Cyclists and pedestrians - war or peace?

Centennial Park - home to cyclists
and pedestrians... for now
If you live in Sydney it’s highly likely you’ve been to Centennial Park.

In a city of tight roads, heavy traffic and rubbish public transport, Centennial Park offers an oasis for residents.

What makes CP interesting though is that two groups stake an equal claim to its use – cyclists and non-cyclists.

If you turn up at Centennial Park before 9am on a weekend, you’ll have a hard time hearing yourself over the constant whir of carbon fibre frames winding their way around the park at high speed.

Packs of cyclists (bunches of 20, 30, 40 and above) fly around the outside of the road at speeds between 30-50kph in a fairly furious pursuit of fitness, fun and frivolity.

Then there’s the families. Parents with young kids come to the park for the wide open spaces, pathetically over-priced eggs benedicts, and soy lattes1. Their kids can run wild and free, and the family pooch can chase birds and parked cars with reckless abandon.

The issue is, both groups stake an equal claim to the park, with both constantly whinging about one another.

As a cyclist, I often hear other cyclists complaining about pedestrians in the park. Complaints usually centre on people who don’t look before crossing the street, people arriving in cars and not respecting cyclists riding, and fast-training cyclists complaining about slow-motion cyclists who get in their way.

I’m also, however, a runner and pedestrian. So I often hear pedestrians complaining about cyclists who fly past with little to no respect for children who might venture onto the road. They also complain about the enormous display of lycra-clad cyclists (of all shapes and sizes) who shave their legs.

All this has exploded in the past few days given proposed plans to put speed bumps in Centennial Park to make it more ‘pedestrian friendly’.

This has sparked outrage among the cycling elite2 who ‘rode in protest’ earlier this week to raise awareness of the need for cyclists to have an oasis.

The problem is that both sides are right.

Cyclists are far from innocent exercisers. They’re often domineering, they veer in front of traffic like they own the entire road, and they take themselves way too seriously.3

Alternatively, where the hell else are cyclists meant to go? Car drivers complain about cyclists on the road, so the cyclists head to a park with a dedicated cycle lane, and now the cyclists are going to be (effectively) kicked out of the park too?

All the alternatives involve spending a fair bit of money, which is problematic because the State Government is, essentially, broke.

So what’s the alternative? You tell me. Is it building a dedicated cycling park? Is it building more cycle ways around Sydney? Is it improving public transport so there are fewer cars on the road?

There are no easy solutions, but if the management boffins get their way it’s highly likely that cyclists will have to go somewhere other than Centennial Park for their morning exercise and soy lattes.4


1: Cyclists actually probably drink more soy lattes than these parents

2: This isn’t necessarily elite cyclists, rather it’s business elites. A huge number of cyclists are CEOs, high-flying lawyers, Managing Directors etc. As such, they have a fair bit of pulling power to accompany their pedal power

3: Have you cycled in a serious peloton? These guys are nuts. If you break formation even slightly it’s likely there’ll be a torrent of profanity thrown your way, as well as nasty looks for at least the next 30 minutes. All of this is a little hilarious as there’s nothing more intimidating than a fat guy in skin-tight lycra.

4: What’s with the soy lattes? Do people really think that a few ounces of soy milk or skim milk or light milk is going to make the difference between you getting fat or not?


Steve Garner said…
"...where the hell else...?" Mr Malloch, I'm sure your command of english is better than this.