It’s rare for a politician to admit they are wrong, but this former politician regrets not giving enough support to motorcycle and scooter riders.
Former Brisbane Deputy Mayor David Hinchliffe (brother of MBW founder Mark Hinchliffe) quit council a few years ago and replaced his council car with a 50cc scooter.
David says he was not aware of all the advantages of two-wheeled transport and did not do enough while in council to facilitate them.
“If Brisbane is to be a truly a world city, as it boasts, it needs to follow what’s happening in places like Paris where motorcycles and mopeds have taken over limited road and parking space,” he says.
“Our CBD is one of the smallest in the world.We therefore have to make better use of what limited space we have.
“Better to have riders of cycles, motorcycles and mopeds than cars congesting our limited roadways.”
Council has said it is working with the State Government to find more spaces, but admits the opportunities are limited.
However, they have not liberated many of the CBD footpaths as has been done successfully for years in places such as Melbourne.
“Our CBD is certainly smaller than Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide or Perth,” David admits.
“I can’t for the life of me understand why if places like Melbourne can allow motorcycles on footpaths why can’t we? There are plenty of footpaths that are more than wide enough.”
In Melbourne, motorcycles and scooters can park liberally on footpaths with only a few restricted areas. However, in Brisbane, footpath parking spaces are designated with white lanes, reducing the number of bikes that can access them.
“Riders themselves will regulate space provided to them,” the former politician says. “There’s far too much ‘boundary-marking’ by bureaucrats.We have developed a culture of over regulating and over-delineating.
“As more Australians visit places in SE Asia, we can see how societies still manage to be able to exist without over-regulating everything.
“I know I’ve been part of the problem when I was in Council because I was responsible for a number of regulations and rules.However, I could see that we were fast reaching a tipping point and I believe we’ve now passed that point.”
About David Hinchliffe’s scootering
On leaving council, David didn’t buy an expensive car to replace his council car. Instead, he bought a scooter at a charity action.
“I didn’t go the whole hog and invest in a mighty Harley to roar up and down the highways in some faded geriatric version of ‘Easy Rider’,” the former politician says.
“The scooter (a cheap, 50cc, Chinese-made Sym) was a convenient blend of personal freedom and inner urban practicality and, yes, riding is very very easy.
“I wanted something that would suit my inner-city needs. Something easy to ride, easy to park, cheap to run … and I have to admit I didn’t trust myself with the bigger faster beasts of the road, so I wanted something that really didn’t go over 60km/h.”
David loves his red 50cc Sym.
“It has its own personality, its own attitude, quirks and voice,” he says.
“If I leave it unused for more than a week, it shows its annoyance by refusing to start until I’ve turned it over at least 10 times. I guess that’s its way of teaching me a lesson.”
Since it is a 50cc scooter, David can ride it on a car licence in Queensland, but only on streets up to 60km/h. The same rules apply in Western Australia.
David enjoys zipping around the inner Brisbane suburbs on his red Sym. But it hasn’t been uneventful as the lashings of 3M tape holding its fractured body together will attest.
“I had my first unfortunate event within two months of buying the Sym at the hands of a 4WD driver who decided he would deliberately plough straight up the back of my scooter,” he says.
“He totalled it and his insurance company replaced it with a new Sym. To this day, I don’t know why he did it, but he just laughed at the time and said ‘I hate scooters’.”
Them and us
He’s not alone in being confronted by road-raging cagers.
“Early on I came to appreciate that not all road users are equal, or at least in the words of George Orwell some are more equal than others,” he says.
“Some car drivers and some motorcyclists definitely look down on us ‘scooterists’,
“Let’s face it, they think we’re un-manly. That would come as news to the millions of southern European men who cruise the streets of their towns and cities with their girlfriends planted on the rear of their seat, or the millions of Asian scooter riders who accommodate their entire families and half their furniture on their little scooters.
“So long as those judgemental motorists leave me alone, I’ve got no problem with their judgement.
“Some cyclists hate us because we’re often competing for the same road space,” David says.
“I sense some of them have that disdainful view that we’re sort of ‘lazy’ cyclists. We really should be exerting more energy (like them) to get around.
“My biggest peeve as a scooter rider is that I didn’t do more when I was in Council to pave the way for more of my kind. We should have eased some of the parking practices to allow more scooters and motorcycles on wide footpaths around the city.
“That, of course, will come with time, as more city dwellers like myself discover the pleasures and benefits of urban scooter transportation.