Stupid things that I have seen this week







Oh, and the ABC used obvious-nutcase-is-obvious Meryl Dorey to comment on a story about which she knows nothing at all.

This is why there are days where, given the chance, I would gladly push the big red button that disentegrates the planet.

Response from City of Sydney re: Bike Lane Lights

As I was drafting the previous post, this popped into my mailbox. It resolves a few questions, more so than the previous RTA email, in fact

Subject: RE: Bike lanes, traffic lights, police operations and RTA guidelines

Hi Jason
The Lord Mayor has asked me to reply to you directly on this issue.  I'm also available to speak to you in person if you'd like to discuss in detail  
You've raised quite a few issues, and I know John at RMS has replied to you though you feel not all questions are fully answered.  So I'll try here, and you can let me know if you want more detail on any of these, or if I've missed anything.
1. Induction loops, carbon fibre and aluminium bikes, and drainage grate lids
The induction loop electical field detects overhead conductive (not just ferrous) material.  It will detect a bike with a carbon frame if it has aluminium rims.  The detector "learns" about nearby static metal such as the pit lid, and will ignore it.
2. Passing over versus staying put on the loop
Just before each phase change, it checks to see whether the loop detects the presence of a bicycle (at that actual time) and if so, will allocate a green light in the phase.  So you do need to stay on the loop until it does the check.   We have recently double checked all the loops on Union Street, and all work if there is a bicycle in the loop at the phase check time.
3. Location of the loop
As you point out, many riders pull over to the left kerb to rest their foot on the kerb, putting them outside the loop area.  To better match the infrastructure to the behaviour, we are doing three things:
(a) RMS have increased the sensitivity of the loops to the maximum setting, so that detection should now extend to slightly outside the loop itself;
(b) some of the loops have already been recut to put them as close to the kerb as possible and made wider to provide a wider area of detection, and more will be extended;
(c) RMS will investigate using a new overlapping loop system to extend coverage, though this hasn't yet been tested fully.
Let me know if you want more information, and thanks for spreading the word on the diamonds and how things work - it's helpful.
Fiona Campbell
Manager Cycling Strategy
City Of Sydney

Sydney Morning Herald picks up on the bike lights story

I spent an hour or so on Monday morning in the company of Amanda Hoh, a video journalist from Fairfax Digital, looking at the bike lane traffic lights which have so exercised me over the last couple of weeks. I was Amanda's guide and model for a video piece on the lights. We tested various ways of hitting the sensors and found that they really only work when you're dead center on the line where the diamond markings should be. We also discovered, in an adjunct experiment, that it's not sufficient to have a wheel on the outer edge of the sensor and a metal cycle cleat on the centre line - they're just not sensitive enough. Lastly, we noted that almost no-one using the corridor actually knows about the sensors.

That's me, standing to the left of the picture. If you've read my previous posts on these lights, you'll notice none of the cyclists in the shot are on the sensor. I was, of course, deliberately avoiding it in order to demonstrate that the lights don't change if you're not lined up just right. The other riders appeared to be unaware of their existence, as it appears the majority of riders are.

Stewart Lockrey, the police spokesman in the video, is absolutely right - the law does state that even though these sensors are laughably inadequate for the task, and poorly publicised, and barely known, that jumping the red light is illegal. Not technically illegal. Illegal. But as I've said before, if the light doesn't change, and you know it should have changed, what are you going to do? Turn around and go home? And if it happens every time you use the path, what's your belief going to be about the lights? Would you believe that they're actually broken, perhaps? Mr Lockrey suggests that cyclists should get off and walk, at which I of course scoff. There's a bike lane right in front of you, you're on a bike. You can see it's safe. The lane is clear. The traffic is stopped while the pedestrians walk. You're not human if you get off and push. But you're breaking the law, and possibly copping a fine.

The ball is essentially in the court of City of Sydney and the RTA/RMS to fix this problem (and I'll shortly be blogging some info on what they're planning to do about it), otherwise riders will continue to jump the lights, and will continue to anger drivers and pedestrians who see them doing so, and continue to cop fines for doing so, all of which is damaging the reputation of Sydney Cycleways in the eyes of riders, pedestrians and drivers. 

In the larger picture, Australian cycling regulations also need to be examined. As I've noted previously, there's an inconsistency, or at least an uncomfortable imbalance, in the way Australian regulations (in this I include cycleway construction and traffic control) treat riders as part pedestrian and part vehicle. I think bikes need to be given the discretion to:

  • turn left on red when it's safe for both riders and other road users
  • go straight ahead at a red where there's no left turn, again when safe to do so 
  • cross alongside pedestrian controlled junctions during the pedestrian cycle, again when safe to do so.

Riders already do all these things on an unofficial basis, but they're illegal. If riders cross when it's unsafe, they need to be appropriately charged and fined, but I believe they should not be fined for the victimless crime of crossing a junction safely alongside pedestrians, as has been happening in Pyrmont*.

We as riders can already assert control over an entire lane (which drivers don't seem to believe is true), we can ride two abreast providing we're no more than 1.5 metres apart (again which drivers don't seem to believe). We can legally pass cars on the left, both moving and stationary. We can use bus lanes, though I sometimes find that more intimidating than riding the centre of Parammatta Road, thank you very much. These are necessary rules which allow us to use the road without constant stopping and dismounting to cross and overtake traffic. Why don't the cycleways have similar progress-oriented provisions to allow us to get on with the business of propelling ourselves from A to B? Why must we spend 80% or more of a given light sequence standing around waiting for a green light which may never come when we can clearly see a safe way to progress?

Because it's the law, I suppose. Which to me isn't a good enough answer. Laws can be changed.

Without rules that recognise the unique situation that riders are in, I believe uptake of cycling will fail to reach its potential, and Sydney planners' vision of the city as an environmentally friendly, sustainable transport utopia will continue to wither on the vine. Riders will continue to be caught like fish in a barrel by police crackdowns, which some have labelled simple stat-boosting to easily raise the figures on number of fines issued, and cars will continue to dominate the cityscape. And I do so hate traffic jams.

I am, of course, making a pain in the ass of myself around various agencies about this whole thing. I expect some of them to get quite bored of me soon, if they're not bored already.

I rode through Sydney CBD on Sunday afternoon. There was no traffic whatsoever, yet had I used the cycleways, I would have been legally required to wait until the pedestrian phase of the light cycles, possibly doubling my travel time. Instead, I took the road, avoiding the cycle lanes entirely.

As for Pyrmont, this morning I avoided the Union Street corridor by instead dropping down from the end of Anzac Bridge onto the shared cycleway around Pyrmont Point and Pirrama Park - an extra kilometre or so, but far less frustrating and actually a lot more scenic. I recommend it. Avoid Union Street like the plague, and possibly avoid a fine into the bargain.

 Lastly, I really will get back to the blog's normal business of yelling at antivaxers and fundamentalist lunatics as soon as I can. That and pictures of cats.


* This of course does NOT mean that there were no unsafe red-light infractions fined. It just means that there were certainly riders that were crossing safely along with the pedestrian stream (when the cycle lights should change) fined.

MTB Day Out 17 Mar 2012

I managed to get out on the bike again at the weekend, despite awful weather. This time I was in the company of Dave The Happy Singer, who would be riding my new (to me) Avanti Hammer XT hardtail. Esther's dad Tim was kind enough to bring me the Hammer, a 2003 model, from his large collection and I was told to consider it a permanent loan. Which is win.

Anyway, two bikes don't fit into one small Celica, so it was also the first outing for my new bike rack, and the first time I've had an external bike rack on since Ieft the UK. So it was with trepidation that I headed off into The Land Of The Awful Driver early on Saturday, in thrashing rain, quietly hoping that today wasn't the day some Sydney driver crunched straight into my rear bumper.

Stil, I got to Dave's place without incident, and on to the Blue Mountains. The chosen trail was Faulconbridge Point, followed by a quick thrash round the Volvo Trail, with the Oaks Singletrack to finish if the weather held up enough for it to dry a little.

Faulconbridge Point is scenic, n00b-friendly and relatively flat, so a good start to the day. Only one section was flooded out, and this was very much bypassable. The trail is fast, smooth and well-drained. Scenic too, when you can see further than 20 metres. Grose Valley is usually a world-class view. Not so much yesterday.

That complete, the weather seemed good enough to take Dave out to The Old Volvo Trail and give him a taste of what singletrack riding is all about, and as ever the trail didn't disappoint. Despite the torrential rain of the previous day, it was quite ridable, and I got Dave to ride the first aerial ladderway without much complaint. For my part, I decided that since I had another rider with me, the wet conditions were no reason to avoid any obstacle, in fact no reason to avoid a little one-wheeled dismount action either. I also finally figured out the circuit properly, which helps. Dave, for his part, was slightly more circumspect over what he wanted to ride over, and did have a slight moment of misjudgement on top of the car, resulting in a technical disqualification and the Congressional Medal of LOL. Never has there been a more deserving recipient. Dave is pictured below at his medal presentation.

After a couple of runs over the volvo and down to the river crossing, the rain started to increase and it looked like it might be the end, with the Oaks rained off, so we dithered about for a while, then headed off to the pub and watched tennis, drank cider and generally had a great old laugh.


  • Faulconbridge Point - do it, it's easy. Great warmup and a potentially amazing view
  • Old Volvo Trail - stays drier than one might expect, some obstacles are, however, in need of maintenance. Always fun.

 And finally, this:


A case study in idiocy

Should more proof be needed that supporters of the Australian Vaccination Network are morons, I present the following screenshot, in the comments of Meryl Dorey's absurd idiot-stroking blog post in response to Mia Freedman:

Yep, Nathan really seems to think that it's somehow surprising that a newspaper may publish pieces which come from different perspectives. In NathanWorld, newspapers are monolithic entities, written by drones in lockstep, whose every word is attuned to a pre-determined ideological slant.

It never crosses his mind* that

A: The articles do not actually support an antivax viewpoint, but highlight the safety concerns and problems inevitably raised in a system that actually works (though not, obviously, without error. I dare you to find a human-designed system which is error-free)


B: Newspapers sometimes post opinions which may actually differ from previously posted opinions. Hell, some papers publish opinon pieces which differ from reality. Every single paper that has a "religion" section, for instance. However, I digress.

Of course, my response comment has Buckley's chance of actually being published, because that would damage free speech, or something. After all, as a personality connected with Stop The AVN, I'm obviously out to quash free expression and conspire to destroy innocent grassroots volunteer-run safety watchdogs. Right?

Oh yeah. That.


* I use the word with some misgivings

Vaccination Saves Lives: Stop The Australian Vaccination Network
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