Rant – 213

Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne offers his take on the bike lane debate that has fired up in Leichhardt recently.

This month I learned that some cycling advocates have tunnel vision…

Leichhardt Council has adopted a budget that will deliver 30 minutes free parking in our main streets, two new childcare centres, eight playground upgrades and a new community bus available for older residents.

Overwhelmingly, local residents will welcome these long awaited investments but for Bob Moore, the dour but committed President of Leichhardt Bicycle Users Group, they were a step backwards.

In recent years, Council allocated much more money to building bike lanes than it was actually capable of spending. So much so that last year there was $600,000 of ratepayers money that sat idle in the bank.

A majority of Councillors shared my view that we could not afford to waste money in this way and decided to reallocate $400,000 of this unused cash to upgrading playgrounds and repairing roads.

Despite the fact that more than $4 million is still locked in for cycling infrastructure over the next ten years, including $600,000 this year, Mr Moore and the Greens Party Councillors at Leichhardt advocated that the playground and roads funding be withdrawn.

Leichhardt is spending more per capita on bike lanes than just about any other Council in Australia, but for Mr Moore and his most ideological supporters, this is not nearly enough. I have tried to suggest to cycling advocates that I think it is important that they put some energy into lobbying the dozens of Sydney Councils who currently spend next to nothing on bike lanes as well as supporting Leichhardt’s ongoing investment.

I had always thought that people’s wariness of hard-core cyclists was based on their understandable dislike of middle aged men in spandex. But if bike advocates want to include opposition to kids’ playgrounds as part of their agenda, their legion of opponents is about to get a lot bigger.

Words: Darcy Byrne, Mayor of Leichhardt.