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From vroom-vroom to whirr-whirr: a solution to the Melbourne gridlock

By Roger Kalla - posted Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Honda Motor company recently made an announcement that they are pulling out of the Formula 1 circus. The reason given for this decision by the Japanese owners was the austere financial times we are facing and the price tag for entry into the F1 club of more than $600 million a year. This extraordinarily amount of money presumable goes to keep a team of technicians with engines and car parts to fiddle with, and highly paid racing drivers with matching egos in champagne and grid girls.

Another reason given was that Honda was going to concentrate more on their core business which is that of building passenger cars for which the V10 powered engines and computer controlled gear boxes are less and less relevant.

The withdrawal of Honda from F1 racing coincides with the release of its next hybrid powered passenger car and the development of hydrogen powered cars. The latter have been seen as the ultimate solution to our oil dependent transport sector.


Perhaps the nexus between the Formula 1 car and the cars we are going to drive in the future became too great for Honda. I will watch with interest the announcements from Toyota, another Japanese car manufacturer with a presence in F1 which produces hybrid cars that are imported into Australia. It recently announced it will produce the first locally assembled hybrid car by 2010. My guess is that as the first locally produced hybrid cars come on line Toyota will pull out of F1.

If Toyota pulls out of the F1 race before the first race of the F1 2009 racing season held in Melbourne, the Victorian State Government’s continuing investment, in promoting the use of petrol burning and carbon polluting mean street machines for the entertainment of the motor loving masses, will also increasingly be at odds with its support of local car makers. Local manufacturers are rapidly responding to the market demand by switching their production to smaller, more energy efficient and less polluting cars.

So what car do I prefer I hear you asking? Actually my preferred mode of transportation within the city is powered by my own two legs. I have got three bicycles in the garage at present and the second best choice is the people mover sitting in the drive way ready for parental taxi duties.

My first choice is a racing bike just for the Sunday morning bike rides with the members of the Ivanhoe East Full Montes biking dags. I also have a bush bike for off road riding and a commuter bike for those short trips to the shop.

Premier John Brumby’s plan for solving the gridlocks facing drivers on the Eastern Freeway the major east-west freeway leading into and out of Melbourne contains a proposal to fill in the missing link - by constructing another toll way connecting the Northern Metropolitan ring Road and the Eastern Freeway - which will be going through the bike friendly areas around Heidelberg and Bulleen along the Yarra river famously depicted by the artist of the Heidelberg School of painting around the turn of last century.

One alternative that is being explored by the Brumby Government is to place the road in a costly tunnel to protect these sensitive areas in one of the green wedges of Melbourne.


From the perspective of a bike rider that commutes into the city from the east there is another and more relevant missing link, the 3km of bike path that is required to connect two major commuter bike trails from the north and east leading into the city, namely the Darebin Creek trail and the Main Yarra trail. The missing bike path, like the missing freeway link, runs through the local council of Banyule where I live.

To enhance the commute for bike riders I would suggest that the long called for light rail going from University of Melbourne north of the CBD to Doncaster in the east, a stretch of 16km, along the middle of the Eastern freeway road reserve should be built possibly in stages.

Moreover, this existing proposal could be further augmented through the funnelling of bike traffic to the proposed East-West railway line. This railway line could be elevated to avoid rail way crossings and to allow for a bike path to be built under the railway leading directly into the city via the University of Melbourne.

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About the Author

Dr Roger Kalla is the Director of his own Company, Korn Technologies, and a stakeholder in Australia’s agricultural biotechnology future. He is also a keen part time nordic skier and an avid reader of science fiction novels since his mispent youth in Arctic Sweden. Roger is a proud member of the Full Montes bike riding club of Ivanhoe East.

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