absolutely pitch-perfect. All that remains is for the three of us to develop an exhibition to rival the General Motors Pavilion at the 1939 Worlds Fair. Don’t laugh too soon. Behind the scenes work has begun.
And in six weeks from now I’ll be back in Sydney, for a night of talks at the Australian Institute of Architects. I promise a shout out or two for that evening by the end of next week. In the mean time I can thank Omafiets bike shop in Marrickville for flying me in, and Short Communications for initiating and organising everything: the venue, the lineup, sponsorship, promotion, conceptualisation, everything. It has been rather enlightening working with a professional communications company specialising in distilling key messages from all of my guff.
Other good news is I have a PhD candidate, with an Australian Postgraduate Award, starting work with me shortly. His award winning design skills and research ability are about to be applied to aestheticising bicycle trails. So look out world! I was chuffed today too to receive emails from two PhD candidates in the US, working on brilliant projects. One I can mention, Cara Delany, who has just produced the bike info-graphic to end them all.
Since I started my bike blog in 2009, then made bicycle planning my sole research direction 2 years ago, I’ve seen a lot of new people joining the fray. Most are generalists, applying best practice in their local contexts. I couldn’t be happier with my highly specialised and (thus far) unique role, looking at the building typology and urban morphology of future bicycling districts on brown field redevelopment sites. My burden is that most people don’t have a clue what that means. My other is I haven’t raced now for a month and expect to fall off the back of the peloton tomorrow at Whitemore. That will give me 44km of get-to-know-you time with new Fi’zi:k saddle.