City News

Bike wars blaze on the airwaves


Sydney’s bike wars rage on, with 2GB shock-jock Alan Jones threatening to organise Town Hall meetings to roll Lord Mayor Clover Moore and have the cycleways ripped up by the next Lord Mayor.

Mr Jones claims Ms Moore wants people to ride bikes, so we get cycleways. In his inimitable tabloid style he compared this to him liking camels and therefore imposing camel lanes on the city.

This might make sense if we all had an unused camel parked on our balconies or tethered in the back yard of the terrace house, but we don’t, finding a bike to be far more useful and cheap to feed. There is also a lot less cleaning-up involved.

It might also make sense if Ms Moore had not been twice elected on a pro-cycleway ticket. But she was and Mr Jones wasn’t, and I invite him to run for Lord Mayor on his pro-camel ticket, just to see if Sydneysiders really want a Lord Mayor who likes camels.

When Mr Jones interviewed Ms Moore on-air he talked over her in his bullying style, while Ms Moore stoically repeated her usual themes of climate change, traffic congestion and the Sydney 2030 strategy.

But Council holds the winning hand here, commissioning another ‘independent’ poll showing that 75 per cent of inner city residents support a comprehensive cycleway network.

Fortunately for Sydney the 2GB audience largely lives outside the City boundaries – represented by those aggressive tradies in utes with a Daily Terror on the seat next to them, the tabloid visible to riders during all-too-frequent sideswipe attempts (Ask any regular road rider about it!).

So it’s politically safe to build cycleways within the City. Feel for the tradies, though, with 34,000 Commodore utes being recalled because of a faulty tailgate latch. Camels might be more reliable.

Clover should have seen this shitstorm coming, however. Constructing the first major section of the cycle network in Bourke Road Alexandria simply invited a blowtorch reaction from this light industrial precinct full of warehouses, building supply companies, vehicle-hire outlets and the like. It’s not an inner-city demographic and they all depend on vehicles for their trade.

Until the path actually connects to a network, it will remain only lightly used by riders because it runs from one heavy traffic hotspot to another, dangerous and unwelcoming to riders. Seeing only one rider every two minutes in peak hour just confirms the bike-sceptics in their view that much of the support for the network comes from people who will never use it.

And the residents of Bourke Street Surry Hills, at the other end of this broken route, have a legitimate complaint that they have lost their on-street parking in favour of a bike path with significant design flaws. As they circle the block looking for a parking spot near home, they have ample time to wonder why they have to pay the price for Sydney’s overall progress.

The worst damage from the 2GB campaign is that the RTA and state politicians will be listening, reading that cycleways are unpopular in marginal seats. So don’t expect any epiphanies from the RTA or the Lib/Labs in the foreseeable.

But one day, when the cycleways actually link up and go somewhere, the bikes will multiply and it will be obvious even to a tradie/climate sceptic that congestion is being reduced, to their benefit, and 2GB will find another target for its vitriol.

by Michael Gormly