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Fishing On Sydney's Bike Revolution: 'A Dickhead Is A Dickhead'

Illustration by Sophie Blackhall-Cain.
Oct 18th 2013 | 12:10pm | Doug Wright
Doug Wright of Fishing is proud of his lycra tanline but reckons a “dickhead is a dickhead” whether they are on a bike or not.

I was meant to eat before I went out, and then I was meant to eat again after the movie, but the bar was closer, the food was expensive, the beers were delicious, the mates were a top notch bunch, and everything felt great. But now with alarmingly precise choreography the beers and stomach growls hit together; I am drunk and I am hungry. Drungry.

My desire to trawl the streets of Newtown for the closest 7-Eleven and consume the questionable contents of the bain-marie down to the last flaccid spinach and ricotta roll is elevated way beyond my normal level. Sorry mates, there's just no time for the regular extended goodbyes, 'see you next time's, 'great to catch up with you's. Let's be serious. I am on the huss for a midnight toastie session of gargantuan proportions. The only thing between me and my steaming mountain of cheese and tomato bliss is the train back home to the Cross.

I walk-run from Earl's to the station. It's not the balmy spring night and slight exercise that is giving me this moist brow – it's got to be the hunger sweats setting in for good. My mouth is watering as I buy my ticket. I peep over the railway overpass and get a shock ruder than Rodney.

The 11.09pm city-bound edges along the rails below, creeping out of the station slower than a troublesome bowel movement. Of course, it doesn't give two hoots about leaving me on the platform, cold and cramping. But everything's cool, right? The next service should trundle in any second, ready to scoop me up, wring me through the digestive tract of Sydney's public transport system, and plop me down in Toastie Town. Right?

WRONG. I check Tripview. With a 30-minute wait for the next train, another ten minutes at the connecting platform, and a walk home at the opposite end, it's cheaper and easier to just walk the 5km slog. Only an hour ago, Cheese Everest was so clearly within reach. Cityrail just stepped in and pushed my salty, crispy dreams one step further into fantasy. I am left with one thought: this wouldn't have happened if I had ridden my bike.

For me, walking distances greater than 100 metres feels a bit strange. My lycra tanline is off the hook. I pack shell jackets made of confusing technical fabrics and scoff at drizzle. I am so often in the saddle that I take the efficiency and ease of bike travel around Sydney for granted. It's far more than a great toastie-to-mouth delivery system.

The benefits have become folklore. Bikes are cheaper, greener and healthier for riders than cars and public transport, and a growing number of riders could alleviate traffic congestion and parking problems in the city centre. Plus, riding and walking are great ways to enjoy the time spent getting place to place. Pedalling through leafy backstreets with a friendly peloton dominates a sweaty bus ride hunching over an iPhone game. You know the feeling of a clammy bum peeling off a plastic state transit seat? That sucks.

Last month, the NSW Government announced a City Centre Access Strategy, with planned changes for all forms of transport in and around the CBD. This means plans for a more integrated network of separated bike lanes, starting with the expensive and contentious proposition of moving the current College Street cycleway to Castlereagh St. It's a win for bike commuters who are currently faced with a mix of on-road and separated routes in the city. Sharing lanes with large, high-speed steel objects that have a sobering potential to crush you and your brand spankin' new Bianchi isn't everybody's vibe.

So cool, we're getting some new bike lanes and this is undoubtedly a win, especially for new or less confident riders who may have been discouraged from commuting due to on-road traffic. But while the separated bike lane seems comforting, it's not always the friendly green strip of safety that it appears to be. One example is the Bourke Street cycleway extending from Woolloomooloo to Redfern, where a peppering of cross-street danger zones can quite often necessitate a few gnarly stops if drivers fail to give way when traversing the bike lane.

It's great that new infrastructure is being planned for well integrated bike routes and a more cycle-centric city. Linking up cycleways in Sydney and its suburbs is going to make bike travel even easier and encourage new riders to hit the streets. But there isn't always going to be separated lanes, or a bike-friendly alleyway running parallel to the main road, especially for those riding in suburbs outside the city itself. It's a long shot, but the aim should be for all riders and drivers to feel comfortable and safe sharing roads.

A dickhead is a dickhead, whether they're on a bike running a red light, or in a 4WD honking and sitting right up your clacker as you're pedalling down a back lane. The solution to transport in Sydney is simple maths. Be nice on your bike or in your car, share the road in a chill fashion and the dickhead to rad dude ratio will be more in our favour. Despite what might be reported in certain papers, this should be seen as an issue that is deeper than a couple of new lanes, and with more numbers on two wheelers we may see a swing towards a respectful on road attitude. Cycling in Sydney could be not just for cyclists, but for anyone that can ride a bike.

The Sydney Rides Festival is happening until Sunday 20 October. This article first appeared in The Music print magazine.

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