Bike paths should be as good as roads

I rode again this afternoon and evening on the bike path that runs down from Hampton Road to South Terrace, and was reminded of the poorly-laid new surface that has been installed on the lower part of it. It’s rough and bumpy and looks like an amature job. Why does this happen to such a important bike route?! It’s not like whoever builds these things doesn’t know how to make beautifully smooth and well-curved paths — they managed to do it over at the northern end of the South Beach car park with that new S-curve bit, which was done at about the same time (although I’m not sure why it had to be an S-curve).

But it’s not like this bit of crap path really matters. And there’s probably some advantage in having the bottom of that nice hill a bit bumpy, so that over-enthusiastic cyclists (or just well-greased-bearing bearers) don’t feel like swooshing on into the pedestrian crossroads at the end, or onto the road.

What is most annoying is that such shoddy work would never be accepted on a motor-vehicle road!! Why must bicycle traffic be always considered second-class?! Why not build a network of bike paths with a view to people actually using them to get around (and not just for Saturday-morning pootling down to a cafe?). Why not take this stuff seriously?

One speed: slow?

Another gap in posts for this blog; sorry. (Not that there’s anyone reading this to say sorry to, but as they say: meh.) It’s not that I haven’t been writing lately, I have, but in places that the web doesn’t reach; I’ve been enjoying that.

But it’s four-thirty on a Thursday afternoon and I’m at work. Thus, I have a) no inclination to do any work; b) a whole host of other things that I would rather be doing; and c) some stupid compulsion to remain here until five o’clock. The latter is probably due to the boss still being here.

Oh, no he’s not, he’s just left. See ya.

(This post was going to be about singlespeed bicycles, esperanto, and how good it is to not write on the web, but that can all wait. Apologies for the remaining pointlessness.)

Blog Action Day

Bloggers unite. Today is blog action day, when we write about ‘the environment’ in order to ‘save it’. Oh yeah.

Tom Worthington calls for less emails; but I concur with Paul Kingsnorth, and say: smash your computer and lock on to the nearest airport check-in counter!

(I might say that, but I’m more inclined to sit in the shade under a tree, sewing my shirt and knowing the touch of the wind. Bring on the prelude!)

That on which the coding rests

Just to intersperse this stream of codeish posts with something a little more real

I rode part of the way to work today, and then put my bicycle on the bus for the remainder of the journey. (An odd feeling, looking through the bus’ windscreen and seeing my little bike all alone out there, bobbing up and down in the rush hour traffic; but I trust in these new yellow bike racks. Incidently, one of the recommendations from the Assembly’s inquiry into Action Buses was that passengers with bikes should travel for free — the argument being that putting the bike on the rack takes time, and so in order to keep the bus on schedule the putting of your card in the slot should be done away with. Hear hear!) Then at lunch time (oh, that sweet half of an hour!) I went and sat under one of my usual trees and sewed a button back on to a shirt. I’d planned to bring the real shirt that I’m actually sewing at the moment (completely by hand, I might add; no machine at all) but at the last minute thought this button would do. It wasn’t nearly enough: days like this were made for lounging under trees, enjoying the incrediblely beautiful calls of the birds above, and picking away at some little embroidery or other. Being quiet and being present, and certainly not locking one’s self up in an air-conditioned high-rise.

Bring on the recession, I must concur with Mr. Monbiot! Because (and I must appologise for the cliché) the Really Important Things have got nothing whatsoever to do with Economic Growth! But what I do, all this coding, is (it seems) very dependent upon this Growth, and so now I am sad…

Why I Refuse to Travel in Cars

In July 2004 I made the decision to completely stop travelling in all cars.

Since then, I have refused to get in any car whatsoever (even if it’s “going there anyway” or an electric vehicle), and although my life has become more geographically limited, I have never felt such personal feedom. I am, every day, more committed to this endeavour.

Connection to Place

Being limited in where I can go is part of why I do this; being forced to properly consider how I relate to place and speed. It is a contrived limitation that I place upon myself, but it’s been so long that I usually forget about it, and walking has become my naturnal way of going from place to place — I never feel like I’m going slowly or am being prevented from doing what I want.

I’ve offended some people, and missed out on some nice trips to the bush, but I feel so exceptionally fortunate to — almost every day — be given opportunities to appreciate, in a real and deep level, the places that I walk through. I mean anywhere, be it suburban pavement or inner-city park taking in a place slowly and on foot is truly amazing.

And some random other points:

  • Speed, and the taking-in of where one is and where one is going.
  • Devotional attachment to place.
  • Lots of places that I can’t go and lots of things I can’t do, but these limitations are positive.
  • Forces a real (human, environmental) relationship with place.


There’s also the macro-environmental thing: cars, and fossil-fueled transport generally, are killing the planet. That used to be a motivating reason for me to reduce my car usage (and my food-miles and all that); it isn’t really any more. I don’t mean that I’ve changed my mind about the environmental impacts of cars, but just that their impacts upon the urban landscape, and upon my personal experiences, are far greater than what I see of their impacts upon the arctic ice-shelf (for example). Of course, the local-environment things (streetscape, noise, etc.) are also environmental, but I don’t think revving engines or ugly streets ever brought about large-scale species destruction. And, finally (and possibly most importantly!), I really cannot be bothered with keeping up to date with all the latest scientific imformation about climate change etc. that are central to the ‘cars are environmentally bad’ argument.

People’s Reactions

What I said to my IBM colleagues in August 2007: “It’s about cars’ influence on society, urban design, the environment, and a bunch of other stuff… that I can go into if anyone cares.” They replied with silence, mostly, and “what about motorbikes?”. Other people, sympathetic people, asked “what if it were a biofueled car?” (I don’t care about the fuel source; I don’t know anything about fuel). But they were all, absolutely, respectful.

I Don’t Go In Cars

I’m writing a more in-depth article on this topic at the moment, and I’ll post it soon, but for now I just want to mention a couple of things.

The team that I am part of at IBM looks after servers that are spread over two different data-centres, one just across the road from us, and one about ten kilometers away. Sometimes, we have to actually go into these places (to do what, I’m not sure, I’m still learning Korn shell scripting), and I know that one of these days they’re going to ask me to drive with them up to the far-away data-centre. I will, of course, refuse.

I do not go in cars. It’s pretty simple, really. But what a headache it can cause some people: they just don’t get it, ‘why would anyone be so stubborn about something like this?’ they ask. And I don’t really have a ready answer. I don’t really want to try and nut it out now…

Cars make cities horrible places to live. I look around — no, I don’t even have to look, the noise is there, at all times, invading everything — and see roads, and cars, and driveways, and hectare upon hectare of urban space that is designed with one thing in mind: the motorcar. But I believe in beauty. I will not take part in something so vast and utterly, destructively, completely ugly!

Sticking everyone in their own little transport box is wrong. It has lead, more than anything much else, to selfishness and greed, because it takes away an immediacy of inter-dependence between people. We still need each other, but we don’t know it, and we don’t know each other. What a total disaster! How has it come about that people walk down the street that they live in, and avoid eye contact with their neighbour?! It has come about because people drive cars.

There lots more that I could say on this subject, and I’m sure I will by and by, but I want to go for a walk. It’s a lovely sunny day here, the first day of Spring, and I’m going to get away from the silly computer.

Homeward Bound

Every evening as I head home on the intertown, the view west from the bridge reminds me of all that I love most about Canberra. The sun setting behind Black Mountain, with the ANU tucked in amongst the trees and the lake there, all still and calm, and I wonder what more I could ask for. It’s a pretty unique place, this, and sometimes I forget it, and forget too to notice that lovely feeling of order and belonging that I used to get (quite often) in my first year here; it’s still there, sometimes.

What could be better than a quiet beer at University House, or a food co-op meeting with chapatti and dahl?

Sigh… and still I want to rub my feet in the sand at south beach…

New BB For Me

I’ve just installed a new bottom bracket in my bicycle. It’s a Shimano UN26, 68x113mm (1mm narrower than the old one, but that’s just closed up the little gap I had anyway), and cost $40. I’m posting this just so that I don’t forget…

BB installation.

I’ve finally figured out how to know which way to undo the BB and lockring: The direction the pedals go in, that’s tightening (so things don’t fall apart). Just go the other way. So looking at the chainring side, go clockwise.

So no more clunking BB for me — huzza!