22 September 2019

This week brought tragedy, and we offer our sincerest condolences to the family and friends of a 78 year old man who passed away after being hit while riding his bike two weeks ago. We don’t yet know the particular circumstances of the incident, but anyone familiar with the location at the border of Moorooka and Rocklea will know that it’s not at all cycle friendly. There are very few connections to the west from where this man lived at Sunnybank Hills. We were somewhat heartened to learn last week that the State Government is investigating east-west connections as an addendum to the Ipswich Motorway Cycleway – we made the local newspaper. But there is still so much work to be done in this area.

There is a saying “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” But in the case of the latest installation which appeared on Monday at Howard Smith Wharves where pub-goers empty onto the bikeway, and people queue for the lift, we’re not quite sure which it is…

Did you know that Brisbane has a new suburban renewal taskforce (the Better Suburbs Initiative), and the board has just been announced? We hope that ‘suburban renewal’ doesn’t become another codeword like ‘congestion busting’ for car-centric developments that make life worse for people who travel on foot or by bicycle. If the new taskforce is successful, it will be because it puts active transport links front and centre in its planning. NundahVillageBut it’s not a good sign that taskforce chair Ross Elliott sees Nundah as an example to follow. Nundah Village has so much potential, but it is an active transport wasteland, with most of the prime public space devoted to encouraging people to arrive by car. Nundah, like all suburbs, would be a much better place if it had good active transport links both through and within the area.

Some background we would like the board of Brisbane’s new suburban renewal taskforce to understand: enabling transport by foot or bike helps local economies, as people not confined to a car are more able and likely to make stops along the way. We think Brisbane should be aiming to become a “soft city” – i.e. one that supports relationships between people and the places around them.

An event we didn’t get involved in this year was Parking Day on Friday. Parking Day began in 2005 in San Francisco as an act of tactical urbanism to temporarily convert a single metered parking space into a temporary public park. The aim was to invite people to rethink the possibilities of public space; what social activities might that space support if it wasn’t taken up for storing a single piece of private property? Since then, Parking Day has taken off as an annual community event around the world.

We participated in Parking Day in 2016, occupying a space on Edward St which we think could be better used by hundreds of people each day to move about the city safely by bike (and increasingly now by scooter). But come 2019, Brisbane City Council have further regulated and corporatised the local version of Parking Day, shuffling it off to Little Stanley St at South Bank. They require expensive public-liability insurance and registration for groups to be involved. We preferred to get involved in a more traditional use of public space as a place for gathering and interaction, joining thousands of others concerned about the sustainability of our city in Queens Gardens for a walk across Victoria Bridge as part of the Brisbane Global #ClimateStrike.

Cycling for action on climate

On the topic of climate activism, we note that ‘business as usual’ is choking our city with cars and causing “traffic chaos” twice a day. Not only are private motor vehicles a leading contributor to environmental emissions, but our reliance on them severely hampers Brisbane’s capacity to adapt to disruptive events like storms, floods, crashes, power-outages, special events, and citizens’ protect action.

We believe it’s time to think differently about the use of public space and public funds. Rather than ‘business as usual’ in the form of increasingly expensive and futile attempts to make it easier for people to travel by car at the expense of the health, safety, and convenience of everyone else, we believe there’s a much better approach. The humble bicycle is a simple part of a solution to a complex problem.

That’s why we’re supporting action by Extinction Rebellion SEQ who are inviting us to join them for a bike ride through South Bank and the CBD to demand action on climate change. Deck your bike out in colours, flags and banners and join us at Kurilpa Bridge Park Friday morning the 27th of September at 7.30 to slow down business as usual with a slow ride through the city.

For those concerned about traffic disruption caused by climate protests, we suggest hopping on your bike! A public transport strike in Paris last Friday caused predictable traffic congestion there, but there was one form of road transport that was unaffected by the jams: bicycling. La Petite Reine–or “little queen,” the affectionate French name for the bicycle–ruled the roads last Friday. Investment active transport in Paris has been primarily driven by the desire to cut air pollution, but the city’s major new cycleways came into their own on strike day, providing swift and safe urban transport for cyclists and scooter users.

This week the ACT Government released a Climate Change Strategy. It recognises that transport emissions are the single largest contributor of damaging climate emissions in the territory, and so reaching emission reduction targets “will require fundamental changes in how we plan and deliver transport networks and how we choose to travel.” One of the key responses is to “support active travel, including the use of electric bikes, by improving the quality and safety of cycling and walking infrastructure.” Actions include:

  • prioritising walking and cycling
  • dedicating a greater proportion of road space and public realm space to sustainable transport modes
  • implementing car-free days, and
  • reforming car registration fees to incentivise efficient road use.

Although still scattered with vague words like “investigate”, “consider” and “explore”, the strategy does indicate the ACT government is serious about addressing and adapting to climate change. Online, there was a predictable chorus of people melting down about how they are “forced” to drive, but hopefully many more people in the ACT will now be thinking about what it would take to make them choose differently.

In Other News

The reasons to drastically reduce the use of motor vehicles in residential areas just keep piling up. It’s unconscionable to keep spending so much public money (a billion dollars per year in the case of Brisbane City Council) making it as convenient as possible for people to drive for the majority of transport trips. “Getting you home quicker and safer” comes at a cost. The latest research: Nanoparticles on the foetal side of the placenta correlate with air pollution levels experienced by the mothers. And that is determined by how close those mothers live to a main road. One way to address that issue might be to move everyone away from main roads – but you can easily see how that doesn’t scale, and quickly becomes self-defeating if the majority of people continue to use a car as their default mode of transport.

We also came across this interesting article arguing that it’s time to replace the 3-Es of transport safety (engineering, education and enforcement) with a values-driven approach based on ethics, equity and empathy. We particularly love this quote from Oakland’s Mayor:

“Our city cannot thrive when expanses of unwelcoming asphalt divide our communities instead of connecting them, and when roads threaten lives instead of breathing life into our diverse neighborhoods.”

This rather excellent article about cycling in London makes the point:

“We need to understand what people mean when they say cycling isn’t safe. They mean it’s uncomfortable and frightening. Telling someone the specific objective risk is not necessarily helpful. It needs to feel safe.”


In Brisbane, that is already observable on Stanley St. Those of us who ride there regularly may still be cursing the signal timing, and sub-standard design of a few intersections, but it’s impossible not to notice the growing numbers of “ordinary” people riding without fancy gear, who have joined us on the street in the months since the protected bikeway opened.

Get Involved

Finally: Have you completed our survey? Whether you attended or not, we are seeking feedback on the Big Push for Road Safety ride held earlier this month (and in previous years). The survey will only take a couple of minutes to complete and you can go in the draw to win two tickets to the Brisbane Bicycle Film Festival in March 2020.