Michael Pascoe writes:

Crikey, nothing like sledging the push bike to spark outrage –
folk merely promoting monarchism, the death penalty and sedition have
escaped with fewer saddle sores. But before I’m garrotted with an inner
tube, let me protest partial (but only partial) misrepresentation. The
Crikey sub-editors used a stone axe rather than a scalpel in downsizing
Friday’s contribution on the anti-car philosophy behind the Cross City
Tunnel’s conception. The result was an important omission and less
coherent final paragraphs than usual. My apparent attack on all those
brave or foolish enough to risk their limbs on two wheels in Sydney was
actually more closely focussed – I only wished to vent spleen on the
the self-righteous clowns who gain self-importance through the annoying
Critical Mass disruptions. Two key cut paragraphs were:

This attitude towards the car is endorsed every time the
government allows a group of dingbat “Critical Mass” bicyclists to
block traffic during Friday peak hour. They were at it again last week.
Presumably these pathetic individuals must get some sort of a
power-kick in their pointless lives by blocking the Sydney Harbour
Bridge – they only generate feelings of ill-will from motorists.

The mystery is why does the state government not only let them wreak
havoc, but condone the nonsense by providing police protection as well?

That was what the Egan quotes were about and the context for the
facetious suggestion of a car convoy to blockade the responsible
ministers. Now if we can just lock the bike Nazis away with their
mirror image, the 4WD Nazis, and leave the rest of us to live and let
live on the public thoroughfares…

Cyclist Ian McHugh writes:
Michael Pascoe
manages to tar with the same brush both the NSW Labor government and the
participants in Critical Mass (aka the pedal pushing traffic terrorists!), and
he’s right – both are guilty of challenging, albeit via different methods, the
unsustainable state of car culture. His mocking of both parties springs from an
assumption that lies at the heart of our cultural paradigm – cars are utterly
indispensable to our lives, an integral part of a developmental agenda to which
there is no alternative.

If this is the
truth, we’re all in deep trouble. We simply don’t have the resources, be they
fossil fuels, clean air or open space, to maintain the status quo. It has taken
only fifty years and a handful of nations to significantly run down all of
these things. Now Beijing adds a thousand cars to its already congested roads daily. India’s
industrialisation continues apace. Our closed system is quickly approaching its
mathematical limits.

Even the most
militant among both cyclists and motorists would at least agree that all is not
well with our car culture. But to those who aggressively defend the sacred
right and rite of motoring, traffic congestion remains a symptom of too few
roads rather than of too many cars, the slow-motion atrocity of climate change the
inevitable price of progress, and cyclists hospitalised or buried fools rather
than victims.

This is a
failure of imagination. Road rage – as the frustration we feel at the breakdown
of a system to which we feel we have no choice to submit – is its primary
symptom. But we do have choices. Cycling is one simple means of bypassing this
breakdown. We don’t all have to be cyclists, but we ought to recognise that
they represent the possibility of doing things differently.

It also signals
a failure to be realistic about our use of resources. We need to begin to
rebuild our societies and their infrastructure around a new paradigm, one in
which the car is not necessarily absent, but is certainly not necessary. This
is essentially what the political protest of Critical Mass is about. But given
the huge toll motoring takes on the health of population and environment,
suggestions that this “self-righteous band of pin-brains should be jailed”
because they take fifteen minutes out of the day of motorists demonstrates just
how utterly we have lost our sense of proportionality.

Bill Loveday writes:
Michael Pascoe writes as the typical knee-jerk response to
blame the pitiful expenditure on cycling for the fact that thousands of
lard-a*sed Sydneyites think they have every right to drive a private
vehicle anywhere, anytime and damn the polluting, congestion-inducing
consequences of their actions.

It is eminently sensible that private car owners should be forced into
paying for the privilege of congesting and polluting our cities. The
pittance that is registration and fuel tax, barely covers the costs of
roads and infrastructure. The rest of the tax base subsidises this
indulgence. Of course they should be forced to use the tunnel, and pay
the toll.

No progressive city anywhere in the world, nor any transport planner of
note, supports the idea that we can just keep building roads and
allowing more private car users on the roads. Simply, it is not
logically defensible.

If PM John Howard was a true economic rationalist he would have seized
the opportunity of recent petrol price rises to increase the petrol
excise, and push petrol prices to a more realistic $1.50 per litre.
This way we could have had more revenue coming into the coffers here,
not the Middle East, and it would have produced enough of a price
disincentive to get people re-considering non-essential car trips, and
switching to alternatives.

Peter Fray

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Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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