15 Jan 2010

Jackie Fristacky’s excellent day on wheels

Posted by Mike Rubbo

Cycling in Australia

This is the story of the day I spent following ( on a bike) a very inspiring politician around the streets of Yarra city, which is part of Melbourne.

Jackie has been part of a push which has seen Yarra city climb to the highest rate of bike commuting of anywhere in Australia.

Jackie Fristacky’s story might look like just another movie on YouTube. But actually it’s a very special tool for change, at least potentially.

What you can do, if you like it, is to find out who is sympathetic to bikes as transport on your own local council, and then send that person this video.

If you get a response, follow it up. See if they’d like to be in contact with Jackie Fristacky and Yarra council to find out more.

We can grow bike use together in ways like this. It’s fun.

Just like it’s fun riding a bike as transport, so much fun it should be illegal.

These are not my councillors, not yours either, but they do look receptive, don’t they?

You might be surprised to find your timing is spot on when it comes to your council and bikes. The world is changing and the only way to know, is to pay a visit.

So, here’s the secret weapon, the Fristacky file.

Let me know how you go with Jackie’s story.

People might want to know more as to why Yarra city council is doing so well. Jackie Fristacky has sent myself and David Hembrow, some more detail.

She says; There are a range of reasons why Yarra has a high cycling mode share.

1, Location close to key destinations such as CBD (1-2kms away to 5kms away at the extreme), employment and local activity centres;

2. Yarra being 19 sq kms, and only a few kms. from CBD, so distances all easily cyclable;

3 Relatively flat terrain;

4. Hoddle grid street pattern (rectangular blocks) makes cycling easy;

5. High youth population, including students, given proximity to many tertiary educational institutions (University of Melbourne, RMIT, Australian Catholic University, and city campuses of Monash University, Vitoria University and others);

6 Demographic is diverse with high proportion of professionals (higher incomes), and students and public housing (low incomes); both demographics cycle;

7. cycling as an egalitarian and independent mode, suits the Yarra demographic;

8. Traffic Congestion is common. So it is far more effective to cycle – being faster and door to door;

9. 20% of households do not have a car, compared with Melbourne average of 10%;

10. 73,000 residents; and 8,700 businesses in Yarra, employing some 60,000 people. Yarra is the largest source of employment outside the CBD.

11. Some large businesses, like the CUB, have large secure bike cages for staff. Many employers are starting to encourage their staff to cycle to work with good parking and other facilities.

Under the State planning scheme, these have become mandatory for larger new developments, but this is effecting existing businesses too.

At meetings with planners, we take every opportunity to point out that more bikes are sold than cars, especially in Yarra, so where are residents/workers going to put their bikes?

We say that if they don’t want them in corridors and on balconies where they can cause trip hazards and WorkCare claims, then they need to plan better storage places;

13. Yarra inherited a good cycle path to the CBD (Canning Street) but this has been supplemented by bike paths on virtually all roads in Yarra due to policy change directing this;

13. Role models of Mayor and councillors on bikes, and senior staff including Directors on bikes;

14. PR with press features on cycling and facilities;

15. Many local workers like to attend a bar or the like after work and having a car hampers them with restricted parking

Cr Jackie M Fristacky
Councillor for Nicholls Ward, City of Yarra
Phone: 0412 597 794

And here’s a companion story, another busy professional who, not only uses a bike on the job but, like Jackie, has interesting ideas about how bikes can make our lives better.

This is Ian Charlton, The Doctor on a Bike. Seeing patients, Ian prefers to prescribe a bike than a pill.

Indeed, Ian believes that if we were to increase our exercise through cycling and walking, we could get off those lifestyle pills so many us now take.

He’s got me off. A year ago I was taking six pills. Now, I take one.

P.S The three men in suits are actually Montreal council people riding the new Bixi bikes around that city. Montreal is a case of city council making a huge difference in the cycling culture of a city.

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15 Responses to “Jackie Fristacky’s excellent day on wheels”

  1. Very heartening to see (firstly) a council that is pro-bike in deed and not just in word and (secondly, more importantly) money being spent on making cycling easier for normal people.

    Still, even in pro-bike Yarra, we see illustrations of where our fledgling bike culture has a long way to go. The helmets (of course), but also the ghastly fluoro safety wear, which I’m sure puts so many people off riding a bike by implying not only that that cycling is inherently dangerous, but that it is inherently graceless and ugly.

    What person with even a modicum of savoir faire or personal style is going to look at that group of Canning St cyclists, in their helmets, dayglo jackets and clinging lycra, hunched over like cavepeople with their arses in the air, and conclude that cycling is a cool and dignified mode of transport, worthy of their attention? Not to mention that hideous competitive little race across the intersection when the light turned green? What adult wants to engage in a mounted pissing contest with some buffoon in a jacket reminiscent of of George Michael’s socks, circa 1984?


    Scott McIntyre

  2. Great film Mike. I liked her electric bike. Love mine too.



  3. Scott, I challenged Jackie about the bright clothing. I too feel it sends the message that cycling is dangerous, and as David Hembrow points out o n his blog, A view from the cycle Path (link on this blog) subjective saftey is very important, and such clothing sends the wrong subjective safety message. It follows that if people think an activity is dangerous, they’ll stay away.

    But there was not time in the film for her answer which had more to do with council concerns, than hers. Also the helmet question, which I’ve covered in other films, was not something to get into here.

    Jackie wears a helmet comfortably. She’s used to it and and that too is an issue for another film with her.

    Take a look at the companion film, Doctor on a bike. Ian Charlton speaks about helmets , their down side, even though he wears one.

    Both films make the point that we’d be wise to change the bikes we use, and our posture, for everyday riding, change to sit-ups if we are to make any real progress in growing urban cycling in this country. Mike



  4. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Unity Finesmith, James D. Schwartz. James D. Schwartz said: Mike Rubbo's latest video, Councillor on a bike – http://www.situp-cycle.com/2010/01/15/jackie-fristackys-excellent-day-on-wheels/ [...]

  5. Great advocacy Mike!!

    You’ve got me motivated. I sent an personal email to each of my 12 local councillors, the Managing Director and Director Assets & Services at the Kogarah City Council in Sydney.
    The punch line was a challenge to watch the video with a request for a personal response.

    Oh, by the way before all of you non-Aussies sell up and move to Kogarah – watch the video.
    (notice the beautiful bicycle pic on the top if the page!)
    From Sydney



  6. Mike, thanks for your comment on Portlandize.

    Something that Marc from Amsterdamize and I have talked about, is that the more human you look, the more likely people are to treat you humanely on the roads (or just in general, really). It’s easier, I would venture, to view someone in neon clothes, flashing lights, weird shoes and helmet as something “other” than it is a person in jeans, sneakers, a sweater and a wool cap.

    I personally have no problem with people wearing helmets, if it makes the difference between them riding or not, and especially if they don’t feel confident on the bike regardless of being in traffic or not, but I do think they are an indicator of subjective safety – the safer people feel, the less likely they are to wear a helmet. I would also say that the vehement helmet evangelists do nothing but harm the cause of cycling.

    I think there are a lot of things about the typical European/Asian city bicycle that are both very humanizing and very convenient – see The All-Weather Bicycle on Portlandize.

    The process of riding itself is very humanizing, as opposed to driving, as you are propelling yourself, your are not encased in steel, you can see and interact with your environment, etc – not to mention the preventive health benefits.

    Good to see someone else out to promote cycling positively, keep up the good work!



  7. Great video.

    It’s great to see what difference a council can make, especially with relatively limited amount of funds compared to road building.

    It shows that, if you provide the right infrastructure, cycling usage can increase.

    Nice to see.



  8. Awesome film Mike! Nice to see.
    Regards taking your bike apart; what a pain, eh? Come to Sydney. You can take a countrylink train to the Blue Mountains, and simply hang it up. Also, normal trains take them for free outside of peak hours.
    Also, sorry but the dayglo has to stay until we’re no longer a tiny minority on the road.



  9. Thanks, Ted. How did you come across it? Yes, I know about local NSW trains and hanging up bikes. I live on the Central Coast. So, I’ve done it quite often.There’s a problem there too, though. The carriages with the hooks are not marked on the outside, so that chances of finding the right carriage in the rush of a short station stop, are very small.

    Country link has to be worked on.

    As for the daglo, it does prevent cycling looking elegant and beautiful in the Copenhagen Cycle Chic way. (I assume you know that great blog) and denied that sort of a look, is one reason why so few women ride here.


    Mike Rubbo

  10. Scott needs to get over his image thing. Clearly cyclists have their own views & don’t care for his. Now let’s try to picture Scott: pudgy, bad posture, wears mostly black, smokes, looks like he’s trying hard to be special? Sorry Scott, doesn’t do it for me, I’ll stick with lean & Lycra. I hope u get over yourself.



  11. @Scott McIntyre, have we in the cycling movement come to a point where we must all wear some “chinese communist” uniform – a 19th century tweed look? Must cycling go down the path of miserable uniformity of the motorcycling community, where tweed or italian wool is our equivalent of black or camo DragOns?

    I ride a road bike to work while wearing multiple layers of minimally branded, non-team lycra because it is light weight, aerodynamic and appropriate for my mode, speed and style. I have my change of clothes sorted for my destination and, thanks to well chosen layers, never arrive with a sweat on, can change quickly and still be quicker from breakfast to desk than driving and parking is.

    When I tour or mountainbike, I wear a mix of Ground Effect and Kathmandu outdoors gear because it’s appropriate. If my clothing choices set me apart, that’s the bigotry of others, not anything wrong with what I’m doing.

    If I had to wear tweed, and ride a sit-up-and-beg bike in order to not “put people off cycling”, my commute would LITERALLY take twice as long – close to 80 minutes! That would make cycling useless as transport for me, so I will continue to dress to suit my cycling.

    It’s not me dehumanising myself, it’s others judging me for not dressing like them. I don’t judge you for wearing tweed, or whatever is your choice, I welcome every rider, of every speed or style. I don’t judge a cyclist for their choice of ride or wear. I don’t judge a motorist for driving in a suit, whatever floats whoever’s boat.

    Scott, congratulations, you’ve successfully joined the driving bogans, who criticise cyclists for their choice of transport or their choice of clothing. Your remarks about lycra are no better than anti-cyclist abuse hurled from a wound down car window.


    Stephen Jay (AKA "Crunchy")

  12. Oh, and yes, great film, Mike :-) (Sorry, but the clothing remarks had to be redressed, if you’ll pardon the pun.)


    Stephen Jay (AKA "Crunchy")

  13. The Canning St crossing has continued to receive site visits from engineers- there was one last week – but there doesn’t seem to be a broader consultation. It needs an underpass and somebody to pay for it.
    The other issue in Yarra – well, the most important – is one at Heidelberg Rd on the Capital City Trail – a major commuting route and a school route with a dangerous and unmanageable hill on the cycle/walking path, that the Council have recently made far worse when relaying paths. The Open Space team need to talk to the Bike team!



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  15. [...] Mike Rubbo recently made a film about Jackie Fristacky, the Councillor for Nicholls Ward, City of Yarra which is located in Melbourne in Australia. [...]


    | Cycling Dutch Style

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