Are you sick of being stuck in Sydney traffic for hours? Are you annoyed about the near constant traffic chaos around Sydney airport? And do you ever wonder why there are so many cars driving through Sydney’s CBD?
Well, what you are seeing is a general failure of transport planning by successive governments over many decades. Not since Dr JJC Bradfield have we had a true transport visionary in Sydney. What we get is an endless procession of so-called transport experts who are increasingly just free market fundamentalists having this delusional view that the market will fix all transport and infrastructure problems.
The so-called market in this case are those big private sector companies that just want toll roads so they can simply milk motorists for decades with ever increasing tolls. It’s so easy for a private sector company to build a toll road that barely meets the existing transport needs to just rake in lots of easy money until the toll road can’t cope anymore. Then there’s inevitable call for a new toll road with a new income stream to milk motorists.
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Supposedly I’m a menace and a f*%king idiot. Why? I’m not really sure, but I think it’s because I ride a bike around Sydney.
I wear a helmet. I ride on the left side of the road. But, I have a cheap hybrid bike that can’t move all that quickly, and sometimes, when it’s dusk, I don’t put my lights on.
Last week two men in cars started yelling at me while I was on my bike. This isn’t unusual, it happens a lot, and I’m quite used to it.
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One day, Gina Rinehart is projected to be worth $100 billion. In the past, I’ve argued she should use a big chunk of that money to do something grand, like fund an entire Aussie space program.
So imagine what two particularly philanthropic Ginas could do if they both decided to invest $100 billion into Australian infrastructure.
According to reports this week, during secret mining tax negotiations the day before he was knifed as Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd struck an in-principle deal with mining exec Andrew “Twiggy” Forrest that would’ve allowed mining companies to avoid liability for the 40 per cent mining tax by instead writing off their capital expenditure on Australian infrastructure. Estimates suggested the plan would’ve pumped at least $200 billion into Australian infrastructure every five years. A huge deal for the country.
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It’s highly annoying when recounting a tale of woe, pouring your heart out and shaking your fist, only to hear an unsympathetic someone crow: “That’s nothing, mate … blah, blah, blah … my neck’s bigger than yours.”
So when I hear Australians complaining about how other Australians drive, I tend just to nod my head rather than thicken my neck. I tend not to mention the past 10 years sharing asphalt with the Italians, for whom the speed of light is considered conservative, in the wet, in reverse, in their driveways.
That’s not to suggest I haven’t seen daredevil tactics in Oz. Despite the recent “good news” about 2011 registering the lowest number of road deaths since 1946, we still have our share of hoons, road rage and drink-driving are still a problem, and if I had a dollar for every P-plater I saw texting while driving… It’s as though they think you can steer with a smartphone. Perhaps one day you’ll be able to, if Darwinism extends to gadgets.
Very few vivid memories remain from the morning of April 1, 2005. I was 17.
The one that sticks the most was dad crying. Dad never cries. Farmers never cry.
It could have been 4am, it could have been 7am. I still don’t know. All I remember was it was dark and mum and dad were standing at my bedroom door in tears. Daryl was gone. My mate.
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As we embark on another busy holiday period on our roads, I’m reminded of a tragic story.
It was late at night. A car ran a red light and an innocent family was in trouble.
As a police officer, I was one of the first on the scene. The father had died on impact in the car. The mother – who was given CPR by ambulance officers – also died at the scene.
Everyone should abide by driving laws but I reckon there’s a need for a guide to driving etiquette.
Is it just me or are drivers becoming more agitated, more selfish and lacking any respect for other motorists? They aren’t necessarily breaking the law, they just make driving more annoying.
Gone are the days when driving was a pleasure. Today it’s a means of getting from one place to another with the least amount of aggro.
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This massive billboard for McDonald’s Yass is the funniest sign on the Australian highway network. Imagine the word “kiss” in front of it and you’ll soon see what I mean.
But there’s nothing funny about the roadside dining options on Australia’s highways, which generally range from gross to inedible to botulism-inducing.
I did plenty of driving over Christmas, in a loop of SE NSW that included a south coast beach holiday and three days camping in the Snowy Mountains. Kilometres covered: about 1,200. Memorable road meals: zero.
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Proponents of chaos theory would have enjoyed being in Sydney this week where an unremarkable collision between two trucks generated a spirited public discussion about population policy.
The accident itself and its comical aftermath was merely the latest demonstration by the NSW Government that it would be flat out organising a chook raffle, with the hated Roads and Traffic Authority playing the starring role.
Late Tuesday morning and well out of peak hour, two trucks collided on the F3, the busy northern freeway which connects Sydney to the Central Coast. No-one died, but one of the truck drivers had to be taken to hospital by helicopter, and there were concerns for public safety as one of the trucks was carrying fuel. It took the RTA almost five hours to decide that the fuel needed to be siphoned from the truck.
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Treasury secretary Ken Henry should spend less time hanging around with hairy-nosed wombats and more time talking to working families in suburban Sydney.
That’s not to bag wombats, especially hairy-nosed ones. Nor to question the right of anyone to take a holiday, and to do what they like with their leave.
As Dr Henry said last year amid criticism of his five-week wombat-rescuing odyssey into Queensland’s far-flung Epping Forest National Park, there are 10 times as many pandas in China as there are hairy-nosed wombats in Australia.
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Birmingham is known as Britain’s forgotten city. Well, it would be if anyone bothered to mention it at all.
Having long ceased to be England’s industrial centre, the capital of the Midlands (yawn) is now notable for being about halfway between London and Manchester.
One of its two landmarks is “Spaghetti Junction”, an intertwined series of motorway overpasses. Yes, a motorway junction!
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The world’s worst headline is widely agreed to be this rip-snorter from a brief which ran some years ago in The New York Times: None dead in small earthquake in Chile.
This column might be considered a belated shot at the title.
But setting aside from its decidedly unspectacular impact, it’s a story which says something about the way we live and interact in a big city like Sydney. It goes to the kind of entrenched bullying and brinksmanship which pits complete strangers against each other in all sorts of frazzled, sometimes deadly encounters as we try to get through our day.
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SQUASHED in a carriage like sardines, two bankers in striped suits bitched about a mutual client, then switched to moaning about how crowded and late the train was.
“Shouldn’t have to pay for this,” harrumphed one. “Bloody public transport. Should be free,” his mate chimed in.
If 10 strap-hangers and their sweaty armpits hadn’t blocked the path, I might have confronted the whingers with the fact no major world city has ever successfully run a free public transport system.
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In his great book City of Quartz urban geographer Mike Davis describes the lengths to which the City of Los Angeles has gone to make life difficult on its own people, reaching its zenith with the creation of “the bum-proof bench”, a specially-designed park bench which is curved so that homeless people can’t sleep on it.
If Mike ever comes to Australia he won’t have to go very far to find a similar level of designed hostility towards the public - he’ll have landed right next to it.
Already voted the worst airport in Australia, Sydney Airport has just become a whole lot more unpleasant with its management closing a turning lane for motorists – forcing them to use the exorbitant Macquarie Bank-owned carpark, or exit the airport altogether.
Without any public announcement, Sydney Airports Corporation has placed yellow road blocks and a no-exit sign on what for years had been a public turning lane which let motorists do a lap as they waited to pick and family and friends whose flights had been delayed.
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