Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Bike path vs trees - this will be interesting

I am waiting to see if a bit of local infrastructure development will cause some Greenie heads to explode.

What you are looking at in this first photo is the start of the next phase of the building of a proper bike/walking path around The Bay in Drummoyne.

Over the years, the three councils that surround The Bay have slowly improved the path; presumably with the aim one day of having a well built, grade separated path around 100% of The Bay.

At present, there are some nasty bottlenecks where bikes have to take to the roads, pedestrians can barely pass one another, or where the tarmac peters out and is replaced by sand and limestone. In other areas, the path is not wide enough to properly separate fast moving bikes from slow moving pedestrians, so the two jostle for space with dogs, prams, rollerbladers, joggers and so on.

On Monday, the trucks arrived to emplace concrete safety barriers down the middle of the road, and by that afternoon, various saws and scoops were being employed to dig up the road. It looks like only a short section of a few hundred metres is being upgraded in this phase - councils don't have terribly deep pockets, so we might expect this work to be completed in about, oh, 2089.

Why will this cause Greenie heads to explode?

Look at photo number 2 - this shows what the path should look like all the way around - wide. When you put the bike lane and the pedestrian lane together, they are wide enough to drive a truck down this path. Width is the key. This path gets a lot of traffic - some days, it appears half the city is walking, running or cycling around The Bay.

However, the phase that they are moving into involves replacing a very narrow path (the pink thing in photo 1) with something three times as wide. The reason the existing path is so narrow is...... trees. The path is sandwiched into the tiny gap between the road and the trees that line the water's edge. And some of them are big trees. Old trees. Famous local trees.

The only way that I can see to widen the path is to cut down a swag of trees. Maybe the engineers have thought of another way of doing it. Maybe they are much smarter than I am. But I've been around that way an awful lot, and short of turning the road into a double-decker and having the bottom lane going one way and the top lane going the other way, I don't see how they can add six feet to the width of the path without resorting to the chainsaw.

So if you are a birkenstock-wearing, beard-faced smelly person with an aversion to soap and rump steak, how would you resolve this dilema? Do you favour the eco-friendly, obesity-fighting, CO2-minimal bike path, or do you favour the trees, thus failing to encourage people to depart from their gaia-murdering cars?

Having seen a few greenies in action, I now understand that most have been born without any logic processing circuits in their brains. They're like a thalidomyde baby, except instead of having stunted little arms, they have stunted logic circuits. They can hold two mutually incompatible ideas in their heads without suffering any problems at all. Their answer would be "both".

Except what if you can't have both? How do you manage the trade-off between the two? How do you assign values and weightings to the two competing purposes, and determine the best course of action?

If you are a rabid greenie, you run around with your hands over your ears shouting, "both!" "both!" "both!". Reminds me of watching kids in kindergarten.

I can imagine they cause problems in shops all the time. Picture a greenie walking into a Iku Whole Foods cafe.

Greenie: "I'll have the tofu with sprouts, plus a wheatgrass shot with amazonian indian nipple sweat please".

Waiter: "They're $5 each, making a total of $10".

Greenie: "I only have $5 of my dole left".

Waiter: "OK then, you need to choose which one you want to have".

Greenie: "I want both".

Waiter: "I don't think you heard me correctly. You can have one or the other. You don't have enough money for both".

Greenie: "But I want both. I'm having both".

Waiter: "No you're not".

Greenie: "Yes I am".

Waiter: "No, you're not".

Greenie: "Both, both, both, nah-nah-nah".

Waiter: "Look, just choose one or the other - the tofu or the wheatgrass".

Greenie: "You're not listening. I want both. If you don't give me both, I am going to make a giant papier mache head and get all my friends together to picket your store".

Waiter: "Do all your friends smell like you?"

Greenie: "Yes, that is our natural fragrance".

Waiter: "You can have both. Jimmie - tofu and a wheatgrass for our man at table 4. Special price, one day only".

Trying to explain that you can't have both might shut them up for 5 or 10 seconds - they go cross-eyed as they try to process what you've said, then the logic processing circuit breaker pops again, and they start running in circles yelling "both!".

This is generally where I want to give them a bath. Not to clean them mind you, but to drown them.

I will be keeping an eye on this bit of road works to see what solution the council has come up with. Maybe they'll turn the footpath into a slightly wider bike path by tilting the road at 45 degrees, so that cars come around the bend on two wheels. Pedestrians would leave the path altogether, and take a flying fox around the trees. Who knows what ingenious solutions they might have?

Or they'll just send in the guys with the chainsaws, and we'll be burning mangrove trees in the fireplace this winter. Somehow, I think the chainsaws will be the answer.

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