Inspiring change from the bottom-up

I met Michael Hossen at Southbank3006’s first community meeting where his insightful comments really added to the discussion.

I was glad he stayed afterwards so I could learn more about him and his passion for city planning.

“I actually have a degree in Urban Regional Planning,” he explained.

He went on to tell me about Strong Towns a book by Charles Marohn that has inspired a movement of forward-thinking ideas about urban development that runs counter to conventional thinking – that changes required to improve our cities and the quality of life within them need to come from the bottom-up, with individuals making small changes.

Michael’s answer to that call happened during lockdown.

“I started researching electric cargo bikes,” he said.

He placed an order and now, 15 months later, can’t imagine living any other way.

“It has completely changed our lives for the better,” he said. “It’s hard to describe, but traveling by bike is just joyful, it’s good for the soul. I’m never stuck in traffic, so my mood is better, I’m less stressed, it’s just a much more efficient way to get around the city.”

Michael’s bike, a Tern GSD, can carry his wife, four-year-old daughter and more than 30 kilos of cargo.

He uses the bike every day to transport his daughter back and forth from kinder and for all the family errands.

“I log anywhere from 100 to 200 kilometres a week.”

He said his family even used the bike for a weekend getaway to Warburton.

“We took the train to Lilydale, and then rode the rail trail from there – it was really great.”

Michael is so passionate about cargo biking (defined as any human-powered vehicle designed and constructed specifically for transporting loads) that he’s started Facebook (Melbourne Cargo Bikes) and Instagram (cargobike_dad) pages that have nearly 1000 followers combined.

“I’ve definitely noticed more bikes here in Southbank,” he said. “In fact, the last stats I looked at said that 25 per cent of the vehicles in the CBD are bikes – a big uptake from years ago.”

Michael credits bike lanes to being a contributor to this increase.

“Australians are so automobile focused—the standard should be focusing on humans getting around, not cars. I like the idea of cars being the guests in cities not people.”

Indeed, when I asked him about the most challenging aspect of living in Southbank his answer was car noise.

“Cars don’t have to be that loud,” he said. “They’re loud because they are travelling at highway speeds right through the middle of our neighbourhood. The design of our main roads in Southbank encourages this – wide, multi-laned, with 60 km/h speed limit (most Melbourne city roads are narrow and have a 40 km/h speed limit). It’s no wonder there is no concern for pedestrians.”

Michael pointed out that the portion of City Rd bisecting one of Southbank’s most densely-populated areas was called Yarra Bank Highway on roadmaps – an antiquated designation. “Lowering speeds in Southbank, through both speed limit and road design changes, would be a game changer – greatly decreasing noise and increasing our quality life. Something that could be done right now,” he said •

 

MaryKay Rauma is a founder and Communications lead of Southbank3006 a not-for-profit community and advocacy group focused on connecting residents and improving the liveability of Southbank. Southbank residents can join for free at southbank3006.com.

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