Berlin, Paris . . . Melbourne?

CBS (US) put this up on their site. I think it’s a valid assessment of what a good city bike environment should be. Christine Lagorio’s article covers the difference between the US cycling environment and that of European cities, focussing on Berlin. This raises questions regarding our own environment here in Melbourne.

Questions of rights of way, acceptability as a mode of transport, building of facilities and reactions of motorists make us see that here we are depressingly like the US in our approach to transport  – auto uber alles, (to mix a metaphor) with everything else second best. Here, we are not far off the low rates of usage of the US, despite our large numbers of bikes stored in garages for a weekend (or even less frequent) ride. “Critical Mass” mentioned therein, derided as car-hating, rabble-rousing, tree-hugging revolutionary anarchists, are actually attempting a subversionary shift in perceptions of traffic flow that motorists don’t like – something that Berliners do in their everyday life.

Where are Bicycle Victoria in all this, you ask? “More people cycling more often (we hope)”, without actually starting any debate, playing softly, softly with bureaucracy in the hope that accommodation will be reached without upsetting anyone’s interests. There’s a place for this, but when it blands out and starts to ignore the actual concerns of cyclists for real change in the way of thinking about the total transport environment, in favour of incremental, accommodatory change, then a disservice actually arises, with more powerful non-cycling transport advocates always getting a better hearing. When BV actually criticises other cycling activity that it does not agree with, even though the media gravitates towards them for a comment on ANY cycling issue, then a particular political slant starts to appear. Dialogue with the bureaucracy is not the only way to effect change, nor is often the best way, for the dominant instrumentalities such as VicRoads, local councils and their lobbyists (such as business and the motor industries) have a way of slowly smothering and co-opting any alternative viewpoint into a nice complementary shade of beige. Critical Mass and the Hell Ride (for all their sins) are a (mostly) valid and contradictory demonstration of getting around the city that the beige cardigan wearers do not instantly warm to.

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