This photo shows a snapshot of South Terrace, Fremantle, Australia and is meaningful for the following three reasons.
1. The central plant thing. The panels have been decorated with local artist's, Horatio T Birdbath's work. That's good. I don't think he was sourced through a tender process; someone in local government simply walked up to him and said "You're a local resource which elevates our distinctiveness and thus competitiveness and sustainability, and therefore we want your work in our city".
2. The huge yellow bikes on the road. I've heard complaints about these but that's just not cricket. Fact is, cars deserve any contest that's thrown at them. Yes, I know we have to worry about the correlation between retail incomes and the convenient parking - using the Shopping Centre Argument; that is: "we charge for parking and shopping centres don't, and shopping centres don't have parking inspectors etc... so-no-wonder-everyone's-going-to-Garden-City", but this is about safety. And other things.
You see, mayors and cities must make a global representations (whilst still retaining their local retail sustainability) and by gently chugging away at their 'bicycle mantra' this local government (City of Fremantle) is making a regional impact: Fremantle is definitely different and distinctive for its modal transport share compared to other places. If everyone else was doing the same then perhaps it is time to revisit the strategy. But they're not. Fremantle has done the hard yards and there's a lot of bike action going on here. The Carols By Candlelight at the Arts Centre saw families arrive in Dutch cargo bikes and occupy every available bike-rack and more.
So what? These hippies aren't buying anything in the shops! Too bad. They are. It's change-making, this bike thing, and if we would just get of their backs and allow the bike culture to settle in our city you will see they will spend and become a fresh source of income for you. It's just a bit clumsy at the moment.
So, these big yellow bikes. What do you think? I think they're perfect. Addressing car-dominance in our cities is not just about taking away their infrastructure (car parks, cheap parking) - it's a psychological game, and these big yellow bikes show the driver that:
- Next time, their bike might be a more convenient and probably not-horrible-like-other-towns choice.
- If they think they can road-rage a cyclist, scaring them away from shopping in our town again, then they can think again: there's a public institution which has painted a big bike on the road. That matters. That's political. That's a game-changer.
- Slow down. No-one wants to be that guy who strikes a cyclist and these big yellow bikes pre-warn the driver that they're probably around.
3. The third thing in the photo that warrants celebration is the guy in the background (sitting down). Always beautifully dressed, he (and he's not the only one) is a rare example of The Gentleman in our high streets. Probably Italian (although I wouldn't know) he and other Italian chaps use our main streets in their well-tended outfits. Take a good look now because these guys will not be here forever.
And Fremantle is unique in having four menswear shops all within coo-ee of each other: Terrace Men, Warrens Menswear, Bousefields and Europa Men. These are all gentlemen's outfitters so go there and see what it's like.
Ride if you like.