City Hub

Town Hall’s busy mice

By Richard Shuttleworth
Not much sleep in Surry Hills recently – all sorts of clicking and whirring noises echoing through the walls of our terraced houses at night. Everybody looking a bit tired and tense. Good news definitely in short supply.

We were all greatly cheered by Victor Franco’s letter to the BicycleNSW magazine (PushOn, 21 May 2008) spruiking our “Grumblings from the Hills”, which the City Hub had published on May 12 and which my friend Alex Unwin had kindly reprinted in PushOn for our fellow-cyclists.

Not only had Mr Franco cleverly avoided Alex’s eagle-eyed scrutiny of BNSW Membership cards – he had given our local Grumblers a marvellous free plug for our little dig at State Transit.

Better still, Mr Franco’s catchy title “Bourke St Cycleway ‘ Time for Some Facts” has topped the hit parade in Surry Hills for a couple of months now. We hum it to ourselves all the time but hadn’t realised that anyone at Sydney City Council was listening.

“At last!” we thought – here’s a helpful fellow who’ll translate all the vague and inconsistent misinformation that’s been pouring out of Town Hall recently.

We read on. We got merrier by the line. “Increase cycling by 500%”. Well, we all think that’s a great idea, but as we’ve just about all got bikes already we’d each need 10 extra legs to do much about that ourselves. We have nice broad shoulder lanes but are definitely short on limbs. Perhaps not what Mr Franco meant, we thought. “Potential Cyclists” is the official term, we remembered.

We’d love to see the current traffic lanes on Bourke Street slowed down, painted green and “bicyclised” to safely share our lovely street with a squillion new visiting cyclists, but we are completely baffled by Mr Franco’s proposal for a dangerous little two-way cyclepath in the gutter. We soldiered on through his letter, hoping he’d explain the reasoning and research behind his whimsically destructive plan.

Child cyclists’ Hasn’t Mr Franco heard of Moore Park, a block away’ Lovely new cycle paths with soft grass for beginners to tumble onto. We all taught our kids there, and they still prefer it if they’re pedalling down to Redfern. No kerbs, no car doors and only one set of lights. Best of all, they avoid the cross-streets (one every 50 metres or so in our cramped bit of Bourke Street) where accidents can occur ‘ particularly if a wiggly separated cycleway has hidden cyclists from the view of turning motorists.

Every informed cyclist in the world has known that for years. But perhaps not, come to think of it, the “potential cyclists” likely to be lured into this contraption after reading glossy brochures from the Town Hall marketing people. Pass the band-aids lads!
The cut-and-paste-from-council-handouts stuff about our heritage-listed trees definitely lowered the tone of Mr Franco’s letter a bit, we felt. All Sydney hopefully now knows about the gun being held to our heads – it’s going to cost us two or three parking spots for every tree we manage to save. Not so easy for the elderly or the handicapped. Or for my neighbour the cellist. Not funny at all.

But we cheered up when we read the last bit. A fact, at last. Of the 73 “no” votes that the council reluctantly told the Herald about while the ink was still wet on Town Hall’s glossy flyer, 47 have – Mr Franco tests our arithmetic here – mysteriously disappeared.

It must be mice. They’ve eaten our objections. And all those scratching sounds we’ve been hearing at night – our neighbours had claimed they were writing angry letters and emails to Council – must have been mice as well. Those 280-plus petitions from the local cafes would have given them indigestion, though.

Thanks, Victor. The mischief-makers, if not the facts, are revealed at last. Owe you a beer.

Richard Shuttleworth 
(with assistance from Antonia  and Charles Shuttleworth)



‘Hub” Grumblings:’tid=4394 – post_4394

Victor Franco’s letter to PushOn:’newsID=438

‘Potential Cyclists’ link: bourke st cycleway.pdf

First safety link:

Second safety link:

SMH article by Sunanda Creagh with previous stats:

Richard and his family are long-time Surry Hills residents struggling to reduce their carbon footprints. Richard is a convenor of the “Friends of Bourke Street” (FOBS), a community group formed on 18 May, 2008 with the aim of enhancing Bourke Street for ALL its users. Antonia and Charles are 19 and 20 now and struggle to moderate their father’s inappropriate sense of humour.