When is a “ban”, not a ban?

Editorial comment by Shane Scanlan

In an intriguing media circus last month, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle managed to build a storm around a proposal to “ban” cyclists from three CBD streets without, apparently, using the word.

Far from protesting that he was misquoted by the Herald Sun and distancing himself from the suggestion, Cr Doyle used the opportunity to suggest that VicRoads consider banning cyclists in Flinders, King and Lonsdale streets.

In a classic “bet each way”, Cr Doyle said: “I’m not suggesting we ‘ban’ anything.  Let’s take that off the table.  We don’t have the power to do that anyway.”

But he then went on to say: “If VicRoads wants to take that next step (banning) then I would certainly welcome that.”

“I didn’t use the word ban.  I didn’t talk about fines,” he said.

“At the moment you can ride absolutely anywhere with impunity.  I think we need to have a conversation to say should that that really be the case?”

He said the proposal was based on safety concerns and cited a 2008 Swanston St fatality as evidence. 

At the time of the accident, Swanston St was a City of Melbourne-recommended cycle route (marked "informal" on the TravelSmart map of the day).

He rejected a suggestion that cyclists should be able to make their own decisions about the relative safety of the routes they choose.

In a promotion selling online subscriptions, the Herald Sun was surprisingly candid and revealing about its motivation for its collaboration with Cr Doyle as well as its attitude towards cyclists: “Is this the moment cyclist haters have been waiting for?” it asked.

“Cyclists would be banned from riding along three CBD thoroughfares under a bold plan by Melbourne’s Lord Mayor to make the city safer.”

Despite being told to the contrary, Melbourne’s major news outlets joined in the feeding frenzy, perpetuating the inaccuracy that Cr Doyle had called for a ban.

Even SBS was happy to attribute the ban proposal to Cr Doyle.

While claiming he just wanted to keep cyclists safe, by engaging in this exercise, Cr Doyle managed to feed a News Corporation/3AW anti-cyclist agenda while remaining “innocent” in the eyes of his pro-cyclist councillor colleagues.

If Cr Doyle was at all concerned about cyclist safety, he would not enourage the sort of prejudices that embolden a certain class of motor vehicle driver to further harass, maim and even kill cyclists.

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