Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Nooo!! Not my car!!

Nowadays in South Australia, if you continue to drive a car like a nong, you will not only lose your licence but you also risk losing your car. Courts can order that your car be forfeited if you commit a certain number of offences within a 10 year period or if you commit what is called a "forfeiture offence". That's what happened to someone recently. They appealed the decision but, unlucky for them, were not successful.

The person concerned was a relief teacher. That meant that he was not paid during school holidays so money was tight. He also lived in a regional town so it might be argued that getting to different schools could be difficult.

If you can show that you will suffer "severe financial or physical hardship" if your car were forfeited, there is a chance that it won't be. As I understand it though, once you've got to the stage of forfeiture, that is the default position unless you can show the severe financial or physical hardship.

In this particular case, the person's mother and father were in a position to him to school if their work permitted it. The Judge also noted that there would be occasions where a colleague could offer a lift or the town bus would be available. In addition, if there was nothing else, the taxi fare would be about $15.

The Judge also said this:

There are other avenues available to Mr Spring to get to work. He can ride a bicycle. On days when the weather is good he should be able to ride to McDonald Park and Reidy Park Primary Schools, which are within about 5 km of his home. It might be a bit much to expect him to, at least initially, ride the 10 km to Compton Park Primary School, which is a more arduous, hilly journey and takes about 45 minutes. Disappointingly, there are no showering or changing facilities available to teachers who ride to work.

Wise words indeed although pretty generous. Note that only if the weather is fine might he be able to ride 5km. Initially, it might be too much to expect a 10km ride. These are distances that Dutch children ride every day. And it's not just a question of their journey being flat. So is much of Adelaide and even in the country town where the teacher lives, while there are hills, they are hardly the Alps.

I also have a bit of an issue with the showering facilities comment. If he gets himself a decent comfy bike and rides leisurely, he should be fine. If he bought himself something like a Workcycle FR8, he could easily carry his students' work home for marking.

In the end, the Judge recognised that forfeiture of the car would cause substantial inconvenience but not severe financial or physical hardship. I do of course feel very sorry for him but the fact that the loss of a car would cause substantial inconvenience in such a small town is perhaps a problem. In a recent (thoroughly well written) blog post, At War With The Motorist discussed this and made the point that the relevant minister "should not be concerned by the fact that it is so difficult to get around by car. He should be concerned by the fact that it is so difficult to get around without one." (My emphasis) Quite so. A town like Mount Gambier can be cycled from end to end without difficulty. Yet it is made increasingly difficult for so many people for whom running a car is a significant financial burden to the point where they have very little option.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

New bike shops

Where there used to be one, there are now at least four bike shops within a stone's throw of each other in Adelaide's east end. Super Elliots have been there for ages but there is now megabike right opposite, Treadly Bike Shop around the corner on Ebeneezer Place and a block away on Grenfell Street is Pedal and Thread which sells the magnificent Pashley Guvnor.Not far away on Pulteney Street is the Classic Bicycle Shop.

It means we have a great choice of bikes for those who do not necessarily want to go road racing. I love going into those shops and others and changing my mind each week about what my next bike will be.

One bike I'm still really keen on is the Vanmoof. It's a not very Dutch looking Dutch bike. As I understand it, the designers want to take the best bits of Dutch bikes, get rid of anything that is unnecessary and make a bike that suits any city on the planet. The result, I think, is kind of cool.

Anyhow, this is a great short video about their philosophy:

Instead of a Vanmoof, this bike was recommended to me recently. You will agree it is a thing of beauty but at $5k, it's not cheap. Cheaper than most second hand Commodores but I can't afford one of them either at the moment. Still, the sun is shining and we're not living in a Stalinist dictatorship. It's not all bad.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Look what I found on the way to work

Anybody familiar with Adelaide's bike lanes would know that there is no such thing as a bike lane over an intersection. The painted line stops and just leaves you to it - either in a turning lane or in the middle of nowhere.

Some time ago, somebody who is in charge of these things realised that students tend to ride bicycles more than the rest of the population. I'm just clutching at straws here but it might have something to do with income. Who knows?

Anyway, outside the University of Adelaide on the crossing over North Terrace that hundreds of student use every day, this has been painted and a little button just for cyclists has been installed:

Unlike many signalised pedestrian crossings it does not allow you to go at precisely the same time as cars wanting to turn across your path. It means that when the bike light turns green, you're generally ok and not in much danger.

What is interesting about this particular facility is that it doesn't join up with a bike lane on the other side of the road where that bus is in the picture. The bike lane doesn't appear for two blocks further up Pulteney Street. There is one planned though.

Even more interesting is that it starts from a pavement. There is no bike lane leading up to it. It might be because cyclists are expected to walk their bikes up to it and then get on but I prefer to think that the person responsible knew that all those studenty types ride across the plaza anyway and just want to keep riding once they hit North Terrace.

If that's what was planned, then great.

Looking at the picture, you can see it is far from perfect. It would be great if it led cyclists to the other side of that parked ute on to a protected lane but for now it is worthy of a picture because it is the first bike lane that I know of in Adelaide that actually crosses an intersection.

We might have entered a new age.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Adelaide velo-city

I came back from a road trip last Sunday evening. The route from the Hills Freeway bypasses the city next to the parklands. While driving through there, traffic had to slow and move to one side of the road because some event was on. It became obvious pretty quickly that it was related to the Tour Down Under bike race. There were people on bikes all over the place. It was great. At the few intersections we stopped at there were whole bunches of them, chatting and laughing. It would be a cool thing if we could achieve that during weeks when there is no bike race on.

That we are trying to achieve it is perhaps illustrated by the fact that Adelaide is hosting Velo-city Global in 2014 (I know it's old news but I still wanted to mention it). The event comes under the umbrella of the European Cyclists' Federation who estimate that more than 1000 cycling experts will attend. It's great news if you ask me and I hope that we can learn from all of that experience.

The conference has been around since 1980 and has been held in a number of cities including Copenhagen. We're not the first Australian city. It has also been held in Perth. Copenhagen hosted it in 2010. Here's their video:

Velo-City Global 2010 from Velo-city Global 2010 on Vimeo.

Brilliant news.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012


On a recent trip, I stayed in Melbourne for five days. It really is a great city. I hear stories of how it used to be dead in the centre to the point where it was known as the donut. There is no evidence of that any more. There is plenty to see and do.

Like other Australian cities, cycling is much more popular than it used to be. I was staying on St Kilda Road and especially during the rush hour, saw lots of cyclists on their way to and from work. There were so many in fact that it was a bit like some of the videos you see about Portland in Oregon where the busiest roads are shown. I say Portland rather than a European city because the cyclists have a look about them that is closer to those seen in North America - on my viewing, they can be divided into three types: (1) mamils, (2) dudes on mountain bikes with cargo shorts and (3) boys and girls on fixies with skater helmets. Interspersed among all of those of course are plenty of women in frocks on Dutch style upright bikes.

The coolest thing about Melbourne for me though is its awesome tram system. Unlike other Australian cities, after the second world war, Melbourne kept its trams. The Chairman of the Tramways Board, Sir Robert Risson, defended the trams against calls for closure and put up a convincing case for keeping them saying it would actually be more expensive to rip up the tracks. It's now one of the biggest networks around.

He argued (correctly I think) that trams will always attract more passengers than an equivalent bus service. He was shown to be correct in 1956 when the Bourke St bus service was upgraded to a tram in time for the Olympic games, despite opposition from newspapers newpapers.

Trams go everywhere and always have a lot of people on them. I didn't get on any tram with fewer than 30. On many streets, old trams stops that required passengers to cross the road in front of traffic have been replaced by new lengthened stops:

You can imagine how Melbourne would grind to a halt if the trams disappeared and all those passengers had to go by car or take a bus service that would inevitably be stuck in traffic. Robert Risson is a legend.
(Borrowed from here because I am really not a very good photographer and just could not take a decent picture of a tram)

Monday, 16 January 2012


When I was in Melbourne recently, my children excitedly told me that there was a news article on some time about cyclists and car doors. I found out afterwards that it was on the tv show called The Project. My son could not remember much about the preview other than that "both sides were blaming each other".


How can a cyclist be to blame for someone opening a car door in their path? On The Project's website we are told that "dooring" is the most common cause of injury. Recently, in 2010, was the first recorded death by dooring. A student, James Cross, was on his way to University when a driver opened her car's door 12 centimetres. James crashed into it, was propelled under the wheels of a passing truck and killed.

The fact that this is the biggest cause of injury would suggest that perhaps something should be done. When we were near the Art Gallery of Victoria, one of my children asked me what should be done about it. I am so glad you asked, I said. We were standing on a pavement that looked like this:

I pointed out the width and the fact that it has a kerb on each side so that cyclists were kept safe from cars and pedestrians were kept safe from bikes.

Alas it is just a pavement and the raised part on the left is just dirt. It is however a great illustration of how our roads could so easily be made safer. There is a lot of talk about raising awareness but people are human and will always make mistakes. A car driver could take care with their car door every time without fail but the one time they are distracted could be the one time they clean up someone on their bike. I would have thought the smarter thing to do would be to avoid the risk in the first place. Don't put cyclists there in the first place.


I've just been on a road trip. I went over the border into Victoria. One of the first places I stopped was Portland. It's a very picturesque town but what struck me most of all (because I'm strange) were these pedestrian crossings:

They were everywhere and appear to work as if by magic. You stand on the side of the road at any time and motorists just stop for you. No pressing buttons to apply to cross the road and consequently no waiting. I must have crossed about six times on one street because it was such a thrill.

Everyone seemed pretty happy with them. Who knows? They could even work here.