Should We Just Ignore That Stench Because It’s Easier That Way?

This is going to be another one of those ranty posts because it can be and because I want to. And I’m not sorry. If you’re not interested, stop reading now.

This week I have the good fortune of enjoying a week off work and decided that the recently cooler afternoon temps offered a great opportunity to get the road bike out and plot a route around Brisbane’s northside. Lights were strapped on, cycling nicks were slipped into (a rare occurrence for me these days) and I was ready to roll down the tarmac. As I’ve mentioned before, road biking these days for me is a fairly nonchalant affair with mountain bike SPDs, a quick dry tee shirt and bumbag, the only really road bikey thing I have on is the nicks. Any other “performance enhancement” items seem like a waste of time for me now. I’m no racer boy. I go to sight see, to exercise and to enjoy the speed and effortlessness the road bike offers – the Zen of the rhythm. And there’s no mud or dust to hose off afterwards. Kooky, I know.

Anyway, being a late afternoon start, the ride coincided with the afternoon peak hour which wasn’t much bother to me because I was mainly on bikeways so I had minimum contact with the chaos. But the chaos did highlight how ridiculously bad Brisbane’s traffic congestion problems really are. As a I spun along the Gateway Bikeway, it quickly became apparent that, even without much effort, I was moving significantly faster than the traffic on the other side of the fence next to me. That’s a 100kmh motorway over there.

gridlock on the Gateway Motorway
Gateway Motorway traffic near standstill just before the Bracken Ridge exit no match for a not-so-young guy on a bicycle.

Yep, for all the widening projects, reconfigurations and other work done to the Gateway Motorway over the years which has cost countless billions of dollars, the traffic still gets overtaken by a semi-fit middle aged bloke on a completely human powered bicycle.

Countless other people have said it before and I’ll say it again here – widening roads will never fix congestion. It will only promote more driving and the congestion will be back in a very short time. It’s called induced demand. It’s been studied and proven many times over and, yes, it exists. Just like the obesity epidemic, the housing crisis, the climate crisis and Covid – it exists. Whether it’s convenient for people to hear that or not, it exists and, yes, it means that to solve traffic congestion we will need to change what infrastructure we spend money on and the way we use cars.

Bicycle speedometer
At just over 31kmh, I was effortlessly overtaking traffic on the Gateway Motorway on my bicycle.

So, the next time you hear terms like “congestion busting project” coming out of the mouths of politicians or media shock jocks (which is especially likely right now at the time of this writing) that don’t refer to projects which are wholly dedicated to increasing public and active transport, know that they’re talking bullshit to get votes by offering an expensive, short term sugar hit which will ultimately make congestion, the environment and your hip pocket much worse off. (And I do realise that the Gateway Motorway is probably under state jurisdiction – it’s just an example, there’s plenty of other problem roads around Brisbane.)

Gateway Motorway gridlock from overpass
Gateway Motorway traffic still near standstill further down at the overpass at Deagon

Yes, I also realise people need to get to work, ferry children around and fetch groceries. And I realise that the current system has people trapped in a car centric lifestyle with no real way of imagining an alternative. Start voting to change it. It has to start somewhere because business as usual is not an option. There won’t be better housing options when there’s a highway built through your lounge room, it doesn’t matter if people think they “like” driving and there won’t be a magical sky fairy to beam the good people into the ether when we’ve killed the planet. The “invisible hand of the market” is fantasmagorical crock of shit.

And yes, I also realise that tradespeople, couriers and others need cars – that’s not what this is aimed at. It’s the bulk of the rest for whom much better solutions are possible.

And, yes, I also know people are entitled to their own opinions but not everyone is entitled to their own set of facts – there’s only one set of those. Soz. Unfortunately, there comes a time when people need to stop pretending they can’t smell bullshit because it’s impolite, inconvenient or just too hard to deal with. At some point we have to pay the piper and no doubt the same people aren’t going to like that either so better start making changes now.

Well, if you made it down this far, you’re either as angry as I am while writing this or you also have a week off and need some reading material to fill in the time. Good for you.

So seeing as though I now have the anger out of the way, I can go back the Zen of the rhythm I mentioned earlier. Believe it or not, there was a lot of that on this ride as well, I’m glad to say. The afternoon was windless which made light work of skimming along beside creeks and canals, along clifftops, through parks and the sun setting over suburbia as people finish their day. Sure beats the hell out of sitting in traffic.

That’s it for now. Vote for better ways to get around this Saturday 16 March – not just more cars.

Ride safe and see you out there sometime.

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The producer of the Velo Moda website acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land where I create and publish content from, the Turrbal and Jagera people, and pay my respect to Elders past, present and emerging. I recognise their continued connection to the land and waters of this beautiful place.
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