Political Science: thoughts on the NSW election and what next for Sydney

The NSW election has been run and won, and things are looking pretty bad for Sydney’s transport. The Liberal government will push ahead with Westconnex to bring more motorways and more traffic into Sydney; cycleways are going to be ripped up; and Labor opposition has decided to attack the one piece of public transport that might help the CBD.

So, was there any point in running for the Australian Cyclists Party? We didn’t get anyone elected and it now looks like all our worst nightmares are coming to fruition. However, as pointed out by President Omar Khalifa, the ACP did achieve a lot in just its first year: raising issues during the campaign that would otherwise be ignored; getting a major party to adopt many of our recommendations; and with just a handful of volunteers on polling day, receiving 2% of the vote in most of the lower-house seats we contested. It doesn’t sound like much, but in most cases that’s enough to put the ACP fourth, behind the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties.

The upper-house result was much less impressive, but perhaps should have been expected. Transport congestion and cycling is a ‘city’ issue, and would not be of interest to many people across the state. ACP volunteers and advertising were focused on the seats where we had lower-house candidates, and even there many voters only heard about our existence on polling day itself thanks to the volunteers, so across most of the state the party would be completely unknown. Add to that the ridiculous size of the upper-house ballot, and ‘minor-party-fatigue’ and it’s understandable that the ACP got only 10% of quota. Congratulations must go to the Animal Justice Party for taking the closely-contested last seat in the Legislative Council, showing that a grassroots campaign based on moral issues can beat a well funded and profit-driven group like No Land Tax.

So who did vote for cycling? Despite the anger directed at us by some Greens for stealing ‘their’ votes, we didn’t just attract Greens voters. Thanks to preferential voting, we don’t ‘steal’ votes from anyone – the voter gets to show that his/her first preference is for the ACP, and then indicate preferences for other parties so that their vote will ultimately count for someone, or ‘exhausts’ when the voter decides that none of the remaining candidates are worthy of his/her vote. Yes, ACP supporters were most likely to put Greens next, but not overwhelmingly so: only 43% of ACP’s upper-house preferences went to the Greens, followed by 12% to LNP and 11% to Labor, and the remainder to other minors.

This highlights something demonstrated by the diversity of the ACP candidates: cycling is not a ‘left’ issue. People might support cycling infrastructure because it reduces air and noise-pollution; or because it improves community health and reduces demand on the healthcare system; or because more people cycling means less congestion on the roads; or because it is good for business; or simply because they don’t want to see people die on the roads. Yes, most Greens voters support cycling infrastructure, but so do others. Even Liberal MPs. Shayne Mallard has spoken out against his government’s plan to remove College Street cycleway.

Unfortunately Mallard is an exception in the political world, where ideology tends to trump evidence. And it seems this is becoming more widespread. Anti-vaccination campaigners continue to spread their ideas (and diseases) in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence, and during the recent campaign someone even questioned water fluoridation. You can dismiss it as just a few crazy hippies or tin-foil-hat conspiracy theorists, but the reality is people are becoming more and more inured to evidence, and suspicious of scientific findings. Psychology has long known of ‘confirmation bias’ whereby people will only recall things that support their beliefs and dismiss other evidence, and in the modern world where social networks and their algorithms can cocoon you in a cloud of like-minded people showing you exactly what you already believe, this can only get worse. Scientific research, on the other hand, asks people to be suspicious of everything they currently ‘know’ and to constantly try to disprove it. Unfortunately, politics prefers dogma over data. It’s much easier to put in a three word slogan.

“Evidence-based policy” is one of the principles of the Australian Cyclists Party, and it was the three word slogan I used the most during the campaign, and which got the best reactions from voters. Perhaps that should be front-and-centre, and supporting cycling would be a corollary of that one principle (the NSW government is ignoring its own studies to tear up College St cycleway). It would also explain opposition to Westconnex, since repeated studies show that new roads make traffic worse. And of course it would define a stance on fossil fuels and global warming. Our governments have Chief Scientists, but how often do we hear of them being asked for input or advice? In today’s world where we are drowning in the data being produced daily, our politicians should be able to present policies backed up by evidence demonstrating their benefit. And I don’t mean focus group studies showing how it will play in the polls.

Until that happens, what can we all do about it? You can write to your representative and let them know what you think; support groups like WestConnex Action Group or Save College Street Cycleway, particularly their ride-in protest this Thursday, June 4th; or join the Australian Cyclists Party. You could even get to run as a candidate. It’s definitely an eye-opening experience!

Cyclists sprinting to the line in NSW election

There are just a few days to polling day, and the Australian Cyclists Party is shifting up a gear to draw as many first preference votes as possible so that the government is forced to acknowledge their failure to meet cycling targets and do something about it. Whatever the result on Saturday, it has been worth it. The Labor party have announced an active transport policy that looks like it could have been lifted straight from the ACP. We don’t mind. It’s great to see a major party recognise the benefits of active transport. Now we just need the others to come on board.

What have I been up to? Unless you pay close attention to the Inner West Courier, you wouldn’t have seen me. And even when speaking at a public forum as one of three candidates present (shame on the Libs for not facing the public), a minor party like ours doesn’t get more than a quick quote.

So here’s the transcript of the only thing I wrote down. Hopefully it spells out what I’m standing for, and why you should consider giving your first preference to the Australian Cyclists Party. If you’re so convinced you’d like to help out on polling day, get in touch!  Continue reading

FAQ in case you see my name in the press

Meet the Candidates at Glebe Town Hall (L-R: Verity Firth, Jamie Parker, Patrick Fogarty)

Meet the Candidates at Glebe Town Hall (L-R: Verity Firth, Jamie Parker, Patrick Fogarty)

Hey, there’s someone named Patrick Fogarty running in the NSW election as a candidate for the Australian Cyclists Party. Any relation?

Not quite… It’s me.  Continue reading

Sydneyrides is over. Keep riding Sydney!

Sydney Rides The Night

Sydney Rides The Night

With the wet weather Ride2Work day was a damp squib, but the sydneyrides festival went out with a bang thanks to Sydney Rides the Night. The night ride festival attracted over 2000 people to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair to enjoy a spectacular event. People of all ages, and from all cycling ‘tribes’ were out enjoying the closed road loop, light installations and fun atmosphere, including a silent disco, roller racing and bean bags set up to enjoy some bike-related short films and docos on the outdoor screen.

Despite the occasionally bad weather, and the Telegraph’s feeble attacks on Ride2Work day, the closing event capped off a successful fortnight of events encouraging people to get out and enjoy riding.  The Spokespeople organised the Hill Climb and Gold Sprints for those with a competitive edge, as well as bike-themed film screenings. The Spring Cycle and Checkpoint Challenge got people out and exploring Sydney on two wheels, and bike maintenance workshops to teach people how to look after them.

One event that slipped under the radar was the lunchtime presentation ‘Reinventing the Wheel’ where the Dutch Cycling Embassy (that really is a thing) shared their knowledge about building cycling-friendly cities, and Australian delegates who had travelled over to see the Dutch example in the flesh reported on their experiences. Quotes from one delegate included “Roads aren’t just for cars,”  and we must work together to
“demand better bike lanes”… that particular speaker was from the RACQ.

Aletta Koster from the “embassy” spoke not only about the key features for building a successful bike network, but also the need for three things to make cycling accessible: hardware, software, and orgware. Hardware is the infrastructure, such as bike paths, parking, tunnels and bridges. Orgware is the ability for organisations at different levels to communicate and work together to make projects happen. Software is even less tangible, and could be expressed as the general attitude in the society towards cycling. As Koster pointed out, you can build all the cycle paths you want, but if you neglect the other two legs of the tripod, it will eventually fall over.

In light of that, I think it’s worth remarking that the sydneyrides festival isn’t just a council-sponsored collection of jollies for cycling types. It really is about building that software, encouraging people to get on a bike and reminding them of how much fun it can be; an important task given the hatred levelled at cyclists from the media and government offices. Every 10-year-old knows how great riding a bike is, but by the time people turn 30 many have been convinced otherwise. It was great to see everyone from 8 to 80 out and riding at Sydney Rides the Night.

The festival might be over, but it’s no excuse to stop riding, or inviting friends out for a ride. And if you need an excuse, you could do worse than Supercross this Saturday, the Gong Ride on Sunday, or the Newcastle Overnight next weekend.

Get Out Of Town: Cycling in Orange

Somewhere out of Molong

Cycling in Orange

Throw your bike on the roof-rack (or hop on the XPT) and head to Orange for a weekend of riding. 250km from Sydney, Orange is NSW’s food bowl and home to some fine produce and wines, making it the perfect destination for cycling along country roads interspersed with quality ‘refueling’ stops.

Continue reading

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! or Magellan Cyclo GPS!

Sydney. On a bike.

Sydney. On a bike.

This has to be one of my favourite ride shots: nothing particularly special about the taking, just grabbed the smartphone and shot from the hip (ok, saddle – don’t try that at home kids). No time spent planning it or composing it, just a quick click as my buddy and I swung under the bridge after a morning spent riding along the coast under Sydney’s glorious winter sunshine. Continue reading

Even More Cycling Fun in Sydney in November

It seems my last post on upcoming cycling events in Sydney was published too soon. As Demtel would put it: “But wait, there’s more!” Continue reading

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