Thursday 17 September 2009

The day John made Alan cry

I missed the day that our dear Division 5 Councillor Alan Blake got a dressing down by John Mackenzie on his top-rating 846am radio talkback show. Busy working class folk, can't always tune into Macca, as he spews out words of wisdom and tips to live a more wholesome life and contribute to society.

It all happened two or three weeks ago, when John was on an unrelenting attack over the proposed road lane changes that are happening in the Cairns CBD.

I'll come back to that classic radio moment soon.

There's a number of reasons why and how these changes have come about. The McLeod Street lane reconfiguration, that runs along the front of Cairns Central from Spence to Aplin Streets, has been a dramatic improvement in traffic flow.

Council traffic engineers had been planning that reconfiguration years ago, and it was completed mid last year. There's already evidence that the one lane road either side of McLeod Street, is carrying more vehicles per hour than it did previously.

A public meeting recently, co-ordinated by community activist and Residents Against Crime founder, Barry Neall, asked that nothing would happen until February next year. Cairns Regional Council's Acting CEO Peter Tabulo acknowledged this.

"This is not about taking bicycles off the street, I want them to understand that," Barry Neall said. "I used to ride bikes, a push bike, 50 years ago, but I would ruddy-well ride one now."

"Pat Flanagan [Council consulting engineer] was talking on behalf of Council. He had stuff that was talked about in 1998 would you believe," Neall says. "So we're talking about a review that happened in 1998. This is 2009. Are we going to go backwards or are we going to go ahead?" Barry Neall asks.

"They want to take the lanes away [in Grafton / McLeod Streets with out public consultation," Neal said.

Yesterday Council ratified that works on the lanes in Grafton Street would be suspended for six months. Only Councillors Pyne and Lesina voted against the suspension.

"I don't know who's got to Pyne, he went on radio the other day and said he found McLeod Street user-friendly," Barry Neall said. "Even Blake voted for the suspension, I couldn't believe it."

Barry Neall and his good mate John Mackenze argue that the additional lane allows for a smoother flow of traffic, which is at odds with traffic engineering reports.

"It doesn't impede the bikes or anything like that," Neall says. "The other thing they haven't taken into consideration is when you get a backpacker's bus, where is it going to stop. Are they going to take up 10 car parks to put a bus stop there, or is the bus going to double park and stop cars from going around it?" Barry Neall asks.

Barry Neall says we shouldn't be removing lanes within the city when we're trying to keep the traffic moving at a steady pace.

"It all about the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. I know it doesn't reduce traffic by half [with the two lanes]. That's just not true," Councillor Robert Pyne says. He cites a study by Flanagan, a consulting engineer to Cairns Regional Council, that shows the changes are better for traffic.

Peter Roggenkamp, who runs a drivesafe programme, is a vocal campaigner to retain the two lanes either side of Grafton Street. He has counted the number of vehicles that travel along the two-laned road every hour as "around 400, and only 3 cyclists."

Pat Flanagan, from Flanagan Consulting Group, who has advised Council for many years from the days of Tom Pyne and Kevin Byrne's Council, on traffic solutions. He says that between 700 and 900 travel along the newly reconfigured McLeod Street, more than did previously. Furthermore, he says that the configuration of Grafton Street and the former layout of McLeod Street, fails to meet minimum Australian Safety Standards.

If we have professionals and experts, then their advice should be taken on board, especially when it comes to issues as complex as traffic management.

Councillor Pyne has had calls from people that claim the road changes in Grafton Street will send business broke.

Of course it's well-known that Mackenzie detests an active and planned integration of cyclists in and around Cairns, especially in the CBD. He says that it's only school children that cycle. "There's no school in McLeod Street," he says.

Councillor Kirsten Lesina, a strong advocate for cycle integration, says there are substantial safety issues be gained.

"It's not only safer for cyclists, but also for drivers," Councillor Lesina says. "Drivers won't have to drive across a right-hand lane (from the left lane) to access a centre car park."

It's almost impossible, without doing a three-point-turn, to access a centre car park, in the existing two-lane set up in Grafton Street.

Deputy Mayor Margaret Cochrane is not convinced the changes are right. She has been seeking a review and as recently as yesterday, sought to call a workshop for all "stakeholders" about the proposed changes. It's been said that Councillor Cochrane would even like McLeod Street returned to the original two-lane configuration.

Callers to Mackenzie's radio show say that nobody in their right mind would cycle from Edmonton to Cairns. There's an opportunity to create an innovative network of cycle lanes in the suburbs, that wouldn't simply be stuck on the side of the main highway and roads, but could meander through and alongside sugar cane tracks.

Just last week there was a very serious accident involving a cyclist along Sheridan Street.

Robert Pyne acknowledges that the lobby group Cairns Action for Sustainable Transport (CAST) and very upset with the proposed solution to a solely vehicle-based transit network.

"You've got to live in the real world," Pyne says. "If they're not going to give us rail, then we need to plan the best we can."

The narrow-minded attitude to discount other solutions beyond road vehicles, means that grand visionary plans become entirely unattainable, and taken off the agenda.

There's no parking in the city, so why would we want more vehicles going in there, so they can just keep on doing circuits repeatedly," Pyne says. "Do we want everyone to go into the city? Surely we want to focus our planning on the Smithfield and Edmonton town centres, based on the idea that some people are going to shop locally and not in the CBD."

So back to that fateful morning when Councillor Alan Blake, to his credit, was defending the need for the lane removals in the inner city. He explained to the progressively enraged Mackenzie, that there had been consultation and there was good reason to accept the engineers' rationale behind the changes.

This did not however appease John Mackenzie.

"Who made this decision? Who's responsible?," Mackenzie kept on attacking Councillor Blake as he raised his voice shouting. Blake used to enjoy a modicum of decorum with our shock jock of Cairns talkback radio.

"There's a process that's been followed," Councillor Blake explained.

Mackenzie ended up yelling at the Councillor, which was very disrespectful.

"Why are you yelling at me John? Stop that," Blake said to Mackenzie, as he sounded besieged by the aggressive and confrontational nature the interview turned into.

Mackenzie was treating the Councillor like a little boy that needed a good telling off. Blakey sounded like he was almost in tears and Macca was relentless telling him to shut up and let him talk.

As a footnote to this tale, I had an email from a CairnsBlog reader, soon after the fateful radio outburst. Evidently John Mackenzie was so pissed off with Councillor Blake after he came off air, he was over-heard in a shop talking about what an "asshole he is."

It was former Councillor, and now water park adventure man, Paul Freebody, who said: if you lie with dogs, you'll get fleas.

Maybe John and Alan should kiss and make up. Then again, maybe not.


Bryan Outlaw said...

Mackenzie was only mildly miffed about the changes to Macleod Street when they happened. He turned into a shrill old woman about it however when Grafton Street was put up for these changes - one of his precious few "freebie" eating spots is Fetta's Restaurant owned by his buddy George Karagianis. Karagianis, who was booted out of his previous location on Abbott Street, has seen more upscale tourists shy away from his plate-throwing Greek schtick after the realise the food isn't particularly good.

And Mackenzie, loathe to lose another freebie eating location after being branded a "media failure" by Villa Romana's owner, asked Karagianis "how high?" when told to jump.

Mackenzie is quite frankly the ultimate media whore. Prostituting himself for a few free meals.

Zorba said...

Spot on Outlaw!

Macca keeps George on speedial for everytime the subject comes up.

Just another grubby shockjock...

Factman said...

Good write up Mike.

What Mucka and others don't realise, (and perhaps Council should have publicised it a bit more), is that it is ONLY McLeod and Grafton Streets that are being made "bike friendly".

This is to encourage cyclists to use these two routes into, and through the CBD, leaving Abbott and Sheridan Streets as the main thoroughfares for cars/trucks/buses.

And, if anyone thinks that a pedestrian having four lanes to cross (that is McLeod Street), getting to Cairns Central was safe, well !!!

And Roggenkamp doesn't acknowledge this, !!! again.

I believe Val, and all thoughtful thinking folks will agree that creating two vehicle through routes along with two shared routes is a smart way to go.

I seriously don't believe that any business is going to lose custom in Grafton Street by two laneing that street.

And finally, (not that it matters), these eco/bicycle/enviro/smart plans were developed in the Kevin years.

Trisha said...

So everyone's jumping up and down - oh my Gawd - there's no more free parks at Cairns Central. Well let me tell you, there's plenty of bike racks in the city, people. You don't have to put money in the meter for a pushie. the fuel is cheap. the city area is fast becoming an area that is extremely unfriendly to motor vehicles. Join the revolution, peeps and get your treddlies out. And I can assure you, that there are PLENTY of right-minded people who do ride into the city from Edmonton, and further. Daily.

The Essence of Good Taste said...

I am interested to hear that the bikeway plans do not follow the roadway. This is what they have done in Brisbane and it works a treat. I know several friends in BNE who cycle 25km to work faster than cars can drive the same point to point because the 25km by road is only 15km by bike and there are no traffic lights (or very few). The only thing to be aware of is the need for security on some more isolated bikeways.

My two bobs worth on McLeod and Grafton... I thought McLeod was a disaster when they first changed it, but IT WORKS!

Can they also change The Esplanade to one way outbound right through to the Upward Street roundabout, and fininsh the Lake Street link to Airport Drive. Then you will have one very happy driver.

Blogster said...

Factman and others who agree, do you really think a cyclist will use Grafton or McLeod because there's a bike lane? Like any road user, a cyclist takes the quickest route.

That argument about crossing one instead of two lanes, isn't that why we have traffic lights?

Personally, I think the government (and Council) is on the wrong track with most laws. Instead of fixing the root of the problem they continue try to fix the symptoms.

I think better driver training and usage of mirrors would make the roads a lot more safer than any change in traffic conditions do.

KitchenSlut said...

Yes, security is an issue with bikeways not following main roadways. There is currently a bikeway between Collins Ave and Aeroglen behind Saltwater Ck but I have been warned by some women that they won't use it.

Also there is a tendency for some bikeways, particularly the Esplanade to be used by pedestrians including sometimes being blocked by families and kid's strollers. Anyone who has visited London will quickly learn that you are not appreciated as a pedestrian on cycleways through Hyde Park and the distant tinkling bell will provide but a microseconds warning before leaping from the path of a bike whizzing past at deceptive speed. KS's most dangerous moments as a pedestrian were on the Hyde Park cycleway!

Thankyou Essence for promotion of the one way Esplanade to the Upward roundabout which would provide additional parking, improve safety, and finally rid us of the comical intersection at the RSL club.

However KS wont be content with CBD configuration until the delusionalists at Council finally accept the failure of City Place and stop pouring our rates down that hole! I will be there with champagne to cheer on the D9 bulldozers as they take out the toadstool and reopen Lake St!

This should be replaced with additional public space down Shields St to make the most of that precinct as now defined in Cairnsplan. The long term objective could be a mall from The Esplanade to Central while keeping the north - south streets open.

Currently noisy belching Sunbuses do twisting turns around the Esplanade and roundabouts and a series of right hand turns to get into a dead end CBD bus parking station which is one of the ugliest features of the city. How dumb is that for fast efficient public transport and creating traffic congestion?

I also don't see why some sort of continuous frequent city-loop bus service wouldn't be feasible linking the city, hospital and perhaps North Cairns on a reasonably frequent basis.

CBD Warrior said...

Surprise, surprise, Macca just spotted enjoying a lovely Friday lunch courtesy of George at Fetta

Unknown said...

I'd love to cycle from White Rock to Cairns but I refuse to as getting on the Mulgrave road is dangerous.

I've followed semi trailers veering into the cycle 'lane'. Yeah no thanks.

Factman said...

Ahh Kitchen Slut !!!

You sound like my echo on some of these matters.

Factman for years has advocated the bus terminal be relocated on Lake Street western side, where Ergon is.

That area is a commercial 'dead spot' and has direct links to Florence/Sheridan and Mulgrave Roads.

These three streets are the main in/out routes for the CBD and well away from the restuarant/shopping areas of the Esplanade/Spence/Lake Streets.

However, the Department of Transport and Main Roads are the managers of the public transport system in Cairns and what they want is what we get. Yo to our masters in Brisbane !!!

And yes, the Esplanade (Spence to Aplin), and Shields Street should be pedestrian only. That would make the CBD a great place to walk/shop/eat about in.

I believe that this will happen one day.

And them's the facts ...

Lillian at Yorkeys said...

I am amazed - Factman, CBD Warrior & Bryan Outlaw all making sane comments in the same blog article!!!! Wonders will never cease. Perhaps there is some astrological concurrence happening. More of the same blokes, rather than your usual rants. Very heartening.