Thursday, October 29, 2009

Miranda Devine, hapless Sydney motorists, and the deviant dangers of bicycles and pedestrians

(Above: the first Anzac day, suitably done in cars - with apologies for showing what looks like some - gasp - pedestrians. Henceforth there shall be no frivolous marching or walking on the street, and all events will be done within and by motor car, so Miranda the Devine decrees, and it is herein enjoined on all).

One of the joys of visiting a city like Amtserdam is the way the city centre is owned by pedestrians, bicyclists and public transport, most often in the form of narrow, jolting, frequently crowded, standing room trams. After World War II, such a tram probably feels like bliss.

The canals are a jolly way of getting around as well, and then when you get into long distance mode, you can can go like a bat out of hell in a superfast train (or a stolid stop by stop model), and you can hit a freeway where the fast lane allows the inner petrol head Tim Blair to come to the surface.

But then the Dutch - determined to live up to national stereotypes - are rational folk, and they understand that in confined spaces, it's important to give a little and take a little.

In comparison, Beijing - where bicycles on the road are swiftly being routed by an obsession with the status of car ownership - anarchy reigns supreme, along with the rising cost of fuel, dingles, and shoving cars on to an infra-structure better suited to Victorian transport models.

I grew up in a country town where riding bicycles was considered normal, not unknown for adults and de rigeur for working class children expecting to get to school. But then traffic was inclined to the slow speeds preferred by rural cockies, and nobody had a problem sharing the road with kids on bikes.

Before we break down in Rousseau-like sobbing about a rural idyll, bathed in the golden glow of lost Mark Twain days, the question arises as to whether anyone would contemplate riding a bike in Sydney.

A few hardy, sturdy souls do. After all, a bike is cheap, efficient, and good for you in terms of fitness (except when sucking in the air generated by a horde of vehicles). And the hills of Sydney aren't that bad in the general run of things, not with gears and a little leg power, and especially in the inner suburbs, there's a proximity which means a bike moving through back streets is a heck of a lot faster than traffic reduced to a crawl on King street.

And there's the rub. There's nothing sticks so much in the craw of a competitive, rage-infested Sydney motorist as the sight of a cyclist getting ahead, especially if they treat traffic signals with disdain, but really just because ... they're getting ahead, while the traffic imitates the characteristics of a snail in a snail and tortoise race.

There's another problem of course. Bicycles tend to be ridden by greenies, lefties, do gooders, and those who think the planet needs saving.

Put all those elements together, and you have a perfect storm, and as usual she goes by the name of Miranda the Devine.

This week she's on a bike bashing routine which suggests she hasn't found a handy greenie target, so the tofu munching lycra wearing bike louts must do. Roads are for cars, not Lycra louts, she shrieks, and reading it, and thinking of a Miranda the Devine type behind a four wheel drive Toorak tractor, you realize why only the brave ride bikes in Sydney.

Whoever made up the Roads and Traffic Authority's 1990s slogan ''the road is there to share'' has a lot to answer for. It's a big fat lie. The road is not there to share. Roads are built for cars. Pretending otherwise is unfair to motorists and cyclists alike.

Yep, not when Toad of Toad Hall hits the road with his bright red car, shouting toot toot, out of my way. Not when Lenny McPherson can roam the road with a screwdriver ready to jam in your eye if he doesn't like your manners. Remember folks, this is Sydney, and the incoherent chaotic foaming anger that infests the Devine is on view in the streets on a daily basis.

It leads to tragic accidents and violent incidents such as the attack on a 64-year-old bus driver by a cyclist last Friday.

At 5.05am, in the pre-dawn half light a cyclist in his 30s, "dressed like Cadel Evans", says the Transport Workers Union bus industry official Darcy Waller, was riding illegally on the bus only North-West T-way near Seven Hills.

What's the bigger crime I wonder? The loon cyclist smashing up the bus, or the way he was "dressed like Cadel Evans", and therefore behaving in a European manner - possibly even French, as if somehow riding on Sydney roads was something like a cheese eating Tour de France.

Now of course there's no road rage amongst Sydney motorists. It all emanates from cyclists:

This is classic angry cyclist behaviour, as if it's up to the cycling fraternity to forcibly educate the motoring public and instil fear like jackbooted Soviets.

Eek, I told you, they're communists. Now think back to that opening line about caring and sharing:

Neither motorists nor cyclists ever wanted a civil war.

But the cyclists fired the first shot, and now they must be exterminated. Wheel in the daleks, sorry I meant wheel in the Devine.

She'll make those cyclists just disappear, fuck off or go away, and perhaps fester somewhere in the dark, cycling around a mushroom patch.

Now think back to who fired that fatal first shot. What could be worse than a communist? How about a vegetarian communist?

But hostilities were fed by the lies told by the Government and the RTA, which gave cyclists unreasonable expectations and ideas above their station. The former roads minister Carl Scully, a vegetarian cyclist, threw $250 million at the lobby, further fuelling expectations which were dashed by subsequent roads ministers.

Most bike paths turned out to be little more than white paint on a road, with no room for a bike between parked cars and traffic. But they sent a signal to cyclists that motorists were somehow in the wrong.

You see? It's all the put upon hard done by motorists, who just want the god given right to create the mother of all traffic snarls in the centre of Sydney on a daily basis, with so much cost to the economy that even tax guru Ken Henry broods about ways to punish those who sit in their cars as if it's some god-given right, while the anger and the fear and loathing festers and stews and seeks a scapegoat. The cyclist. Or a pedestrian moving faster than them at a pinch.

There was a cycleway promised on the North-West T-way, but the reality turned out to be less than cyclists had in mind, with big gaps, traffic lights and intersections along the way. This caused an outbreak of vandalism and, as we saw last week, civil disobedience by cyclists with an inflated sense of importance.

Yep, go about the business of riding a bike in Cadell Evans clothes and you're a poseur, a ponce, a French cheese eating surrender monkey, a vandal, and a person with an inflated sense of importance. As opposed to a Sydney motorist, who exudes such peace and love that Gandhi and the Buddha combined wilt under the karmic glow of goodness. Full of exceptional grace:

Attempts to retrofit roads to allow equal access to bikes and pedestrians just makes them more dangerous and simply adds to Sydney's already woeful gridlock. Bikes and pedestrians are allowed on to roads only under the good graces of motorists, and only when they do not pose a traffic hazard.

You see? Orwell had it right. Four wheels good, two wheels baaaad.

But it's even worse than you feared. There are dangerous attempts to prevent Sydney from becoming its ideal - Los Angeles. Over there if you walk at all, you're regarded as a dangerous eccentric. A trip of a hundred yards requires at the very least a Hummer. Try leaving your hotel, and being asked if you want your car, say 'no, I'm just going for a walk'. If they don't have an anti-terrorist squad tracking you, it'll be a miracle.

The ideologues who have fostered the road-sharing lie must think a few dead cyclists and pedestrians are a small price to pay for getting cars off the road, because that is their ultimate aim: to make driving so unpleasant, slow, expensive and fraught with hazards that motorists give up.

Ah yes, the road kill. It's all the fault of them that want to use the roads in silly self-serving ways, and don't understand it's designed for twenty two wheelers just delivering the goods to the Pitt street mall.

So far, all they have done is create a dangerous sense of entitlement among other road users. Harold Scruby and his Pedestrian Council are much to blame for the attitude that far from sharing the road, cars are there under sufferance.

Pedestrians no longer stop and wait for cars to slow before launching themselves on to a zebra crossing. They stride out, like Moses parting the Red Sea, expecting cars to defy the laws of physics. The result is an increase in pedestrian injury.

Yep, if the bicycle folk think they're pinko pervert commies, then pedestrians are even worse. Christians with a Moses complex, heading to their holy land.

Yep, it's the bloody jay walking pedestrians, making life hard for the long suffering motorist, as if they had some god given right to walk upon this earth, when they should be in a car and stuck in traffic developing a healthy case of road rage.

Well let them walk, and let's see if they can take the hits, and remember it's a hundred points for knocking over a member of the clergy.

Oxford Street reportedly has become a late-night killing zone, due to the arrogance of jaywalkers who think it is their god-given right to cross wherever they please. Councils have been forced to erect ugly kerbside fences to protect jaywalkers from themselves.

Come to think of it, I'm suggesting right here and now a miraculous new solution. Anybody caught perambulating, pedestrianing, outside of a car, without proof that they're within one hundred yards of their vehicle, will be fined on the spot. Anybody riding a bike anywhere for any purpose will simply be fined, the bike confiscated and pulped, and a second offence will lead to mandatory prison, with a third death by firing squad. Let's see how those vegetarian communists like them apples.

Oh and remember how the Cahill expressway gets shut down for the fireworks on New Year's Eve, and George street gets blocked up by diggers trying to remember the war, and roads are shut down regularly for city to surfers and marathoners and other silly billies who somehow think they have a right to live in the city they live in, and use its facilities ....

Not any more, not after Nathan Rees's stunt of turfing the Sydney Harbour Bridge for a picnic:

The Premier was ecstatic, proclaiming the tourism benefits of attracting people from as far away as, oh, Thornleigh.

''This is Sydney at its very best and another extraordinary event proving we can do anything,'' Rees said. It does prove there is no limit to the bread-and-circuses desperation of the State Government.

But under the Government-sponsored jollity of the day there was a not-so-subtle message: that even the most crucial and iconic roads do not belong to cars.

They can and will be reclaimed for frivolous purposes at any time.

So here's a new edict:

Yes fuck off diggers, fuck off fireworks freaks, fuck off runners, fuck off cyclists, fuck off pedestrians, fuck off communist leftie cyclists, fuck off babies in prams, fuck off cats and dogs, fuck off vegetarian cyclists, fuck off joggers, fuck off lycra clad lout cyclists, and especially fuck off those crippled folk in those battery powered, neat looking little go carts that zip along the footpath.

It's Miranda the Devine, and she's coming through.

All spun from the gossamer thread of one loon cyclist attacking a bus driver.

What's that you say? Fuck off Miranda the Devine.

Come now, the intertubes are meant for caring and sharing, and all she's doing is making the roads safe for caring and sharing meglomaniac car drivers.

Sigh, it's just another day in Sydney, and they reckon the population in the town will hit six million by 2050. God help them, if Labor is still planning public transport, and dinosaurs like the Devine prevail ...

(Oh and if you want to see the reaction of Sydney cyclists, head over here).

(Below: the start of it all. Deviant communist leftie vegetarian student academics gathered to celebrate the opening run of the University of Sydney Bicycle club in 1897 and it's been a freewheel downhill to anarchy on the roads ever since).

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