Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Stop The Intervention! 4 down the track.

Tuesday 21st June...

12:00pm -

Rally against NT National Emergency Response (The Intervention)

Parliament House Darwin NT. 20.06.11

Four years later... what has it achieved?


Combined with our country's treatment of Asylum Seekers, the compulsory acquisition of Aboriginal Land  and reluctance to acknowledge our responsibilities regarding Global Warming and carbon emissions, I'd say the Intervention has guaranteed us a leading position in the race. First world nations proudly marching toward the formation of a brave new Fascist state.

Nothing in the paper today about this rally...
No doubt our media tabloid rag found better things to be looking at....Apparently there were strippers on a Golf Course somewhere.
You know there's something really going on in this town when the media don't show. ;)
Gill Scot-Heron knew it!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Careful with that mutika

I am not sure how to approach this subject since it arouses quite a bit if anger within me and I feel the subject is terribly misunderstood by the general public and more specifically the Dominant Anglo Mutika (motor car) obsessed culture!

Could be you
(Telltale markings on the road)

I have to write something but once again I doubt I will do it justice! Maybe this can be the preliminary for some more substantial writing about the issue of road safety and the basic human rights of pedestrians.

Once again on my way to work I came across the remains of a grisly scene. Spray painted marks on the road indicating the various points of impact and final landing place of various objects after having been impacted by a motor vehicle. As I rode down Bagot Road toward the city I noticed the markings one by one until reaching the unmistakable outline of a person!

Another body has been smashed on the road! As I ride to work it is not uncommon to ride across blood stains and fur from countless, bandicoots, rats, cats and sometimes dogs. Occasionally but far too often there is evidence that a person has been hit. Thursday was one of those days!

I am talking about Bagot Road which links Darwin city with it's Northern Suburbs. It is three lanes wide and carries what I would expect most cities would consider a moderate amount of traffic. The road divides the residential suburbs of Ludmilla and Coconut Grove from the patch of land containing the RAAF base and Airport. Along the outbound side of the road there are retail outlets, MacDonalds, Red Rooster, two Primary Schools, blocks of flats and the Bagot Aboriginal Community. The majority of the in bound side has only a strip of grass and trees seperating the road from a high cyclone wire fence behind which is the RAAF, there is no footpath and very little space to stand, the ground is sloping towards the road. There are several bus stops along the road with about 4 or 5 on the side which has no footpath and very little space for people to sit.

Here I think are some of the factors which I believe have contributed to far too many people being hit on this road.

1. Speed limit - 70 - 80 kmh
2. Lack of appropriate pedestrian crossings
3. Lack of appropriate lighting at key sites where people cross the road
4. Higher than usual number of pedestrians/ Public transport users
5. Higher than usual likelihood of people who are not familiar with road conditions (a lot of people who stay at Bagot actually come from Aboriginal communities where there aren't any busy roads)
6. Pedestrian Intoxication
7. Driver negligence 
8. Insufficient space to stand at side of the road, sloping surface

I do not have any details about the facts involved in this recent accident and I would prefer not to speculate or try to draw any conclusions as to what happened on this occasion. However I would like to reflect on the attitudes that I come across when discussing the situation with people generally. I find their comments quite revealing and believe that it is popular Car Culture attitudes which have allowed this situation to continue without any 'meaningful' attempt to improve safety for pedestrians. (I use the word meaningful because there have actually been some attempts made to improve bus stops and crossing but they do not really address the real problems.)

These statements are a generalization and are not related to any empirical data, they are based only on general themes I have picked up on in discussion with people who are not experts... and were not present at the accidents. It is possible they may read a little too much of the local Tabloid or watch news on TV.

Q. What caused the accident
A. The the pedestrian was drunk and black

Q. Who was at fault
A. The pedestrian

Q. How could this have been prevented
A. He/She should stay off the road

Q. What about road conditions?
A. Not a problem.

Generally the answer I get  is that The pedestrian was hit because they were drunk and stepped onto the road at night, weren't seen and an innocent driver hit them.

Those hit aren't always black or drunk but there seems to be a general sense that this is the reason why people are hit by cars on Bagot Road. When the situation varies though people often seem just as willing to blame the victim of the incident rather than consider that there might be some other serious causes for the incident. For instance when a cyclist was hit a couple of years ago I remember the major point of discussion was whether or not he was wearing a helmet! It seems the blame for the accident could be shifted from the driver to the cyclist simply because he didn't have a helmet on when the car hit him!

Personally I find this situation quite intolerable and because it will result in more people being killed or maimed unnecessarily. I don't want to be one of them.

I will try to post on this subject in more detail when I have time to compose a constructive argument. But I would like to ask a few questions which I have asked several people I know and received somewhat negative feedback.

1. What if the speed limit was reduced to 60km. (how much time would actually be lost?
2. Would pedestrian crossings or lights make it safer for people to cross the road going to or from the buss stop?
3. Would improved lighting crossing the road near a buss stop increase visibility of pedestrians?
4. Would drivers pay attention to signs alerting drivers to the presence of pedestrians make them more cautious?

I am not blaming drivers for this situation. I still don't know any of the facts that contributed to this latest  incident and would hate to attribute guilt to anyone involved, it's not my place to do that. I have been in the situation more than once when an intoxicated pedestrian has stepped onto the road at night and it is a frightening situation. I have learned that there are times and places when this is more likely and I slow right down, regardless of what the other traffic is doing! Really I would just like to take a look at the whole situation and challenge some of the popular thinking on this subject in the hope that a solution might present itself.

crash site

Surely we must be capable of putting our fundamental responsibility for the care of human life before our perceived rights as drivers of motor vehicles?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Long bike out of action

Time to give the trusty Xtra-long treadly a spell.
After 2 years and 10 months of daily commuting and general getting about, The Xtracycle is officially off the road!

It's been my main mode of transport for nearly 3 years but is now in desperate need of an overhaul.

List of stuff that is somewhat broken or just doesn't work any more....

- Saddle (vinyl split and cushion exposed)
- Brake pads (warn out)
- Brake cables (stiffening)
- Snap Deck (Laminated sheets separating, timber veneer splitting)
- Rear gear (shifter just won't grip the cable any more)
- Bottom Bracket (warn out, bearing case rusted and busted. Axel...)


 (What's left of axle and bearings... There were insects (cicadas) in there!)

 (Brakes, saddle, gear selector. Stuff that isn't cutting it)

I had intended to fix most of those bits and pieces that should be considered general maintenance but could never find a spare moment... The final straw came when I was slightly unwell one day and found myself grinding away in a bad gear, the chain ring moving in a sideways motion and too much friction radiating from the center bracket. I stopped the bike looked down at the play in the chain ring and found myself unable to continue at even a moderate pace. I limped the bike home and dreaded riding it again! (I rode it one more time when I went looking for Rosellas but found it was no longer fun!)

Now that my favorite machine is off the road I am alternating between two other bikes.
1. The Train-bike - An old Beach Cruise with an alleycat extension and a Weerider for taking the kids out and about.

2. The Pink Wonder - My old Shogun Katana road bike, for commuting and longer tours.

I have to say I am really enjoying being back on the road bike. It's a bike that fit's me perfectly and, (when I can stop the rear wheel from rubbing on the left chain stay!)it gets me to work 10 minutes quicker with energy to spare.

Lately this is the bike I've been taking out for morning rides. The speed allows me to get further and see more before having to turn back home in time for the family breakfast routine.

The morning rides are like a return to some kind of sanity... problem is that they make the other things I do... like work, seem somewhat less sane.

This morning I had the alarm set for 4:30am but was too tired to get up, but woke again at 5:15am, which is slightly too late for me to get as far as I would prefer, but I decided to ride anyway.
The moon had almost set and unfortunately the batteries on my headlight were waning, I was really struggling to stay on the path, it became really difficult with all the bicycle traffic coming the other way shining extremely bright lights in my eyes. I reckon there were about 30 bikes on the path between Karama and Palmerston this morning. The air was so fresh, but the conditions were perfect for riding fast, no sweat... (well not much sweat anyway).

Palmerston bicycle overpass

By the time I reached the Palmerston bicycle overpass the sky was beginning to lighten up so I decided that would be far enough. It's not a bad spot to turn around, so I rolled back down the hill to the Robertson Baracks junction and sat for a while watching the sky change color as more and more bicycles rolled on past.
5 minutes of bliss before shooting off home as the sun began it's trajectory... (well the earth actually but you know what I mean)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Unlikely miles

The relaxing weekend that never was!
It was meant to be a four day long weekend family retreat. We were going to roast marshmallows on the fire!
Plan as much as you like sometimes The Fates have other ideas!

We headed off late on Friday planning to spend a long long weekend at a Cattle Station/camp site just south of Adelaide River. Well... actually four days including a brief interruption, where by we all jump back in the car on Saturday so Dad (I) can attend his sailing lesson and then drive back before it gets dark.... But besides that we were meant to be sitting back watching horses poo and eating marshmallows by the fire!


It happened that this weekend was the week of the Adelaide River Show. Held at by the Adelaide River Show Society... or (ARSS), we really wanted to go but were diverted by forces more powerful!


Well the first thing that went wrong was I left the darn marshmallows at home which threw a major spanner in the works! At least we saw the Ghan crossing Adelaide River bridge... worth a few points with the kids but definitely not as much as marshmallows!

Then the expensive battery operated lantern fizzed out and we had no light... ,we were advised that under no circumstances should we drink the water... (which we'd been drinking over the past 2 days), then at sometime around midnight we are woken up by the police and advised that we are camped in an official disaster area and we'd have to leave first thing in the morning! Apparently risk of poisoning. I expect the matter has been in the news but I won't elaborate.

As we were preparing to leave we were humbugged by a media helicopter which amused the kids for about 5 minutes but essentially was just plain annoying.

News Chopper

We figured it'd be nice to visit Kakadu so headed off toward Pine Creek, scoffed a pie, bought a hot coffee each... (for the adults) and wandered over to the big windmill to stretch our legs. Out front of the museum/library we happened across the old Furphy portable water tank with a strange inscription on the side. The information plaque beside it explained that what many people assume is Arabic script is actually a 'Temperance' message in 'Pitman's Shorthand' and reads "Water is the gift of God, but beer and whiskey are concoctions of the devil, come and have a drink of water" Cool Eh! We were both quite impressed... I mean in this day and age of controlled drinking programs and various other state endorsed attempts to 'reduce harm' caused by drinking, it seems quite quirky and odd to see a private firm expressing such a blatantly anti alcohol message... however I guess they were in direct competition with producers of beer and whiskey... and I suppose carts such as the one that carried the Furphy water tank are what was referred to as 'The Wagon' or the Water Wagon.

Off we go again and it's up the Kakadu Highway and into the big park. I hadn't been that way for ages and thought it would be a great road to ride on a motorbike or bicycle. We were soon running out of fuel so stopped at the Mary River Roadhouse, nothing much to comment on there except they still make sure you pay for your fuel before filling the tank, and I saw the most immaculate Norton Commando I think I've ever seen so far from a major town and not a drop of oil staining the bitumen beneath it! Drooling I drove on!

...I think it's at about this point that we'd actually blown our meager budget.

I realized somewhere along this road that I'm totally over driving! Now all I want to do is toast marshmallows on the fire and read a book! What on earth are we doing spending all this time on the road?! As I drove I kept spying spots along the way where I'd camp if I were cycling... The kids were getting restless in the back and we just looked at each other and asked why are we doing this?

We found a quiet camp area with plenty of space, a free fire site and plenty of fresh water... time to set up camp. Hallelujah! Set up the camp again, lay out the rugs, set the kettle, light the fire and we're settled again. That camp was just what we needed, if only we could have stayed a few days, I think we would all have begun to unwind.

We didn't stay of course! Time to pull up the camp and off we go again at some time around 10:00am. Rolling down the road, this time a little slower, slightly more relaxed and at ease. Visited a few of the quieter camp sites we hadn't been to before and discovered some pretty decent places to visit next time. There was time enough for a walk at one of the famous rock art sites, the one near the Anbangbang area which is no longer called what we used to call it and unfortunately I can't remember it's name now.

Used the last of our cash to buy fuel from a temporary petrol station at Jabiru, rolled on down the road, picked up the dog on the way home, saw 7 Jabiru (birds) on the way and lurched the car into the driveway with the fuel light flashing and just over a thousand ks on the trip meter... Stinking of smoke and sweat, a few scratches from collecting firewood and feeling somewhat more content than we should.

Oh yeh... we found the marshmallows and scoffed the lot down in seconds! There was frantic clawing at the packet and demonic laughter in the air!

Philosophy or wisdom gained?

When approaching the road, even if it's a familiar one, don't assume you know where it leads!

Friday, June 03, 2011

Water craft (canoe)

Where to paddle?

You can cast me with the dreamers and see if I float!
For too long I've wanted to sail but done nothing about it! I hadn't realized how long I'd been dreaming (and talking) about it until I ran into a guy I used to work with who happened to ask me if I'd sailed around Australia yet!
"What?!" How did he know I'd been thinking about boats, sailing, the sea and fascinating exotic coasts lately?
When I asked, "What do you mean?", he just laughed and said, "You've been talking about that for years!"

Talk talk talk! That's about all I've done! Of course I haven't been in a position to just up stumps and set sail, I have responsibilities! But what good is just dreaming and boring people with 'one of these days' stories?

Well a few months ago I decided to do something about it and I bought my very first water going vessel! An old canoe from the tip shop!

green limousine

It floats and paddles well but there aren't many places close to home that I can paddle it! So I'd been playing with the idea of turning it into an outrigger sailing canoe... I was getting pretty excited about how I might make it when the next step in my sailing life occurred. My wife suggested I could do a sailing course at one of the local Yacht clubs.
So last night I attended my first theory session and discovered there is quite a bit of physics involved with sailing a yacht! Suddenly the idea of chucking a few poles across the deck of my canoe, attaching a piece of polly pipe and erecting a couple of poles and a sheet (a sail not the piece of rope that controls the direction of the sail!), might get me into more trouble on the water than I'd expected! I learned about the significance of a keel and a whole bunch of other stuff that kind of blew my naive dream out of the water... or potentially onto a 'lee shore!'.
Yes marooned on a Lee Shore is where I could end up if I try to sail without a keel... Or capsized if I were to try to fix a sailboard mast to the hull of my vessel without any way of lowering the sail!
Ha already practical reality is taking the place of ignorant dreaming.. I hope as I continue through the course I will be able to maintain some of the romantic naivety that inspired me wonder about what could be just over the horizon!
Now I'm looking at the old canoe with fresh eyes!
Now I'm really pumped! They're only baby steps