Thursday, 08 Jun 2023

Cycling wars resume in Australias biggest cities but is it a bikelash or just nimbyism?

Cycling wars resume in Australias biggest cities but is it a bikelash or just nimbyism?


Cycling wars resume in Australias biggest cities  but is it a bikelash or just nimbyism?

Council committee meetings aren't renowned for attracting a crowd, especially on a cool Melbourne winter's evening.

But the Town Hall Commons was packed in June, with protesters waving placards outside, as Melbourne city councillors gathered to vote on a proposed pause of the installation of new cycleways in the city's Hoddle Grid area.

The advocacy group Bicycle Network had mobilised its members, contributing the lion's share of 1,000 written submissions and 49 speakers opposing the motion, in what turned into a marathon five-hour meeting.

"We were the final item on the meeting agenda - late into the night," says Leyla Asadi, the Bicycle Network's public affairs manager. "We think that was strategic - to see how many of us would stay the course. We all did."

The mood was optimistic. "It was heartening to see how many people cared about safe spaces for bicycles - there was a buoyant, brilliant energy to the room," she says.

Such energy was "really deflated", then, when the motion for the year-long pause was voted in. "We were disappointed and surprised," Asadi says.

The return of workers to central business districts has sparked a renewal of dormant cycling wars in Australia's largest cities, with Melbourne and Sydney in particular witnessing increased jostling for kerb-side space.

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