Monday, November 29, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 23/11/2010

There were about 40 of us there, but only one of us rode a bike. There was a reason. It was raining prawns and parrots. And the single man who rode his bike boldly admitted he didn’t own a car and his knees didn’t like walking.

We gathered to talk about bikes and the city. Without exception, each and every one of us wanted more of them and more of the things that go with them, cycle-ways and bike racks. All this takes money, of course, but the possible benefits might surprise you.

Here are some Australian facts:
-          More bikes were sold in 2009 than cars for the 10th consecutive year (1,154,077)
-          70% of bikes sold are mountain bikes
-          In 2009 there was a 29% increase in the number of Australians who cycle to work

And you know what, no Australian town has yet pronounced itself Bike City. There is an opening, for a town to embrace the bike like no other, to become the Holland of the South. Maybe this is the move that puts Albany on the map, the bike map. And don’t sneeze, there is a bike map. 

The mountain bike stats in particular interested me because I know a bloke who reckons the Great Southern is the perfect setting for a mountain-bike heaven. He told me there’s a world-wide circuit and Albany could become a Mecca for mountain bikers.

A quick check on Google revealed a number of mountain bike festivals around the world, with one in NSW, SA and Victoria but none in WA. There’s the opening. We could be it, Mountain Bike Capital of the West.
But let’s not just take the bike to the mountain, let’s take it everywhere. Don’t panic, you don’t have to love lycra to ride a bike. There are no lycra police stopping riders dressed as I am in old jeans and torn t-shirts.

Wait, there’s more.
Some of us make a lot of fuss about the cruise ships. Sure, they look lovely as they make their way into the harbour and the passengers provide some amusement as they stare in wonder at the town hall, but there’s even more money in bike tourism.

Murray Gomm works for the Munda Biddi Foundation and at this gathering of pedal bike enthusiasts he revealed that in New Zealand cycle tourism is worth more than cruise ship tourism. I thought that would make you sit up.

What we need is leadership on this matter. We need the Mayor, Councillors, local members of parliament, CEOs, private business owners, managers, farmers and home owners to get on their bikes, ride to work, to the beach, up Mt Clarence, down Mt Clarence and to both Saturday and Sunday markets.

Let’s fill the town with bikes and make Albany Australia’s first Bike City, full of cycle-ways, bike racks and cycle friendly shops, accommodation and transport providers.
Many of us at the meeting agreed that the City’s councillors should lead the way by riding to council meetings, hail rain or snow. That would show real leadership and they could hand back their petrol money.

There is no way, of course, that such a saving would pay back the city’s debt, but it would show the rest of us they are willing to make an effort.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Doust Files - Albany Advertiser 9/11/2010

You probably have the flu, getting over it, or know someone with it. It’s nasty. I know that now. I‘ve just had it, for the first time ever.
Luck’s been with me, unlike the 30-odd million who died in the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918/1919. Then there was the Asian flu in 1957, the Hong Kong flu in 1968, followed by the flues we know well, the bird and the swine.
The negatives are obvious, but, for me, there were at least two positives. The first was that I realised I had never been sick before. Oh, sure, I’d had a sore foot, a busted shoulder, an infected finger, a cold, a headache, a 24-hour wog, but they were nothing compared to the swine called flu.
My particular version included violent headaches, chest pains, dry throat, no breath to speak with, move with, or argue over a hotel bill with.
At first, like many folk, I assumed it was just another cold and, because I was busy, I got on with things, none of that namby-pamby man-flu attitude with me. I got on a plane, then another, then another, and another still.
By the time I got to Victoria I was delirious. That was the tip that something really was wrong, because Victoria and delirious don’t normally go together. By then it was too late to cancel my engagements.
I arrived in Melbourne at 11.30pm. got in the hire-car, drove like an Albanian  in Moscow, arrived at the hotel at 2am, climbed into bed, got up at 6.30am, got ready, arrived at my appointment, spoke to 150 testosterone riddled boys, got back in the car and drove east towards Sale. 
And so it went: into a car, out of a car, into a hotel, no sleep, off to an engagement, back to a hotel room. What a life!
All this lead, naturally enough, to a worsening of my condition. I left Albany an idiot and arrived home a signed, sealed and certified idiot. Thank heavens for our doctors, because my local man said, plainly and clearly: “Yes, Jon, you have had the flu, but now you have pleurisy.”
Pleurisy? Brings back memories doesn’t it, of the Amity, scurvy, men and women huddling together in a hold, fighting over crusts of mouldy, rock-hard bread and tiny pockets of fresh air? 
The second good thing about having the flu, or pleurisy, is that it requires a lot of lying down, sitting, staring into space, watching crappy TV, old comedy videos, or, as in my case, reading. So far I have read everything within reach, including a couple of Inspector Maltabano novels, a history of 1968 and all sides of a packet of rice flakes I found decaying in the back of a cupboard.
As I write this I am finishing the marvellous Love in the time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez. This book I saved for last because Márquez writes with such rich colour and madness that reading it in the fullness and insanity of the flu may well have tipped me over the edge.