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Even Liberals Look Good In Lycra

By Bruce Notley-Smith on January 20, 2015 in Other

Photo: Bill Oddie

Photo: Bill Oddie

As a teenager I spent more hours than not riding my bike through the suburbs of eastern Sydney, exploring each and every street. You definitely get a much richer experience of your neighbourhood seeing it from the saddle of a bike. Sydney didn’t have dedicated cycleways back then, and I believed at the time that it probably never would, as much as I wanted them.

Now they are a reality, and more are on the way. Some in the media would have you believe that a war has been declared on cars and those who drive them. Cycling advocates, the critics cry out, are a bunch of pasty-faced, emaciated vegans; unreconstructed socialists of the Green Left treasonably conspiring with Clover Moore to eradicate the car. That may or may not be true, but there are a lot of Liberal voters who ride bikes and want more cycleways.

Cycling has increased dramatically in recent years and this trend will continue. Residents of Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs are finding it a convenient, cheap and enjoyable means of getting to and from work.

It isn’t cyclists or the construction of cycleways that will eventually lead to more and more restrictions on car use in inner Sydney. We aren’t making any new roads in the CBD, yet more and more cars compete for the same amount of road space and eventually it will end in gridlock.

Like many cities around the world, Sydney not so long from now will have very little on-street parking for private motor vehicles. Congestion will reach the point where the city will mandate most traffic lanes as clearways in daylight hours, and parking will be relegated to multi-storey car parks. This will make cycling an even more attractive means of accessing the inner CBD.

Cycling is not for everyone, and cars will remain as the main means of transport for most people beyond the inner city, but we should provide for those who want to mount their bike and use it for their commute.

I always scratch my head when I hear people complain about cycleways. Cycleways get cyclists out of the way of motorists and encourage more people to get on their bikes, meaning fewer cars on the road.

Motorists should count the numbers of bikes they see on their commute to work and then imagine each one of those bikes replaced with a car, queued-up in front of them at the next set of traffic lights.

There is a serious lack of mutual respect between all road users in Sydney, whether they are pedestrians, car and bus drivers, or cyclists, and much of this can be attributed to the perceived vacuum that exists in the regulation of cyclist behaviour.

Amsterdam is cited as a great city for bicycles, and it is, but it’s an extreme example. There are plenty of major cities across Europe where cyclists and all road users happily co-exist, and it is not simply because cycleway infrastructure exists.

They have been using bikes as a serious means of transport for far longer than we have here in Sydney. This strong cycling culture has necessitated the development and observance of strict road rules for cyclists, and adherence to road-user etiquette of mutual respect by both cyclists and motorists.

I do not subscribe to Green Left Weekly, conspire with Clover Moore or believe a car-free Sydney is desirable or even achievable. I don’t wear ill-fitting hemp trousers and poorly knitted earth-coloured sweaters.

But I do own a bike and I do want more dedicated cycleways, and I am doing my damndest to ensure my government delivers them.