Adelaide, Connected Cities, cycling, Melbourne, Sydney

Photo: Copyright AECOM by David Lloyd.

I gave my best friend, Sarah, the book The Power for Christmas. Yesterday she emailed me saying that “if it only does one thing – to make me grateful with my lot – then that’s enough for me.”

If you’ve read The Power, you know it says that “like attracts like” and that “what you give out you receive back.” Some would say it’s about being grateful, and I agree. It’s why I write in my gratitude diary every night.

Last week was a terrible week for cycling in Australia. Last Sunday, a car collided with a bunch of cyclists in Sydney, and an Adelaide woman died from injuries sustained after a collision with a car.

The next day, video footage was released in which a cyclist in Brisbane was hit from behind by a car. On Tuesday, a Melbourne taxi passenger opened a door in the path of a cyclist.

The list goes on, but I’ll stop the negative stories right here and simply ask, is Australia cycling against the Law of Attraction?

I think both cyclist and car drivers are.

I’ve had it with this car driver vs. cyclist war. The more I see, the less I like. It leaves my head spinning and my heart screaming and it’s undoing all the good work that many of us are doing to encourage riding a bicycle as just one step to help cut the Aussie obesity epidemic. As Jamie Oliver says, Australia is now fourth in the list of the unhealthiest places on planet earth.

Right now Australia has two problems.

Firstly, too much negativity. As The Power says, negativity creates negativity, which creates a vicious cycle of anger and resentment. Take my Facebook friend John. He likes to tell Council exactly what he thinks. But what it really means is that Council is diverted into solving John’s endless dissatisfaction and grievances.

As a nation we’re so angry that we never stop and think about how to solve the actual problems. If we really want things to change – for cyclists and for car drivers – we have to do the slow and difficult work to identify the real problems. Wouldn’t it be great if people like John were part of the solution rather than just shouting about the problems?

Secondly, like it or not, Australia will never be like Copenhagen or Amsterdam. Our land use planning is completely wrong for cycling. The Australian Dream was – and maybe still is – space: a big house, a big backyard, and space for lots of cars. Everyone copied everyone else and so now Australia is full of big houses. Normal is driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for to get to the job you need to pay for the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it. As Brisbane Lord Mayor Graham Quirk said at my Australian Citizenship ceremony last week, “We need to respect each other and we need to leave the hatred behind.”

Now, he wasn’t talking directly about cycling, but he’s right. Cyclists need to respect car drivers and car drivers need to accept that cycling is a valid mode of transport.

So let’s start cycling towards the Law of Attraction.

  • Let’s celebrate the positive achievements, however big or small. As Bicycle Network tweeted last Friday, “Despite this week’s media storm, let’s not forget that Kirsty, a year 12 student, rode to school for the first time.”
  • Let’s work on the things that we can influence and control, and ignore the ones we can’t. How about cyclists stop jumping red lights and swearing at car drivers and car drivers stop driving whilst talking on their mobile phones, driving too close, and beeping their horns?
  • Let’s be grateful for what we have. Australia has some world-class cycling infrastructure; Brisbane’s Bicentennial Bikeway, and Bourke Street Bikeway in Sydney to name but two. Rottnest Island has the largest cycle hire in the southern hemisphere while my mate Jonathan Giles attracts more than 100 people to his “Cycle Chic” bike rides with just a couple of Facebook posts.

We create our reality with our thoughts. Australia may never be a cycling utopia, but different road users can respect each other, and we can leave the hatred behind. And if we all only do one thing, let’s cycle towards the Law of Attraction, not against it. Like my friend Sarah says, “we can start with being grateful with our lot.”



Rachel Smith ( is an internationally-recognized urban planner and commentator, and principal transport planner with AECOM’s Brisbane office. Connect with her on LinkedIn or Twitter, or follow her blog here.


Originally published Mar 24, 2014

Author: Rachel Smith