Since this blog is supposed to have something to do with cycling, I will write a post that has some small connection to zipping around on two wheels.
Sydney City Council had a "community consultation" meeting last night in regard to upgrading the bike route through Pyrmont - the bit that links the ANZAC Bridge to the Pyrmont Bridge. Since you probably have no idea about the area that I am talking about, I will avoid saying much about the route itself. Instead, I will try to describe the rather interesting characters that turned up at the meeting, and what they had to say.
I do not attend a lot of public meetings. In fact, I can't remember the last one I went to. I probably don't go to many as I am not old enough - I reckon I was close to the youngest person there. The average age was in the mid 50's. Judging by the overflowing bike rack out the front, a reasonable number of those attending were cyclists, although the majority of the talking was done by NIMBY residents who were lukewarm or hostile to the idea.
Next time someone tells you that today's youth are interested in politics and involved in their communities, just laugh at them and tell them to fuck off. The youth were all at home, watching some very important soap opera on TV, or too involved in a computer game to get off the couch. Political activism starts at 40. People are too self absorbed up until that age to get involved in "community" stuff.
I didn't do a head count, but I reckon 50 people turned up. Council had planned on maybe 75 turning up, which meant I got to eat an extra slice of cake. It also meant that the tea bags had not run out, which is a perennial problem at these sorts of events. All the good tea varieties always go first.
(The slices of cake were minute by the way, and all the cake on offer could be classed as 'healthy'. There was not a single, fat slice of chocolate mudcake to be seen. Obviously, the Fun Police had been sent to the cake shop with orders to buy nothing tasty or interesting).
Given the Green theme of the meeting, the room was not air-conditioned. As it was a humid Sydney night, we all sweltered in the thick fug enveloping the community centre. No one even thought to turn on the overhead fans - possibly because they were solar powered, and the sun had gone down an hour before the meeting commenced. I'm glad I drove my climate controlled 4WD to the meeting instead of riding - I would have been sitting in a pool of sweat if I had taken the bike.
Clover Moore, the self-promoting Lord Mayor, attended the meeting. She wasn't wearing one of her trademark dog collars, possibly because of the heat. I doubt she rode either. There were two Council Prius's parked out the front (what is the plural of Prius? Priapis? Priii?), and I presume she came in one of them. Clover is great at spending ratepayers money on promoting her name, and last night was no different. Council staff had setup a lectern and a table for Moore and two staffers, and behind the table was a large green sign with a Green slogan on it, with the slogan or quote being attributed to Clover Moore. I know that because it had her name in big, fat letters under the slogan.
The meeting was well organised and well run, and although a few speakers rambled on a bit once given the microphone, it was thankfully bereft of nutters using the occasion as a soapbox for their tinfoil hat-wearing views. There was one bloke who looked like he might be part of that brigade - he looked about 60, had a big beard and a long ponytail of grey hair. I couldn't work out whether he was homeless or a Nimbin hippy who was lost. It turned out that he was a well spoken local resident who wanted to make sure that the Council abides by their own design rules for building kerbs and so on. Apparently the whole area is covered by some sort of template that dictates the material that you can use for paths, roads, kerbs, guttering and that sort of thing, and the mob that follows it the least is the Council! Typical.
Whilst most of the discussion was on how to separate bikes from pedestrians and bikes from cars, a few people brought up the topic of separating cyclists from drunks. The Pyrmont Bridge Hotel is one of those pubs that is open all hours, and it is quite common to ride past their at 7am and to see a horde of drunks staggering out after pulling an all-nighter. Two people talked about sitting at a red light outside the pub on their bike and having a drunk try and get on the bike with them! I've never experienced that, but I've had to put up with plenty of drunks yelling abuse at cyclists as they go past (this is drunks who are sitting inside at the bar, not drunks who are staggering around outside on the path, or trying to cross the road). The range of human behaviour that you can experience whilst on a bike is generally quite a bit more widespread than what you get in the sterile, enclosed habitat of a car.
There was only one business owner there, and he was concerned about the length of time that construction would take, and whether that would send him broke or not. Energy Australia tore up the street earlier this year for a long period (and did an awful job of relaying the asphalt afterwards) and apparently four shops in that section went bust. He was the only one to survive the disruption. I half caught the name of his place "fine foods" something or other. I think I know the place. I wanted to tell him that I am always on the lookout for a good place to have breakfast when I ride to work, and that I'd stop at his shop if it was appealing to cyclists. He could do quite well out of the passing bike traffic if he put his mind to it, but I think cyclists are the last people he wants to deal with. If he wants to go bust by not serving a certain market, that's his problem.
After the meeting, I went over to talk to the bloke from Bike Sydney, who turned out to be an arrogant bugger wanting nothing to do with a fellow cyclist. Cyclists are generally a cheery mob who wave and say hello as they ride past each other, but I bet this guy just scowls.
I had a look at the diagrams and designs and found that they'd forgotten about one thing, so I hung around and had a chat with some of the council staff, their consultants and the designers. They had one consultant there who just took care of the traffic light phasing. He's probably the kind of bloke that has an enormous train set at home in the double car garage.
I suspect that for the most part, the works won't really do much for the serious commuter cyclist - the sort of person who is comfortable mixing it up on the road with the traffic. However, it will do a huge amount for beginners, or the occasional rider. It should give a big boost to people using their bike for odd trips, which makes it a Very Good Thing.
The only disappointment for me was that Shayne Mallard, a Liberal councillor, was not there. Apart from being a fellow conservative, he's a blogger and cyclist, and I wanted to say g'day. But I guess that as far as Clover is concerned, there can only be one queen at these events. Shayne is the enemy, and he has to be kept well away from the people. Only Clover can be seen to be discharging largesse to the electorate.