The big issue: Bike Registration

Roads are not paid for by car registration fees, they are funded by various levels of taxation.

Roads are not paid for by car registration fees, they are funded by various levels of taxation.

All taxpayers pay to use roadsWHILE it is welcome that Bruce Guthrie considers that increased bicycle separation from other forms of traffic will be beneficial to improving road safety (Opinion, 5/2), it is unfortunate that he regurgitates the (car driver) statement that they ''fork out hundreds of dollars a year for the right to use the road'', as this is untrue. Roads are not paid for by car registration fees, they are funded by various levels of taxation, by all taxpayers, not just drivers; paying your rego does not give you the right to be on the road, your driver's licence does.

The problem he highlights is that cycling does not provide ongoing additional tax revenue, such as that of fuel for cars. However, this is offset by the reduction in wear and tear of the road by people who choose to cycle rather than drive. Can we please have an article that doesn't have a car driver good/cyclist bad standpoint or vice versa, and stick to positive suggestions?


Guthrie just fanning flames of hostilityBRUCE Guthrie's opinion piece will simply serve to fan the flames of the increasingly hostile relationship between cyclists and drivers. Yes, some cyclists break the road rules and should be fined. But the reason cyclists are sometimes aggro is that when cars and bikes collide, they are the ones who are killed or injured, regardless of fault. Bruce should note the article in last week's Sunday Age that stated drivers were at fault 87 per cent of the time based on analysis of camera footage. I suggest he commutes to work by bike for a month and then reflects on his views - I reckon they would change dramatically.


One-sided anecdotes do a discourtesyAS A cyclist who clocks up about 5000 kilometres per year on Victorian roads, my experience is that the great majority of motorists are courteous and thoughtful towards cyclists. There is undoubtedly a minority of cyclists and motorists who flout the law or are aggressive to each other. But it is not helpful to beat up the issue using a few one-sided anecdotes, as Bruce Guthrie has done. As for cyclists paying registration fees, motor registration fees in Victoria provide less than half of VicRoads' income of $2 billion, so road users are heavily subsidised from general tax revenue. Most cyclists own a car and hence are already paying registration. But I would happily pay a bike registration fee in return for an extensive network of on-road bike lanes that cannot be used for car parking and that do not end suddenly at intersections and elsewhere.


Let's adopt Europe's maturityBRUCE Guthrie is correct in identifying that ongoing conflicts between cyclists and motorists will continue unless appropriate infrastructure is built. However, registering cyclists and charging a fee is not the way to reduce accidents and to raise funds for bicycle lanes. In Amsterdam, Berlin and Copenhagen, where bicycle fatalities are among the lowest in the world, such schemes have not been introduced, yet they have an enormous and successful bicycle network. Perhaps the Europeans are simply more mature on this issue.


Cyclists must be accountable''RIDING Roughshod'' encapsulates beautifully the picture played out daily on our roads. Bruce Guthrie's observations, and suggestions, should be heeded by authorities. For example, rules for cyclists are not public knowledge. For everyone's safety, they need to be. Only then will cyclists be accountable for their behaviour, as are motorists, pedestrians and motorcyclists. They are not being targeted, just being treated as other road users. They should not baulk at that. After all, they seek equality.


Shallow approachTHE article ''Julia Gillard is the least impressive prime minister since Billy McMahon. Discuss'' (5/2), illustrates the obsession we have with image, appearance and impressions rather than achievements, accomplishments and outcomes.

We use the ''image'' of a person and how we ''feel'' about them as a measure of their success or capacity to deal with problems (in this case the prime minister). This indicates a serious misconception about what is needed to solve current problems at home and abroad. Having the ''right look'' does not guarantee the job is done. Rather, employing an intellect and applying unfashionable scientific approaches such as analysing, measuring, calculating and quantifying are what will solve problems.


Two other contendersI DISAGREE with the proposition that Julia Gillard is the least impressive PM since Billy McMahon. She's the worst since Kevin Rudd, who was the worst since Gough Whitlam, who was the worst since Billy McMahon!


Negativity triumphsLAST week's front-page story by Misha Schubert deliberately gives the impression that Julia Gillard is ineffective and out of touch. Like Michael Duffy and Michelle Grattan, Schubert has continued the negative reporting which seems designed to undermine our elected government ? When will you start reviewing and contrasting opposition policy rather than just playing the man? The tall poppy syndrome is alive and well. What a pity our first female prime minister has to endure the media's wish to see her dragged down.

BILL NEALE, Ferntree Gully

Ragbag of opinionsTHE article on Julia Gillard was dismaying for a national newspaper. Made up of a ragbag of opinions masquerading as measured argument, it maintains the male Australian tradition of breaking on the wheel those women who dare to aspire to high office. Robert Manne's statement about the need for the Prime Minister to create ''a narrative compellingly told about how Australia should chart its course'' harks back to another era.

Unsurprisingly, Tony Abbott, that ''ordinary'' man (Extra, 29/1), applies Manne's dictum to promote his own depleted and deprived ''narrative'' for Australia. Gillard's leadership, in fact, signifies a shift into a new era of more mature politics, one in which flexibility and negotiation have already achieved some remarkable outcomes. This is a sign of her political strength, not weakness.


Abbott no betterGREAT article by Stephen Mayne (Business, 5/2). Such a pity that it will go unnoticed by the majority of people who could actually make a difference: that is, the Labor government. I'm not a Gillard basher; indeed, I think she's done a more than commendable job under exceptionally trying circumstances.

Does anyone seriously think that Tony Abbott could have done any better? Ah yes, you'll say, but we wouldn't have a carbon tax - you know, the one she lied about. Yet nobody ever seems to bring up John Howard's GST backflip.

The GST wasn't Coalition policy until they were elected - by a majority of six. Not too far from where we are now but Howard and the Liberals took that as a mandate to do whatever they wanted. Which they did and we all haven't died or been sent to the poorhouse. And whether or not Gillard gets back in and whether or not we have a carbon tax, we still won't.


Fire behaviour keyONCE again John Schauble (Opinion, 5/2) writes with great insight on Victoria's bushfire problems. Over the years Schauble has gone to the heart of the issue: people's behaviour.

Consider his thoughtful analysis in contrast to the scapegoat hunting of some involved in the Bushfires Royal Commission.

The over-the-top attacks on Christine Nixon and Russell Rees were an example of such aggression rather than objective analysis. I suspect if Schauble had been a member of the commission we would have had different recommendations from the unrealistic conclusions outlined in the final report. Keep up the good work, John. One day the authorities might listen.


Multitasking no picnicTOO much is being asked of language teachers (''Schools join forces to rescue languages'', 5/2). Would you choose to work three different jobs for the same pay as one job for the rest of your working life? It was no picnic when I gave it a try for a short part of my continuing career as a primary school Japanese teacher.

The school cluster model fails to consider the added administration for the teacher that multi-workplace teaching demands. How many award nights, concerts, meetings, grant applications, chasing up of budgets and excursion notices, etc can one person continue to do at three times the pace before they burn out? Will these teachers be paid more, receive a travel allowance or any kind of ''thank you very much'' to work this hard? It's this sort of pressure that leads many primary foreign language teachers to take ''ordinary'' classroom jobs instead.


Basin plan has meritIN GARY Tippet's article on the difficulties of farm life in northern Victoria (''Staying afloat'', 5/2), several of the people interviewed blame the Murray-Darling Basin Plan for their troubles. This is not surprising considering reports in the local media, in particular claims that farmers will be forced to give up their water for the environment and that the plan will destroy rural communities.

For farmers struggling to cope with a decade-long drought, floods, the global financial crisis, and plummeting agricultural prices against a rising Australian dollar, it's easy to stir up fear.

However, the recent rain and increased flows down the Murray, Goulburn and Loddon rivers show water brings life, not only to the surrounding forests and wetlands but also to local businesses. Tourism operators have had their best summer for many years. Increasing environmental flows will maintain these benefits, and bring others. Done well, the basin plan is an opportunity to provide a long-term future not only for our river systems but also communities that depend on them.

JULIET LE FEUVRE, Environment Victoria

Just get a lifeTHE north-versus-south dichotomy is stupid (M Magazine, 5/2). I moved to Melbourne from Sydney 18 months ago because I find Melbourne superior in most of the criteria I consider important. But the continual rivalry is tedious to the point of being excruciating.

While Melbourne continues this vaudevillian debate, Sydney has switched off, leaving Melbourne to yell into the void. Faced with fewer Sydneysiders taking the bait, Melbourne has had to channel its adversarial roots inwards, pitting north against south in an equally false and nauseating suburban dichotomy.

North or south, Sydney or Melbourne, whatever; it's all up to the individual's tastes. Arguing over whose tastes are superior is insanity. Just enjoy where you are and let others do the same.

AIDAN WILSON, Brunswick East

Time to draw the lineLAST year, a woman was murdered in Melbourne. She had apparently worked as a prostitute and had accrued considerable wealth. Various news stories have reported how highly regarded she was - as a person and as a sex worker. In reading The Age online yesterday, we were surprised and, later, appalled to read specific details about this woman's family.

What is the public good in reporting such private information? What is the harm that can be inflicted on particular individuals in the reporting of such details?

There are some things we, the public, do not need to know. And some things you, the media, do not need to disclose.

These family members of the murdered woman have, surely, endured enough. To these individuals, we extend our condolences on your loss, and the needless invasion of your privacy.


Fatal folly of waitingIRAN'S Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pledges to confront and defeat the ''cancerous tumour'' of Israel (World, 5/2) and international concern grows of a pre-emptive Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear installations. While the US and other countries urge Israel to wait for the effects of tough sanctions on Iran to be felt, it must be realised that we're discussing the survival of a people and a country.

It seems nobody but the Jews learn from history. Do the leaders of the international coalition forget the killing of 6 million Jews in Europe during World War II came about due to ''waiting'' and because the Allied leaders of the time took too long to confront Hitler and the Nazi Party?

Iran plans to wipe Israel off the map when equipped to do so. Which country in the world would countenance the prospect of obliteration by waiting until it happened? Even pacifists would fight for their lives if their backs were to the wall.

LIAT NAGAR, Inverloch

Not sporting, but ?YES, Carmel Ryan (Letters, 5/2), I'm sure the wheelchair and quad athletes you mention are talented and I agree about sports media greed. But we cannot force people to be interested in a particular sporting activity. Most of us haven't got the slightest interest in badminton - hence it doesn't make the media.

JOHN GRAY, Seaford

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