Melbourne is a great place to ride a bike – mild climate, agreeable topography (yes easties, we hear you), two international velodromes, a long and picturesque bayside training route, and mountains, rail trails and excellent mountain biking an hour in every direction.
It’s the cycling tribes that really make it though – the mountain bikers, crossers, roadies, commuters, tourers, trackies, hipsters, shoppers, bmxers, path-dwellers, advocates and the kids getting to school. Many tick several boxes, ‘enthusiast’ above all.
I know people from all those tribes and I never cease to be amazed at their diversity and willingness to help others. They are professionals, creatives, IT (lots of IT), retail, tradies, bus drivers, media, mums, granddads, whatever. They do stuff. These are the people who build trails, fix your bike, run events, share knowledge, write about cool stuff (from their races to their sewing projects), help newbies buy a bike and answer questions at parties. They’re also the designated office ‘bike dude/dudette’, explaining the road rules and copping the complaints. Maybe your state has the same, but ours are awesome.
I was reminded of this as the tribes gathered last weekend at Brunswick velodrome – the local home of cyclocross – for another riotous display of skillz and laughter. And by a local forum thread on the ‘tacking’ of a popular and safe training route on the city fringe – Yarra Boulevard in Kew, aka ‘the bouli’. Here we have a 12 km undulating loop with parks, city views and no through-traffic. It’s generally hassle-free commuting and training.
But since mid February, riders on the bouli have suffered hundreds of punctures, plus crashes, due to repeated drops of tacks and other objects. Beyond cyclists, it’s affected runners and dogs. It’s culpably stupid. There’s been some dodgy reporting and some good reporting.
Road authorities have swept the area a few times but the tacks return. Police have stepped up patrols but sporting body Cycling Victoria has taken the unusual step of hiring investigators. Whether that’s to pressure local police for more action, a vote of no confidence or simply a necessary outsourcing of resources to make it stop, I’m not sure.
But I am sure that the riding community’s response makes me really proud to share the roads with Melbourne cyclists. Three riders have built magnet arrays to trawl the bouli to remove tacks. The IT crowd is smashing old hard drives to source magnets for mega arrays. Riders are reporting tackings to VicRoads and Boroondara council to help target new hot spots. And many continue to ride the bouli in defiance of the tackers (but I understand others going elsewhere for the duration too).
It’s so heart-warming it might see me through another Melbourne winter. Thank you all.