Brisbane’s Olympic Potemkin Village

Brisbane’s Olympic Potemkin Village

In 1787, when Empress Catherine II visited Crimea, it is said that her lover Grigory Potemkin constructed fake settlements along the banks of the Dnieper River to impress her as she passed. Thus was born the Potemkin Village, or “lipstick on a pig” in the modern vernacular.

As Brisbane City Council wait for the coroner before taking action in the wake of the death of Philip Pawsey, we reflect on the findings of the inquest into the death of Rebekka Meyer.

“It is recommended that Brisbane City Council engage with bicycle representative groups to investigate, plan and develop more dedicated exclusive bikeways in Brisbane. Resources and planning should be prioritised to extend Council’s excellent existing dedicated bicycle only bikeways that provide physically exclusive bicycle paths.“ Chris Clements, Brisbane Coroner, 9 December 2015.

Brisbane City Council will boast that they are currently investing record sums into active transit infrastructure with $550 Million invested in Green Bridges. This is a large sum of money and would pay for many kilometres of footpaths and on road protected cycle lanes across the city rather than concentrating on the Green Bridge mega projects.

There is a real risk that Brisbane will showcase to the world an Olympic Potemkin Village in 2032, with massive show projects on the river and crumbling or non existent infrastructure in the suburbs.

Research from Portland State University, conducted by Wei Shi, indicates that a well-connected bicycle network, with good overall connections between places, plays a significant role in people’s decision to bike. This is supported by policy recommendations from the Committee for Sydney, as well as the stated policies of NSW Transport and Queensland Transport and Main Roads.

Brisbane needs a comprehensive network of interconnected bikeways that provide safe routes from homes to workplaces, schools, shops, and recreational areas. To truly grow up, we must prioritise public and active transport options that allow people of all ages to navigate the city without dependence on cars.

The current cycle network (like the footpath network) is fragmented with missing links, such as from the state government constructed North Brisbane Bikeway to the Kedron Brook Bikeway. Also, key cycle routes are frequently closed with poor communication of these closures such as for events at the Brisbane (Exhibition) Showgrounds.

As we look forward to Brisbane’s moment in the limelight and get ready to welcome visitors from around the world for our showcase event, we will leave the final word to Chris Clements, the coroner who conducted the inquest into the death of Danish exchange student Rebekka Meyer.

“Ms Meyer’s family might one day return to Brisbane. It is to be hoped that if they do, they will be able to see some positive improvements in safety for the cycling public.” Chris Clements, Brisbane Coroner, 9 December 2015.


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