Cycling in Melbourne Australia
Harry will have a place in the history of cycling in Australia. I think he has done a lot. I do appreciate people who can make decisions and work them through.
He certainly does, and for whatever anyone else may say, he took on a huge, possibly thankless task over 20 years ago and has changed cycling awareness in Australia for the better.
I am sure HB has done good job at representing cycling to the masses, and helped increase participation. I have met him once and he seemed a nice bloke.
But then again, there have been some terrible gaffes on his watch, and a refusal by BV to engage with criticism. Gaffes include BV supporting the Albert Park Grand Prix (just when he assumed the role I think), the compulsory helmet laws, the repealed no bikes on peak hour trains rule in 2008 (apology was later given), and supporting the heavy fines and annual crackdowns on inner city cyclists by police. Then there was the Subaru test drive issue, and now the decision to become a 'health promotion organisation' to get charitable status. The latter is particularly galling since we thought BV was looking after cyclist's interests, not all of which are health related. Then there is the constant lack of support offered to any protest groups, Critical Mass, anti-CHL activists, and so-on. My questions on these issues to BV are always brushed off.
BV is rather like the CTC in the UK - conservative, always supporting all laws and rules, unwilling to criticise government, and thinking this is the best way forward. HB believed cyclists have to be well behaved to increase their status. But that was then- now we have deficient infrastructure and rising cycling numbers. We need support, not assertions of the need for conformity. Urban cyclists mounting kerbs and taking shortcuts because of bad infrastructure are actually castigated by BV, not supported.
It could be so different. The LCC in London, in comparison to CTC, took a different path and has been immensely successful in actually supporting grassroots cyclists rather than telling them to obey the road rules and organising nice rides. Its BUG equivalents in London are still associated with it, while many in Melbourne have disassociated with BV or been disassociated. (LCC also offers insurance to members).
Many people I encounter in the Melbourne inner city are no longer members of BV because it does not represent them in their desire to actually challenge government on crap cycle provision or to have more 'freedom' to decide on routes, safety, modes of expression, and transport policy. The claim is often made that because BV gets money from state government, its hands are tied and it can't go against government decisions. BV says they are independent and I am not sure of the financial arrangements. Nonetheless, I would like to see a job advert and a conventional open hire for the HB position - I do not see why the Board should first be looking internally (I worry it will entrench conservatism). I am sure no rule for a charity says that they have to look internally first. 45,000 members is enough to speak loadly to power, not to bow down to it when anti-cyclist legislation is introduced.
Surely the selection process will be transparent and publicly influenced. Having a member organisation find a new leader by any other process would be as inappropriate as having federal cabinet select federal judges. Which is what happens btw.
The accusations of state level organisations like BV being beholden to their paymasters - state government - are ongoing but unproven. What interests me more is the argument about whether an organisation should support the rule of law or not.
Cyclists have for a long time had good reason to object to various laws that seek to regulate their behaviour. All sorts of things from MHL to road rules to train access. It is less often mentioned that there are rules not in existence that could be in society's interest. Mandating lights on new bikes, as the Germans have done, is at least worth discussion. It won't get a run here as the whole regulation subject in Australia is tilted to reduction of regulations given that there are so many silly ones.
But I still want the protection I get from laws in Australia being enforced. There are many examples. I want laws used to force better provisions for cyclists. I want motorists to be forced, by rule of law, and later by laws that are yet to be enacted, to enhance my safety as I ride.
So whilst I see some laws and regulations that I object to and whilst I continue to ride on a few sections of footpath myself, I can't complain about "BV under Harry" generally supporting enforcement. Where the law or regulation is a silly one, we are right to insist they also become the voice for our demand for change. The two things have to coexist. We won't change laws by defiance of them. Our decisions to protest, for example by not wearing a helmet, in my view are private. I accept that this view has its limits as the Bapu in India demonstrated.
The discussion backing my comments about BV is here in an earlier post from 2010. As you can see, the lack of support for urban cycle commuters is deemed to be a big issue.