Sunday, March 31, 2013

Joyville: a 'no-helmet law' city!

(Images: Cadbury Easter Bunny, Youtube)

Not for the Easter Bunny current sweeping statements that risk of head injury when cycling is reduced by helmet use and/ or helmet legislation.

Happy Chocolate Day!

(& lots of thanks to Edward for sending me this link earlier on this month!)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"To cross or not to cross" - Sydney uni picket lines

Australia’s oldest university was under siege again yesterday & today...

... as disgruntled staff manned picket lines at all entrances of Sydney University.

Supported by members of National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU) and students, the staff continued to protest against management’s continued erosion of tenure and casualisation of the workforce.

Patience was tested as ‘non-striking' staff, students and visitors attempted to enter the university...

...and were verbally discouraged from doing so by picketers.

At the Carillion Avenue entrance one picketer was brushed by a car as police waved the vehicle through the entrance to prevent potential road blockages.

A visibly upset Bryony Nielson, casual tutor at the University, remonstrated with police that they were ‘purely concerned with traffic flow rather than protection of negotiators who are here with a legitimate grievance.’ She was disappointed that police were more engaged with keeping traffic order rather than ‘respecting the rights of people on the picket line.’

‘We didn’t choose to sacrifice our pay today,’ she said, ‘we didn’t choose to inconvenience the students; but we have been given no choice. We have had endless meetings with management with only symbolic gestures and without transparent real discussion – no rep is ever sent who can do anything.’

Grant Wheeler, president of the Community & Public Sector Union (CPSU), hoped that the 48 hour action would ‘get the university to listen to our objections to their move to a future of insecure employment.’ Mr Wheeler, who has worked in the library at Sydney University for twenty years, said he was concerned that ‘institutional knowledge was not being built.’

According to Mr Wheeler, the first enterprise bargaining process revealed that the extensive cost cutting was to be increased and if Sydney University was successful this was a measure that would be rolled out across the entire university sector of Australia.

‘They are turning this place into a degree factory, and the appointment of Belinda Hutchinson, the current Chair of QBE, as Chancellor points to their multi-national corporate approach. Management need to work in co-operation with all the staff, and we are trying to make them listen today.’

When asked about the impact the staff action had on overseas students studying at the University, Mr Wheeler acknowledged the pressures these students faced with regards to short visa allowances and high living & studying costs. ‘Of course we understand their feelings – the CPSU represents everybody, and the action here today was not taken lightly – our core mission is to progress education.’

Tenaya Alattas (centre), education officer from the Student Representative Council (SRC), explained that the SRC had been preparing for the March strikes since February this year after the president of the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU), Michael Thomson, approached them with the idea to convene an education action group.

‘Organising student support wasn't difficult,’ Ms Alattas said, ‘because support was already strong as a result of last year’s staff cuts.’

Lecturers in Gender & Cultural Studies, Natalya Lusty (left) and Jennifer Germon (right) had cancelled their classes for the strike action. Noting the visible presence of police on campus, Ms Lusty commented that when protesting students at Berkley had been arrested it led to ‘a culture change and then all the major academics fled.’ Ms Germon felt that ‘the asset stripping of hard won workers’ rights’ would continue to inflict damage across the reputation of Sydney Unversity.

Both had read, and recommended the following ‘open letter’ by way of explanation for their stance...

Andrew Potter, spokesman for the University of Sydney management explained that 'the university does not support the action and regrets that it is happening.'

The university was well aware of the planned action because the unions were required to apply formally by submitting a 'notice of intention.'

Mr Potter said that the university ‘always intended to be open for business as usual, and that staff had been asked to self-identify whether they would be participating in the action, conducting lectures or working from home.’

According to university records fewer than 600 of the 7,000 staff have participated in strike action, and less than 100 were on strike yesterday.

Two academic staff members participating in the strike action were Mark Gillespie (right), senior lecturer at the University’s Centre for English Teaching, and his colleague, Asher Skowronek (left), also a lecturer at the Centre for English Teaching. Both witnessed the tussle near the Chemistry Building between strike action supporters and police.

‘I supported the students’ said Mr Gillespie, ‘and tried to go to their aid as some of them were randomely arrested.'

Mr Skowronek claimed he was pushed from steps by police, and expressed that there was ‘no justification for the heavy-handed over-reaction with these young ones – if the police had really wanted to clear the scene, they could have easily done so peacefully.’

When asked whether the University's position 'being open for business as usual’ may have redirected angst from the negotiation table to the picket line and contributed to the Chemistry Building incident yesterday, Mr Potter strongly rejected the suggestion, and remarked that the university was never going to stand by and do nothing just because picket lines had been installed.

For his part when asked about the storming of lecture theatres by strike supporters resulting in police involvement, Mr Wheeler maintained that ‘picket lines should be about education and not intimidation' and that 'the intention is not to force people not to cross picket lines but to persuade people not to cross them.' Having said that he did admit that 'students will be students.’

However Mr Potter pointed out that ‘the group which had burst into the Chemistry Building during a lecture yesterday were not on the picket line’ and that of the 5 people who were eventually arrested, ‘2 were students and 3 were nothing to do with the university though known to police.’

Mr Potter rejected union claims that the university is actively seeking erosion of tenure and casualisation of workforce, and said the claims were ‘incorrect’.

He stated that ‘the level of casual appointments is well below the quota agreed to in the current enterprise agreement set years ago and there are no plans to increase it.’ Mr Potter further claimed that ‘the appointment of casual academic staff is on the decline, from 24.7% in 2001 to 19.9% in 2012, as is the appointment of casual admin and professional staff from 14.9% in 2001 to 14.5% in 2012’...

...and the suggestion that the University intended on doing away with the right for Unions to be on Campus ' completely wrong.’

Mr Potter explained that the University’s position on this matter is a 'question of rent' and that to date the unions have had free office space, free use of university facilities as well as their salaries being subsidised by the University. The University wanted to see changes implemented that 'would be in line with everybody else who uses the university.'

Meanwhile back at the action on the picket line, some were taking a very chilled out approach.

(written with my 'University of Sydney Masters of Media Practice' student hat on)

Monday, March 25, 2013 more Australian Research Council grants to bicycle helmet studies

Despite the endless Australian studies commonly cited as evidence for the efficacy of bicycle helmets, it seems to me that benefits have only ever be found because low quality studies were included in the analysis.

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no 'class one' evidence to support the safety claims made about bicycle helmets & bicycle helmet laws because it's impossible to conduct randomised controlled trials (RCTs) due to ethical concerns. So this leaves the laws in a lightweight unsubstantiated position, further exposed to endless international criticism from the global scientific & economic community. If helmet promoters are going to make the claims that their products are whizz-bang-uber-safe-safety-devices then they need to make sure that their claims are made with accurate justification as opposed to fervent belief - to date they have been unable to do so.

What we actually need in NSW is...less what that means is, we need a government prepared to put a broom through the 'Regulation Cupboard' in order to chuck out all the irrelevant embarrassing rubbish that's just cluttering up our 21st Century needs.

Hmmmn Regulation 256 springs to mind for the junk heap - poorly conceived, poorly implemented and OMG so outdated - also takes up a lot of 'road-space', 'law&order-space' and 'research-grant-space' in that 'state cupboard' of ours!

I'm sick of my taxes being thrown at a bunch of boffins to fund their endless quest to prove something that they've never been able to prove - let's just throw out the bath water, hang onto the baby and get back on our bikes instead...

...22 years is a lot of time trying to convince ourselves that helmet laws are great - they're not, period.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Here today, gone tomorrow

I've been given quite a few of these pretty seat covers over the years and until tonight they've always gone missing in Leichardt!!

Not this evening though - it was still there after the French Film Festival session, looking very pretty and plasticky in Norton Street!

No involuntary bicycle philanthropy necessary tonight!!!

Yay!...ça va très bien'!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

C'mon, Sydney, do 'The Locomotion'

Last week, interminable trackwork (aaaaaaaahhh) got the better of me so I travelled north on a good old Greyhound bus.

This week, no trackwork...but too many 'Empty Train Expresses' & others going to 'Terminates' meant not enough stopping in Newtown! - grrrr!

Why are our railways so problematic for NSW governments?...'they'd' get to like it if 'they' gave it a chance now

...massive sigh...

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Ok - maybe just maybe...

(Images: Gif Bin) moments like these, Big Helma could play a role!!!

Public safety & conflict of interest cancel each other out

(Photos: Georgie Abbott, The Netherlands)

I can see a parallel between sentiments raised in last Friday's SMH editorial on 'public safety & the Game Council', and that of 'public safety & Big Helma.

As the SMH editor points out...

' regulators cannot be monopolies selling a product for profit...'


'...anti-doping agencies cannot promote sports dietary supplements...' - period.

So how is it that Standards Australia (with their publisher SAI Global) is allowed to operate as the quintessential monopoly, blatantly promoting their commercial standards to every single helmet manufacturer in Australia who must purchase them if they plan on selling a helmet or two?

As the SMH ed goes on to say, it is not possible to represent the interests of commercial businesses whilst simultaneously representing the interests of public safety. Furthermore...

'...the Independent Commission Against Corruption has warned for decades that "the perception of a conflict of interests" within regulatory bodies "can be as damaging as an actual conflict, because it undermines public confidence in the intergrity of the organisation"'.

Back to the comparative bicycle parallel, and it's hard to take any solace from interminable helmet studies that have continuously trickled from UNSW primarily because it's hard to believe it can ever be possible to undertake independent research funded by the very government which passed the legislation all those decades ago.

Has it been truth that has been sought or more a 'desired prescription' for helmets & helmet law?

I read a warning in the tea-leaves of the SMH editorial last week...

...beware the temptation to be 'both regulator and promoter' - it's not worth the public safety risk.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Cat on a hot chris..(TIN)..ania

The entire neighbourhood is intrigued by my bike!!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

It's Party-Time!...thank god for the Christiania

Home from Rome & having a party, BN2 gets ready for an Inner West Shin-dig!

What are narrow streets, congested roads, chocka-block car-parks in the scheme of party-things when you're lucky enought to have access to a Christiania?

...hmmmn after watching her beetle around yesterday, I can tell you quite catergorically...nothing!!!

Funtimes in a jiffy!!!!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Amsterdam & Berlin: No-Helmet Law Cities

(Photos: Georgie Abbott, Europe)

Have bike, will travel!!!
(...en niet een fietshelm overal, god zij dank!)

Have beetle, will sleep!!!
(... guten abend gute nacht!)

Saturday, March 2, 2013

'If you go down to the woods today'...'big surprise' CANCELLED

(Images: Flickr, 'Forest Man', Asrar Makrani)

What a relief!

Following on from a flurry of leaked reports detailing the high risk of death and/or injury to hunters and picnic-ers, it would appear the O'Farrell government had no stomach for the looming proverbial train wreck on our National Parks' horizons after all.

Sure, it's only a temporary reprieve but maybe, just maybe, sanity will prevail and the whole sorry little venture will be mothballed once and for all.

It was always a mad plan; potentially even a vote-detracting-one, and begorra, you'd have to be a brave politician to face voters after a few inevitable 'al fresco annihilations'.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Open Post: hiring car in London...actually in congestion zone

Dear Mr Keppler,

I thought you might be interested to read why I will never use Europcar again.

Right from the start and upon our arrival at London St Pancras, it was not impressive to discover that signage to the Europcar 'Meet & Greet' location was invisible, nor, once we found ourselves in a multi-storey car park adjacent to the glamorous station potentially fitting your somewhat loose instructions listed on the internet booking form, that there was no-one from Europcar to actually 'Meet & Greet' us.

Neither was it impressive to be told by car-park booth-sitting attendants after our inquiries as to whether they could point us in your direction, that Europcar was nothing to do with them, and that as a matter of fact they only sometimes helped out by sometimes calling you when some of your customers turned up but that in reality there was nothing in it for them - 'just do them a favour sometimes.'

Neither was it impressive when we finally reached the actual Pick-Up spot after we'd been driven from the 'Meet & Greet' one, to discover that our rental allocation was a particularly dirty car - apparently you'd had insurmountable hose problems that day and due to this liquid-malfunction we were issued with an extremely grubby little golf - and neither was it impressive that no-one on the Europcar floor was able to give us any directions whatsoever to assist us getting out of London and/or finding the M3 - nor did they even possess a map they could (a) either give us or (b) show us.

But most unimpressive of all was the fact that at no point in time did your team at Europcar mention anything about the London Congestion Charge nor that St Pancras is pretty much in that Congestion Tax Zone (according to the Congestion Zone map).

That this information was omitted at both the internet booking phase and the Picking-Up phase is completely baffling, and one could be forgiven for thinking it was a trifle misleading and deceptive on your part. I am sure you would agree that to your rental car customers detail on congestion charging and zoning is significant information and certainly ought to have been shared at some point in the rental process.

I felt pretty 'snakey' about the dirty car but after receiving the congestion charge penalty I'm as mad as all hell...and just out interest because I'm beyond 'content', why did the salutation in your letter detailing the congestion charge address me as 'Dear Sirs'. Throughout our entire hiring-of-car negotiations I used my title and name (Mrs Susan Abbott) and at no point did I ever give you the impression that I was multiple men.

But back to the main issue at hand, I am not impressed by (a) the service or (b) the car that you allocated us and neither have I been impressed by the fact that you have automatically billed me £96 for the congestion tax which was basically an inevitable fait accompli given Europcar's St Pancras location. I fervently hope that you will return that amount to my relevant plastic poste haste.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,
Sue Abbott
(former Europcar customer)