All posts by Michael

YCAN went to Box Hill

Folks from YCAN joined with other Melbourne climate groups, on Saturday 12th of May, in a fun event to share the good news about Big Solar at Box Hill’s Centro Shopping Centre.

It was a new experience for YCAN to be out campaigning in Box Hill. This was an opportunity to start getting the message from the people of Melbourne’s Eastern suburbs about the 100% Renewables Big Solar campaign.

Unsurprisingly the people we had a chat with, like Australians all around the nation, strongly support action on Building Big Solar. It seems that Australian’s get that renewable energy makes sense and they want to see it happen. This is just further confirmation of that.

We’d like to thank the other climate groups, in particular Lighter Footprints, that were there on the day for making us warmly welcome on a cool Melbourne day.

Something new under the sun

The Yarra Community Solar (YCS) initiative is featured in this article by Michael Green on community solar. Don’t miss the meeting this Saturday 19th May if you’re interested.

Community-funded solar panels may be about to change our skyline – and fill our pockets.

Within a year and a half, 400 photovoltaic panels could be glinting from a single commercial roof in the City of Yarra – and all of them will be owned by the local community.

The medium-scale solar project would be the first of its kind in Australia. It’s kicking off next Saturday, May 19, at a public meeting in Clifton Hill organised by Yarra Climate Action Now.

Neil Erenstrom, a volunteer with the group, says they’re conducting a pre-feasibility study and have begun to identify possible hosts, such as factories, schools or large retailers.

Continue reading Community Funded Solar on Michael’s website (also published on The Age as Something new under the sun)

Update 1: The community solar project was also recently featured in the Melbourne Leader article Solar forum in Clifton Hill

Update 2: The project has also been featured in a recent episode of Energy Matters Video News (2nd story)

Introducing Yarra Community Solar

The Yarra Community Solar (YCS) project is an initiative to establish community owned commercial scale (e.g. systems of about 100kW, 400 panels) solar PV in the community. The funds to buy and install the solar are provided by the community. In return, the community investors receive an annual return. The model encourages zero emissions renewable energy to be produced locally and is specifically aimed at those who can’t currently have solar on their own roof (renters, those who live in apartment blocks, those with an unsuitable roof etc.).

This is a project which the YCAN Energy Working Group is very excited to get right behind and support. See more information about the Yarra Community Solar project here.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead

Community solar comes to Yarra

Love solar power? Come along to a forum on a community solar project for Yarra. We are looking at creating a medium-scale community-owned rooftop solar power “station” in our local area.

DATE Saturday May 19th

TIME 11am, promptly concluding at 1pm

VENUE Athol Gill Centre, 100 Hodgkinson St Clifton Hill. (Close to the 86 tram, Clifton Hill railway station & Clifton Hill bus interchange)
Come for a cuppa, stay for the conversation.


Painting is not building

Photo by Richard Drdul

To download the petition calling for more Copenhagen lanes in the City of Yarra click here.

Yarra Council has some interesting ideas. One of which is that painting a road equals building a bike lane. Like some magic talisman, the painted lines will protect you.

There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between what an average person on a bike would call a bike lane and what the Yarra Council thinks a bike lane is.

Call me crazy but when I read that Council wants, “Yarra to be the best cycling city in Australia with the highest mode share for cycling to work, schools, shops of any city in Australia”, and “to have an effective interconnected, continuous and well maintained bicycle network that inexperienced and experienced riders feel safe and comfortable using”, I don’t think of some paint and rubber on the road, it just doesn’t achieve that for me.

Now those objectives are entirely commendable and I for one would love to see Yarra Council achieve them. I have an image of people happily jumping on their bikes to buy some milk or take the kids to soccer training as just a normal part of practically everyone’s life.

Which brings me to Yarra’s website which states:

“In mid 2011, Council constructed a new bicycle route that connects Heidelberg Road in Clifton Hill with Gipps Street in Abbotsford.

“The route provides a separated road space for cyclists that connects cyclists to other key bicycle routes and provides better access to other parts of Yarra and the CBD.

“The project cost $280,000.

“The majority of work involved painting line markings to create better definition along the route. Traffic treatments were also installed at several locations to provide greater separation between cyclists and vehicles.”

Frankly the $280,000 does not equal “a separated road space for cyclists” it has put some paint and rubber on the road. It is spin doctoring to call that “separated”. It is time to call it what it is, dangerous window dressing that continues the second class status of cyclists and puts them in harm’s way, while pretending to provide them with a bike lane.

If like me you have used that route you will know that you take a punt with your life every time you turn from Bath Street into Johnston St to get onto Gipps St and I pray that someone doesn’t have to get killed there before a real solution for cyclists crossing  Johnston Street is put in place.

There is a profound double standard that applies to cyclists. Cyclists incidence of injury and death is increasing and it is justified as a consequence of increasing numbers of cyclists in the community. But that would be totally unacceptable for motorists. The death toll must go down every year for motorists, even though there are more on the roads and rightly so. We should have safe roads for all the people who use them. But cyclists are getting a bum deal and it is time to face that fact. The TAC website shows that for the year to date there is a 67% increase.

Even an innocent momentary lapse of concentration on a motorist’s part and splat, cyclist’s Christmas cancelled.

Without projects that really create bike lanes to world’s best practice, Yarra cannot become “the best cycling city in Australia” or “have an effective interconnected, continuous and well maintained bicycle network that inexperienced and experienced riders feel safe and comfortable using

Which is why, if Yarra is to become “the best cycling city in Australia” it will have to become the highest funding per capita Council in Australia and build physically separated bicycle lanes that are safe to travel in.

Thankfully Yarra has some great natural advantages in that contest. We have a geographical small council, we have many broad streets and we have a lot of cyclists already.

So let’s grab the mantle off Sydney and just do it, build (not paint) a great network of real bike lanes, ones that physically separate cyclists and motorists, like the Copenhagen style does, and build new bike paths that cyclists of all ages and ability feel safe using.

When Yarra starts doing that, rather than acting like a graffiti artist on our road running wild with paint, then we will increasingly feel like the roads are safe for cyclists and many more will jump on a bike. Yarra cannot fix the problem of the entire city, but Yarra can certainly lead the way for the entire metropolitan area.

In the meantime cyclists will continue to protect parked cars from damage with their lives rather than parked cars protecting cyclists’ lives. How many people have to be injured or killed on Yarra’s roads before a cyclists’ life is more valuable than a parked car?

So I for one am just going to have to disagree with Yarra Council and continue to say that there are no new bike lanes in Yarra and it doesn’t look like there will be any in the near future. Not while they are still thinking a bit of paint creates an on-road bike lane. That’s just not good enough, not when people’s lives are at stake.

People who have been road riding for some time tend to develop an acceptance of the risks, they develop strategies to cope with it. I for one, light up my bike like a Christmas tree at nights on the road. However, we tend to forget that it is scary and off-putting for most people to use your bike on the roads with cars zipping past you just centimetres away.

Victoria Police’s Operation Halo demonstrates that the magic paint just doesn’t work to keep cyclists and motorists separated.

More than 130 motorcyclists have been snared for riding in the bike lane, as have 42 car and truck drivers” during Operation Halo.

The Age recently had an article that highlighted just how scary it can be out there on the roads.

Helmet cameras tested on Melbourne roads two years ago show how prevalent scares are for cyclists. Marilyn Johnson, from the Monash University Accident Research Centre, found in footage compiled by 13 riders over 127 hours there were two crashes, six near-crashes and 46 instances where riders had to take evasive action. Drivers were at fault 87 per cent of the time.

So come on Yarra get your act together put away the paint brush and build real bike lanes.

To download the petition calling for more Copenhagen lanes in the City of Yarra click here.

Photo by i b i k e l o n d o n

Are cyclists the real heroes?

Some of YCAN’s best friends are cyclists. Cycling is a fantastic way to get some exercise, zip around Yarra and do your bit to have a smaller carbon footprint. But shockingly the City of Yarra has been identified as one of five high risk municipalities for the Victorian Police’s Operation Halo which has been running over the last few weeks. It is also disappointing that the Council is being very slow to properly implement its bicycle strategy.

Operation Halo has seen about 100 police a day working across the Melbourne, Port Phillip, Yarra, Boroondara and Stonnington Police Service Areas (PSAs) during peak commuter times at high-collision locations. YCAN believes that cyclists deserve the opportunity to cycle around Yarra without running the gauntlet. Cycling deserves to be a normal part of our lives in Yarra. It takes up a tiny proportion of the space that cars do, making the roads less congested for those who have to use motor vehicles. We all want to know that the ambulance is not going to get stuck in gridlock when we call it, cyclists leave the road clearer.

Police have detected 3943 offences which could have contributed to pedestrian, cyclist and motorcycle road trauma in the first three weeks of Operation Halo.

368 pedestrian offences: that’s 9.33%
427 bicycle offences: that’s 10.82%
309 motorcycle offences: that’s 7.83%
2839 car/truck offences: that’s 72%

State Bicycle Coordinator Sergeant Arty Lavos said “This operation is about targeting road trauma involving our vulnerable road users such as cyclists, motorcycle riders and pedestrians,”

“Our road toll is currently 47 – that’s 15 higher than this time last year. Of those deaths, four have been cyclists, five pedestrians and six motorcycle riders.” Sgt Lavos said.

It isn’t surprising that motor vehicles make up the majority of the offences.

What is surprising is that means 8.5% of those deaths were cyclists. It seems a disproportionate number of cyclist have died in that period. We are not saying that it is the fault of motorists. What we are saying is that both motorists and cyclists deserve the opportunity to travel safely and that having separate bike lanes in the Copenhagen style will make travelling safer for everyone. This is a failure to provide the infrastructure that the huge increase in cyclists calls for.

The City of Yarra has a Bicycle strategy that should have meant that our community got five Copenhagen lanes per year. As yet the City of Yarra has failed to provide even one. How many people will be injured or die before Yarra Council starts to meet this modest target? Would the Police have needed to deploy one hundred officers if our community was safer for cyclists? If you are a cyclist or have someone you love who enjoys cycling then this affects you. Let’s make cycling safer. And let’s solve gridlock before it strangles our city.

It is time for Council to stop thinking that some white lines and green paint will protect the people of this city. Everyone is a winner when more people regularly cycle, unless it ends in tears.

YCAN calls on the City of Yarra to fully implement its bike strategy and show genuine leadership by becoming the highest per capita funder of cycling infrastructure in Australia.

Panel on Panels – Sunday 14 August

Yarra Climate Action Now (YCAN) is aware of the issues facing people who are considering having Solar Photovoltaic Panels on their roofs. There are questions like what’s happening with the rebates? What are RECS? Which is the right panels for our house? Should we get panels at all?

Some people are more motivated by a concern over the climate crisis while some other just see that power prices keep going up and the price of solar is going down and want the stability of knowing what their power is going to cost them.

Regardless of reason you may be considering solar panels, we have a panel that can answer your questions from the the technical to financial to planning issues.

  • Mick Harris has over thirty years experience in the renewable energy industry.
  • Christopher Harries, Senior Statutory Planner with the City of Yarra can answer your questions about planning issues in the application process.
  • Rod May is the Manager of the Clifton Hill and North Fitzroy Branch of the Bendigo Bank and can answer your questions about how to finance those solar panels you want to get on your place.
  • Johanna Trickett, Yarra Environmental Sustainable Development Adviser, can answer your question about how Yarra Council supports Sustainable Development.

When: Sunday 14 August 2011, 2pm

Where: Athol Gill Centre, 100 Hodgkinson Street, Clifton Hill

RSVP online to register your attendance at this event


Winter Warmer Workshop

Let leading sustainability architect Ande Bunbury show you DIY tips to improve energy efficiency and comfort in your home.

In this two-hour workshop we’ll look at two homes in order to demonstrate the “before and after” possibilities, including gap sealing, reglazing, insulation, orientation, energy efficiency devices, and heating options.

When: Sunday 19 June 2011, 2–4 pm
Where: 61 Michael St North Fitzroy

The event is free, but numbers are limited. Please call or SMS 0404 113 269 to book.

Politician Rebranding

Every Wednesday starting 3 February 5.00-6.00pm, 112 Smith St, Collingwood

Our weekly re-branding sessions continue and we need you!!

After completing six weeks in a row in 2009, we will now attempt to have a weekly presence outside Labor Minister Richard Wynne’s office until the November State Election or until the Brumby Government implements some decent climate crisis policies!

Our actions are already having an effect. Richard Wynne was one of the Ministers that successfully argued to postpone the allocation of brown coal for export to India.

We will be correcting the Brumby Government’s image, to match its pro-coal actions, every Wednesday, 5-6pm, 112 Smith St, Collingwood.


Also, if you are a musician or performer and feel like busking while we do our rebranding, we would love to have you on a Wednesday evening.