What should I say at a Bike Futures Conference?

I’ve never been a high school relief teacher, but I think I’ve just had a taste of the dread they must feel to be phoned in the morning and told they have a gig in a disadvantaged school, teaching Maths, or something like that, that all the kids hate. I’ve been asked to speak next week at a Bike Futures Seminar. My class will mainly consist of local government staff from Tasmania. Here are some samples to indicate their current standard of work.

“Who are those council staff? Rejects from Hell?” You have to imagine me as Michelle Pfeiffer (which if I were, right now I’d be naked and in front of a mirror). Watch this clip and you will know what I mean.

But as George Dzundza tells her: “All you gotta do, is get their attention!”

The standard plot with these films of the special-ed-class genre (Dangerous  MindsTo Sir With LoveSchool of Rock) is the new teacher gets driven mad until they throw away the text books (in my case, The CROW), in favour of a customised approach. The teacher identifies the unique talents of every delinquent class member and finds some way of channelling that talent into a highly original, if rather unorthodox, end of year concert performance. The establishment frown, but the parents who come to see their brats sing, cry and go home and make love.

So what I might do, is start by showing my special-ed-class the following film, as a teacher might start with equations on the chalk board while the kids throw paper aeroplanes at the back of their head.


I’ll step outside for a moment to cry, but when I walk back into the auditorium I will be demon-eye possessed by some uncanny ability to recognise individual talents. “Hey you,” I will call to the business development officer texting his mistress, “you like attracting private development money into your town? Well you can be our guy out there talking to developers.” “Hey you,” I will call to the one with thick glasses, “you like drafting development guidelines? You can draft our bicycle oriented development plan!”

Yes, I think I shall play it like that. Australian public officials are rightfully tired of lectures on the right thing to do, when the populace vote for all of the wrong things. That’s why they snigger like delinquents up the back of the dunce class. It really is time someone presented them with an entirely home-grown, customised paradigm. I really think every Australian city needs a Bicycle Oriented Development Control plan to attract private investors to build apartments, with far less car parking, to the land flanking our urban rail trails and waterfront bike paths. This will give councils a revenue stream to upgrade those trail networks and drive safe connections into city centres and places of employment. That’s not at all what a European bicycling advocate would suggest, which is why it might work.


  1. James says:

    I think you could do better.
    But for God’s sake, don’t support the anti cycling advocates known as Bicycle Network. Everything they do or touch is tainted and should be avoided at all costs. Unless you’re just trying to keep your enemies closer than your friends, that is…
    BN rubber stamp some of the most inappropiate bicycling facilities known to man, encourage helmet laws, oppose increased penalties for dooring offences and oppose minimum safe passing distance laws. Thay also align with Coca Cola and bow to The RACV on a regular basis. They are a business, not a cycling advocacy.

    • Steven says:

      Hi James, thanks for opening up a discussion regarding BN and I hope maybe a few other readers chime in. I have heard similar complaints from many critics of Bicycle Network, and have written against some things they have done in the past. However, there are many individuals within the organisation who are top-notch, who are helping the organisation mature from within. Bicycle planning and policy has undergone a huge change in the past couples of years, so it is to be expected that spokespeople, advocates and policy advisers would take a few extra years to get their ducks in a line. Though I share your frustration with any backwardness that remains. BTW, they are not paying me for the gig, and even if they were, I would say as I please.

  2. Bec Short says:

    I think you’ll have the class well in hand, Dr. Good luck!

  3. crank says:

    One issue in Melbourne is a single-minded focus on commuters. This builds a lot of the barely adequate infrastructure that the road-confident will use to get to/from work. The focus on commuters is because “it can be measured”. I’m trying to shift their discussion to be general – getting to shops, getting to school, just getting around! I’m sure you’re well aware of all this, however I feel that may be a big difference between NL’s success and basically everywhere else (Copenhagen included) – they are about just cycling/walking as daily activity, not just getting to the office. They care about noise and air quality, we only care about how many people we can shove down a street, because that seems to be all we know how to measure. They need a grade to strive for – metrics – of which you, teach, assign. (Your private investor dollars is a good one).

    • Steven says:

      Well said. The improving bike modal share as caught by that census question, “how did you get to work?”, could easily be disguising a plague of courier vans and soccer/jazz-ballet mums making countless extra trips each. Want we want is some kind ratio between car trips and people trips, that I don’t believe anyone has found ways to capture? Or have they?

    • crank says:

      An officer at my local council believed around 20% of local traffic was ferrying kids around to school and so on. She can’t remember where that came from, and so I have no evidence to support that. Zero cars doing drop offs at school would be an excellent target.

      • Steven says:

        Oh I agree! Those parents are deadly. I can’t remember if it was one of Jan Garrard’s papers, of whose, but accidents for cyclists spike between 3pm and 5pm — in other words builders and soccer mums are more dangerous than office workers leaving work at 5pm.
        I also saw a study a few years back that found 60% of much city traffic was circling in search of a car park.

    • James says:

      What I find a little paradoxical is that the parents don’t consider themselves part of the problem.

    • James says:

      Dear Crank. I regularly go shopping on my bike. I want to get a single wheel trailer so I can carry more home with ease, and wheel it to my back door. Note this is a certain advantage to unloading a car and carrying the bags inside. A bike allows you to wheel the load practically into the kitchen!
      There are no bits of infra between home and the shops, and there’s no infra at the shopping centre. There’s no where to properly park a bicycle and lock it up. (God only knows how many minutes a good bike would last, left unlocked in Bayswater.)
      For a start, I’d just like to see an area set aside for people to be able to park their bike and go shopping. There’s plenty of space reserved for the parking of four wheeled motor vehicles.

    • crank says:

      Hear hear, James. Tell your council to at least put in some bike loops.

  4. James says:

    This little ripper just turned up…

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