Tag: melbourne

Red and purple

As I walked to work at 8am, I saw more and more people wearing red shirts. Around Fed Square, groups of three or four were smiling and drinking coffee.

A block later, four police men in fluoro yellow jackets walked towards me. Then a crowd of police in fluoro poured put of the police station on Flinders Lane. They all headed to Fed Square.

By mid-morning, it was clear what was going on.

Teacher protest on Spring Street, photo from my office window

I wonder where the purple people came from?

Fallback technology

I was sitting by the river on Southbank. It was sunny and I was waiting a few minutes before my meeting.

‘Excuse me! Do you live around here?’ A man in smart suit was coming towards me.

‘Not exactly here…’ I began.

‘Do you know where the restaurant called Waterfront is?’ he asked.

‘Yes.’ I stood up and pointed the opposite direction from where he came. ‘You have to go past the big road. It’s probably another five minutes walk…’

I noticed he was carrying his iPhone face up. ‘Do you have the map?’ I asked, pointing at his phone.

‘No, it’s not working,’ he said, looking cross.

I reached into my bag and pulled out the tattered cycle map that I always carry.

‘We’re here,’ I said. ‘You need to cross Queensbridge and go halfway up the block towards Princes Bridge…’

‘Ah!’ He saw immediately. ‘Thanks!’

He rushed off to his companion, calling, ‘Keep going that way!’

I folded up my map and put it back in my bag.

Grand Prix

The sounds of the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix are filling our home. The noise is coming through our windows rather than the TV. High pitched car engines are the soundtrack of at least two weddings that we saw at the Botanic Gardens. They are like angry wasps.

Leaves in water

Damjan and I were walking home after dinner on Monday. It was 10pm and still hot from a 40°C day. At City Square, we found a small knot of children in front of the fountain. They were pushing leaves through the water to make shapes — words, a love heart.

Damjan wanted to do his name so I collected up some leaves for him. Then it was my turn.

Damjan joines the children
Damjan joines the children

Damjan finishes his name
Damjan finishes his name

My first graffiti
My first graffiti

The children want to harvest some of my leaves for their own art
The children want to harvest some of my leaves for their own art

Walking home from work the next day, there were still people at the fountain, making shapes with leaves. There are now more shapes and names. I think we got in early on this Melbourne meme. I wonder how long it will last?


I sat at the supermarket, minding all the groceries while Damjan dashed into the store to buy eggs.

A man was walking down the street. He bent down and picked something up. A flash of white — I think it was a cigarette. Why is he picking up a cigarette butt?

He put the scrap in his mouth.

Ah, now I see, he’s a bit scruffy and chewing old cigarettes from the ground. What we have here is a strange person.

He walked straight up to me and stopped.

‘Mumble mumble…’ He peered at me closely.

‘Sorry, what did you say?’ I asked.

‘Do you want a hug?’ he said more distinctly.

‘No, thank you.’

So he shuffled past.

Giant babies

The Melbourne Festival is coming to an end. I have been enjoying the public art very much. If you have the chance, I highly highly highly recommend going to the space between the Arts Centre and Hamer Hall after 8pm to see the light show. It is spectacular, delightful and funny. The show is called ‘Cacophany: The Art of Conflict‘ and is free.

I saw these six metre tall black demon babies being installed at the Arts Centre. Then they started showing up all over Melbourne — they’re at Fed Square, St Paul’s Cathedral and City Square. They are part of the Angel-Demon Parade.

Demon babies at the Arts Centre
Demon babies at the Arts Centre
Demon baby looms over Melbournians
Demon baby looms over Melbournians
I want lots of milk
I want lots of milk
Do not feed the Demon Babies
Do not feed the Demon Babies

Slow cyclist

I had a great time on Ride to Work day. It was really easy to get a blue Melbourne bike — in fact, it turned out to be free on Ride to Work day. As I was riding, people along Bourke Street called out to me.

‘Hello cyclist! Do you want free breakfast?’ They pointed to a neat pile of brown paper bags in front of their cafe.

‘Hello! No thank you. I’m going to my company’s free breakfast,’ I said as I slowly wheeled by (it’s uphill coming up to Parliament House).

Free breakfast is one of the rewards of Ride to Work Day.

Now I’ve signed up for a one year subscription. It’s $50 and I get to ride the bikes for free for the first 45 minutes of each trip, which is longer than the standard 30 minutes. I have a blue stick that I put in the bike stand, then I can get whatever bike I want.

I rode to work today. The trickiest bit is Swanston Street. I had thought that Swanston Street would be the easiest — it has lots of cyclists and is closed to private cars during the day. However, this morning I found myself trying to squeeze between a parked truck, a street sweeper and a tram. The other cyclists seemed to be able to do it but I was too scared. Luckily, whenever I feel unsure about something, I can just hop off and wheel my bike on the wide pavements of Melbourne.

Here I am with the official Melbourne bike helmet. There were a whole row of bikes with helments attached so I took one of them.

Preparing to ride to work
Preparing to ride to work

As you can see, I don’t need to wear any special riding gear, just my work clothes. My commute takes 15-20 minutes for around three kilometres. I am a very slow cyclist. Every bike overtakes me. But that’s okay. I am obviously a baby bikist, with my clunky public blue bike, upright sitting position and impractical clothing. I don’t feel embarrassed about slowing the cycle lane down.

And look what I spotted! This is the second time that I’ve seen this mysterious yellow bike. I wonder why it’s yellow?

Mystery yellow Melbourne bike
Mystery yellow Melbourne bike

Are Melbourne Bikes taking off?

We’ve spent the last six months renovating and moving into our new home in inner Melbourne. I’ve been looking forward to returning to city life and riding a bike to work.

In fact, I’ve been planning to join the Melbourne Bike Share scheme. In London, I looked enviously at the thousands of people riding the Boris bikes. It had just opened up for casual use as I left London for Melbourne so I never got the chance to try it out.

I felt sad that Melbourne bike share has not been as successful so far. Most people think the reason for the low rental rates is because helmets are compulsory. I don’t think this could be the root cause. Most of the London users are regular commuters who can get helmets, rather than casual impulse riders.

More basic reasons are probably how safe our streets feel for cyclists and perhaps the limited coverage of the scheme (mainly Melbourne CBD), which is already well served by trams. Damjan, whose work is slightly outside the very centre of Melbourne, would have to ride my folding bike because there are no blue bike stands near his office.

I hope that the Melbourne bikes will slowly take off. Today I actually saw four Melbourne cycles in my 20 minute morning commute to work. This is a bit of a record for me. Admittedly, two of them were being ridden illegally — one without a helmet, the other on the footpath.

If I had a hand in introducing the bikes to Melbourne, I would have done two extra things to speed up the uptake of the bikes. I would have launched the scheme in late spring or summer — why on earth did they start of in the cold and wet of winter? The UK was a bit smart in introducing their indoor smoking ban in summer to minimise the shock of going outside to smoke.

I would have also given away access or paid lots of people to ride around and generate some interest and buzz. My guess is that if people see other people riding around and if using those bikes seemed normal, then more people would try it out. Instead, it became normal to see full racks of unused bikes, just like it has become normal (common wisdom) that ‘Myki sucks‘ (it’s actually a very useable system, which had well publicised teething problems).

I have registered for Ride to Work day. Next Wednesday I make my first epic 13 minute journey from home to work on a Melbourne bike. I have already scoped out the route. There is only one lane change that I’m worried about but I hope that a mass of cyclists on Wednesday will protect me.