I can see exactly what the logic was here. “Hey, look! A party for motoring enthusiasts got into the Senate! Bicycle enthusiasts are the obvious next step! Two wheels good, four wheels bad!”.
OK, I’m totally making that up. I’m actually quite delighted to see brand new party for cyclists on the electoral radar, especially one that has a nifty version of the Australian coat of arms (emu and kangaroo both dressed very correctly in Edwardian fashions) with a bicycle wheel in the middle as its logo. I’m sort of hoping they sell T-shirts.
Right. Time to stop being frivolous. The Australian Cyclists Party (Victorian Election website here) is a brand new party on the Australian electoral agenda – I’m not sure if they have contested any previous state elections, but they certainly weren’t around for the federal one, so less than two years old. I am fairly certain that they want me to look at their Victorian Election website, so I’m going to do that, as this is clearly where their attention is focused right now.
The front of their website has a rotating banner with three sets of photos and slogans. The first is a link to their policies, with the slogan “Making Victoria More Cycle-Friendly”, the second is simply “East-West Link” (anyone want to bet that they are *not* against it?), and the third is an appeal for donations, with the aforementioned gorgeous logo. I want to donate just for the logo. Apparently, I am still frivolous.
Below the rotating banner, there are links to Values, Policies and Candidates. We will start with their values, which are, apparently:
- Honesty and integrity in how we act
- Passionate about what we stand for
- Aspirational and optimistic in our vision of the future
- Affinity for the needs of our members
- Respect for diversity among individuals and communities
- Pragmatic in our approach
- Determination in achieving our goals
They also swear to obey the Boy Scout Law. (OK, I’m lying about that part. I have no idea why this website is making me so silly, given that I actually really like them. Sorry, fellow cyclists.)
They then go into a bit more depth regarding their values, talking about empowering individuals to be capable and self-reliant, strengthening communities to be resilient, investing in innovation, evidence-based approaches to policy, respecting the environment, and so forth. The feeling I get from them is that they sit somewhere in the centre of the political spectrum – a little bit of the small-L liberal, but not terribly ideological in any direction. This is a perfectly logical place for them to sit, since cycling isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a particularly ideologically based activity.
On cycling and mobility they add the following values:
- Recognising the interdependence of transport, health, planning and other government functions in supporting the healthy modes of sustainable transport
- Working to ensure cycling and other active transport choices are perceived safe and represent low injury risk
- Fostering an environment of mutual respect and obligation by all individuals to each other regardless of their chosen transport choice
- Ensuring enforcement measures and liability laws encourage safer co-existence of cyclists and other road users
- Providing appropriate infrastructure and other measures to pro-actively and adequately support cycling – backed by all levels of government
- Embracing the importance of community engagement and fair, equitable and evidence-based processes in assessing transport priorities and spending
The candidates have a wide range of backgrounds, but lean towards the well-educated middle class, and between them have a remarkably useful range of skills / knowledge for the job of improving infrastructure – financial, engineering, educational, and so forth.
In terms of their Group voting Ticket, I have to say, they are all over the shop. On their news page they explain:
We exist to win representation for cyclists in parliament. Everything we do is aimed at achieving that goal.
So, as a new party, we have had to make some decisions about how pragmatic we will be in order to win. It hasn’t always been easy – ideally we would just preference the parties with the best cycling policies. Unfortunately that would not be enough to see us elected. In fact, that would mean we would almost certainly fail to achieve our goal in the Victorian election.
So we are preferencing to win. We have been open and transparent about our approach. We will publish our preferences on this website when they are lodged with the VEC on Sunday 16 November. And we invite voters to consider those preferences when deciding for whom they will vote. If you don’t like the preference flow then please still vote for the Australian Cyclists Party, but do it “below the line” – a valid vote only needs to be numbered 1-5 below the line in the Victorian State election.
In practice, this means totally different tickets in each region. There are some commonalities; Greens are always ahead of Labor, who are always ahead of the Liberal Party. Rise Up Australia is always at the botttom of the ticket or close to it, and in fact, the other Christian parties (DLP, Family First, Australian Christians, for those new to this game) are never in the top part of the ticket, but beyond that, it’s a bit of a free-for-all, with high preferences given to the Sex Party, Voice for the West and the Animal Justice Party (except when the AJP finds itself in the bottom three in Eastern Metropolitan), regular appearances by the Liberal Democrats in the top five, and even the odd preference going to the Shooting and Fishing Party (Northern and Eastern Victoria) and the Country Alliance (Southern Metropolitan Region)
Strategic voting, indeed. If you want to vote for the Cyclists, but have strong opinions about where your preferences are going, I would recommend either voting below the line, or looking up the Group Voting Tickets for your individual region.
I have to say, I’ll be interested to see how this approach works for them – Antony Green is fairly definite on the subject of attempting to vote strategically below the line (short version: it doesn’t necessarily work the way you might expect); I am not sure how this works in terms of preference deals. The mind boggles imagining the sorts of conversations they must have been having with other parties!
Let’s have a look at some policies!
The Australian Cyclists Party currently has a single page with policies in dot point form, though they tell us they are working on more detailed policies for the next election. Fair enough, they’re a pretty new party.
Reading through the policies, there is a strong emphasis on increasing safety for those who want to cycle on the road. They want to include more questions on road sharing regulations on motor licensing tests, require a minimum distance for passing cyclists (this would certainly make my commuting life less terrifying, I must say), and have a government-run campaign to ‘improve attitudes between road users and especially towards vulnerable road users’. They also want to improve enforcement of laws protecting vulnerable road users, and evaluate laws applying to aggressive behaviour by motorists towards pedestrians and cyclists. Again, yes please. Though it’s mostly as a pedestrian that I find people trying to kill me (car drivers: please note that not everyone is able to break into a run part-way across a road). They would also like automatic right-of-way preferencing of pedestrians and cyclists at signalised intersections, and to make sure that Compulsory Third Party insurance actually covers injuries to pedestrians and cyclists (the TAC doesn’t always do so – it depends on the circumstances of the accident and what State you are living in). They would also like to review speed limits to take into account road design and users.
Another key area for the ACP is infrastructure – they want a national standard for cycling facilities and infrastructure, for bike lane design, and for signage, and better funding for maintenance of current bike paths and lanes. They would also like better bike storage areas on trains. They would like to create / complete a national rail trails network
Miscellaneous policies include ensuring kids get bicycle training at school, a national program to let business promote non-motor vehicle options for employees, and a national enquiry to review the efficacy of bike helmet legislation. And they want a dedicated funding mechanism for all this.
Honestly, as a cyclist? I love all of this. I recently spent some time in Norway (such a hard life I live), and did a lot of cycling on roads to get from one place to another. No helmets, because it was a borrowed bike and people don’t tend to wear them there, but I still felt much safer riding on the roads than I do here. There were no bike paths in the area we stayed in, but it didn’t matter, because Norwegian drivers are in the habit of looking for cyclists, so they pay attention, don’t try to run you off the road or harrass you, and just generally treat you like you have a right to be there. I’m trying to cycle more now that I’m back in Australia and it is much, much scarier – and it’s not about malice, so much as about a feeling that it is totally astonishing to have a bicycle on the road. Drivers aren’t used to looking for you, and so they don’t see you, and this makes it fairly terrifying to ride on the road, especially across an intersection.
Oh, you wanted to know about the East-West link? Come on, are you telling me you can’t guess? No. The ACP do not like it. In fact here’s a little bit about what they have to say:
The East-West Link spawned from Sir Rod Eddington’s 2008 Report “Investing in Transport” prepared for the Victorian government.
- Seven of the twenty-one recommendations were about improving public transport
- Three of the recommendations were about increasing the amount of freight moved by rail
- Two of the recommendations would lead to improved cycling in Melbourne, and
- One of the recommendations was about the East-West Road Tunnel
It is unfortunate that the government has focussed it’s efforts on the Road Tunnel.
Unfortunate indeed. Also, bonus points for the use of the word ‘spawned’ in a political document.
So yes. The ACP is pretty much a single-issue party, and it’s not pretending to be anything else. However, it’s an issue that I, for one, am in favour of. And, frankly, even without the cycling aspect, I’ve felt for a while that we were overdue to look at road safety (admittedly, this is partly because I live near Sydney Road, where many of the motorists are actively trying to kill pedestrians and crossing the road is an extreme sport). This lot are going to go high on my ballot paper.