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Perhaps Vivian Straw, ACT president of the Planning Institute of Australia, should do a little more research into worldwide cycling trends before commenting on alternatives to motor vehicle usage in the ACT (''Planning chief: cycling plan blind to wheelie good ideas'', December 11, p3).

Our strategic cycle network is not ''flawed'' as he suggests, nor is it correct that riding to work remains the choice of Lycra-clad cyclists.

Countries all over the world are not embracing his suggested alternatives such as Segways, electric scooters or YikeBikes. The proven safest, most effective, sweat-free method of alternative transport is simply electric bikes.

Mr Straw's suggested alternatives are not at all practical and will only complicate a very simple solution to the dilemma of alternative transport.

The commuting trend worldwide is to embrace electric bicycles, and worldwide sales figures strongly support this fact. A recent report by Pike Research concluded the worldwide market for electric bicycles had an estimated growth rate of almost 50 million units and $13.2 billion dollars in sales revenue in the next six years.

As of May this year Australia introduced new laws relating to electric bicycle use, limiting electric bikes to a motor of 250 watts continuous rated power activated by pedaling. Bikes must also have an auto brake cut-out switch. They are street and road legal.

Electric bikes are cost-effective - especially when compared with the Segway, which can cost more than $6000 - very efficient - maintaining a fairly constant speed on the flat or up hills, pedal-assisted, which means very little sweat but some exercise - and have a travel distance of up to 100 kilometres before recharging. In most cases electric bike riders wear casual or work clothes and do not require a shower on arrival at the workplace.

Our cycle network plan is on track and does not need any major overhaul, rather it is the public that needs to be made aware of the massive shift all over the world to electric bikes.

Bosch, Panasonic, Yamaha and many other multinational companies are pumping millions of dollars into the electric bicycle industry.

Even Australia Post has in excess of 1500 electric bicycles.

I have been in the bicycle industry for more than 30 years and go on bicycle tours overseas frequently.

It is clear from my observations that electric bicycles are the answer to alternative transport worldwide, and the ACT is no exception.

Good planning is about adopting models that have a proven end result, not guesswork, and most importantly educating the public of the huge benefits of getting out of cars and onto bicycles.

Peter Keast, Torrens

Regarding Vivian Straw's comments on converting Canberra's bicycle lanes into ''byways for Segways, foldaway electric bicycles and electric scooters'' (''Planning chief: cycling plan blind to wheelie good ideas'', December 11, p3), I'm not sure where in the ACT he begins his 20-kilometre commute to work but I'd sure like to see him do it on his Segway.

If Mr Straw hopes Segways, RoboScooters and electric tricycle users will overtake numbers on conventional bikes, not only has he overlooked the fact that heath and exercise are a far greater national problem than traffic congestion, he has also grossly underestimated Canberra commuters' sense of dignity.

Ben Henderson, Monash

Ludwig falls short

On December 11, the ABC TV show 7.30 featured another story on the treatment of Australian livestock overseas.

I understand Julia Gillard has to give a job to Joe Ludwig, a minister with a substantial role in this sort of issue.

However, what I fail to understand is why she permits him to continue to occupy a job that has a responsibility for the welfare of sentient creatures.

Not only have there been too many instances of despicable treatment of Australian livestock, but the minister's initial responses to those issues always seem to be thoroughly inadequate.

Gordon Fyfe, Kambah

Universally wrong

Robert Willson (Letters, December 10) claims that the following statement constitutes a scientific world view: ''God brought the universe into being out of nothingness about 14 million years ago, and made it precisely tuned for life.''

Willson may have borrowed the age of the universe from science, but the rest reveals a profound ignorance, arrogance and hostility to science.

Is pre-Big Bang inquiry redundant because Willson knows the answer is magical? Does natural history only makes sense when viewed through a prism of wand-waving?

All metaphysical claims put the cart before the horse - they begin with a theory. Their proponents deny, massage or ignore contradictory evidence to varying degrees depending on their guru's official position. That is the opposite of science.

Peter Robinson, Ainslie

Misguided praise

To describe Allon Lee's response (Letters, December 7) to Rick Kuhn's article (''Israel apartheid left intact'', Forum, December 1, p7) as disingenuous is being charitable. He spent most of his letter patting the Israeli government on the back for the steps it is taking to afford its Arab citizens full equality under the law, although even he acknowledges that ''social gaps and some discrimination'' exist. However, what steps the Israeli government is taking in this regard is not something that is worthy of praise.

It is what is expected of the government of any country that describes itself as democratic, particularly when they relate to a minority that constitutes 20 per cent of the population.

The Israeli government has some way to go before its Arab citizens have the same rights and opportunities as Israeli Jews. Its own Or Commission said ''government handling of the Arab sector has been primarily neglectful and discriminatory''. While acknowledging that Arabs who are permanent residents of East Jerusalem risk losing permanent resident status if they cease being residents, he sees nothing unusual in this and commented: ''This is similar to the provisions of Australia's permanent residency laws.''

But the comparison with Australia is not a valid one. In the first place, Israel's 1980 annexation of East Jerusalem and its declaration of the whole of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is in violation of international law. Secondly, a person born in Australia is not a permanent resident but a citizen.

What drew Lee's ire was the reference in Kuhn's article to Israel as an apartheid state. Despite all its faults I would agree Israel is not an apartheid state. But its occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights most certainly is apartheid. Justin McCarthy, Chapman

Bad news for trees

David Lindenmayer (''Human activity takes its toll on biggest living organisms'', December 8, p4) bemoans the death of 100- to 300-year-old trees.

Death is a natural process for organisms which sexually reproduce. Death is necessary so their offspring can grow and reproduce in turn. The probability of death increases with age. It is true that human activities may have accelerated the loss of old trees in some circumstances but it is more important to recognise those activities which have interfered with the cycle of regeneration of trees.

If 300-year-old trees are deemed to be desirable then forests can be managed to achieve that aim. It will not be achieved by locking up the forest and excluding fire for the trees will merely age and die to be replaced by their rainforest understory. No.

To ensure a supply of 300-year-old stands, existing younger stands need to be managed and new stands established now and on a regular basis. Sorry, but the 300-year cycle of life and death in the forest will lose out to the daily news cycle.

Peter Snowdon, Aranda

Starting small

Bryan Furness (Letters, December 3) has given a history of the suggestion by Frank Fenner for a ''Biodiversity Centre''. One must support the suggestion especially because climate change will bring about so many changes in both terrestrial and marine biodiversity. But that is only one point.

Australia also contains a wealth of information that records the long evolutionary program of biological development. Some of this is stored in the state museums, but these museums are failing in their responsibility. A national museum housing new discoveries by many active workers should be established.

Although in the present economic climate politicians will cry poor, we must remember that the heritage once lost cannot be replaced.

With a small reorganisation of existing museum staff, a small centre could be established, and that could be expanded as economies recover.

Ken Campbell, Hughes

Journalism lives

As Nicholas Stuart (''Season's resting the best place to do hard thinking'', December 11, p9) is giving thought to his book on the death of journalism he might note the words by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. In an article syndicated by The Canberra Times (''America's values on trial with Manning'', December 4, p11) exposing the inhumane treatment being meted out to courageous whistleblower Bradley Manning, Greenwald focused also on the scarifying contempt for Manning's fate shown by US media.

He writes: ''Despite holding themselves out as adversarial watchdogs, nothing provokes the animosity of establishment journalists more than someone who challenges government actions … to the mavens of the US press, [Julian] Assange and Manning are enemies to be scorned because they did the job that the press refuses to do: namely, bringing transparency to the bad acts of the US government and its allies.'' Journalism dies whenever the establishment position is given more than equal treatment.

The good news is that journalism is not dead. It has just moved to thousands of small, independent sites on the internet.

Chris Williams, Griffith

Dark fire

An answer to Lesley Fisk's query (Letters, December 11) is found in NASA's Black Marble video ''Earth at night'' . The search term ''aus-fires'' at www.nasa.gov brings up the high-definition Black Marble image ''wildfires light up Western Australia''.

John Bromhead, Rivett

Safety first must be a rule strictly enforced on building sites

We congratulate The Canberra Times for its ongoing campaign highlighting the safety on ACT building and construction sites. Unlike the chief executive of the Master Builders Association, John Miller (''Construction chaos leaves truce in ruins'', December 7, p4) we do not believe that The Canberra Times is running a deliberate or vindictive campaign against anyone or any company in the ACT, nor do we see any evidence to support such an allegation.

However, there is all too much evidence to support the argument that there has been an attitude of indifference - one may say negligence - by some within the industry to do all that is reasonably practicable to provide safe systems of work and a safe workplace where every worker can reasonably expect to return home safely at the end of each day's work.

Should any employer or employer organisation wish to take odds with what we have said, we draw their attention to the following comment given in evidence to the recent inquiry into deaths in the building and construction industry by ''a senior construction employer'' that ''safety doesn't add value to your project. It just costs money'' (p20).

One only has to note the evidence given to the inquiry in relation to what in the industry are ironically known as ''Safe Saturdays''. Saturday is a day when it is reasonably safe to assume there will be no visits from safety inspectors; a day when illegal and unsafe work can be done without the fear of being caught. Lastly, evidence was given by an employer safety manager/s of the practice, by some companies, where safety managers and engineers are told not to visit sites on certain days and at certain times.

Importantly, the evidence was not given by the building unions pushing a political/industrial barrow. It was given by senior building and construction employees working for some of the largest and most important building and construction companies active in the ACT today.

Thanks to The Canberra Times, the public know that lives have been lost, workers have been maimed for life and that families have been almost destroyed. Denial and finger-pointing will not help anyone, nor will it make a building or construction site safer. In fact, such behaviour only makes matters worse, sites become less safe, workers exposed to ever greater risks.

Safety isn't about winning an internecine political or industrial battle. It is about a fundamental human right: the right of every worker to return home alive and uninjured at the end of each working day.

David Chadwick and Brian MacLeod, UnionsACT

Preserving Oaks

Canberra is a relatively new city, and it is vital we protect our comparatively few heritage precincts. It is astonishing that more is not being done to protect the fine historical and environmental values of Oaks Estate.

Oaks Estate is blessed with a marvellous natural environment, adjacent as it is to the junction of the Molonglo and Queanbeyan rivers. It has a built heritage stretching right back to colonial times.

To walk through Oaks Estate, as I did the other day with members of the Oaks Estate Progress Association, is to witness in microcosm the story of the development of Canberra through early settlement, Federation, wars, depression and prosperity.

Regrettably, due to its small electoral enrolment, Oaks Estate has not received its fair share of attention from successive federal and ACT governments going back many decades. Failure to adopt much-needed heritage and environmental plans, the potentially adverse impact of industrial development across the border in Queanbeyan and inadequate cross-border governmental dialogue is threatening the future of this special corner of the ACT.

Earlier this year the Inner South Canberra Community Council accepted the OEPA as a constituent member. We will work hard to promote the interests of the community and the benefits to all Canberra of protecting this historic place. Discussions occurring this month between the OEPA and the ACT government and Queanbeyan Council will hopefully produce a way forward after years of neglect.

Gary Kent

Chair, Inner South Canberra Community Council

TO THE POINT

It's policy in need of care

The article, ''Study finds bariatric surgery weighted to the wealthy'' (December 10, p2), proves Australians can have as much health as they can afford. However the fact that this type of surgery is so much in demand suggests abject failure of public health policy.

Albert M. White, Queanbeyan

Beautiful truth

In reply to Robert Willson's predictably religious explanation for the kneelers in St Paul's (Letters, December 10), I prefer Keats' opinion that, ''Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'' I find this a much less contentious argument, and a philosophical belief we would all be better off to absorb and practise in our personal and public lives - particularly our politicians and leaders.

Geoff Armstrong, Monash

Playing up to his name

What a pleasure it was to see that Peter Senior had won the 2012 Australian Open golf championship, and within just two years of becoming eligible to be recognised as a senior in name and age.

E.L. Fisher, Kambah

Hang heads in shame

As I read your excellent editorial about the royals phone prank (''Hoax too cruel for comfort'', December 10, p8), I couldn't help but feel the intention was less to do with amusing oneself and more to do with humiliating the British - by impersonating their Queen. One wonders if those who sanctioned this idea feel comfortable with their decision, or will they resign their position in shame?

Sam Nona, Burradoo, NSW

Not suitable for children

Put kids behind a microphone by all means. But juvenile pranks and adult satire are different things. So management needs to watch more closely what goes on.

Barrie Smillie, Duffy

Repercussions foreseeable

It may be unfair to expect the 2DayFM presenters to have foreseen that their ''prank call'' would prompt a woman to kill herself, but they and their advisers can hardly have expected the nurse to be promoted either. It was obvious there would be repercussions for her at her workplace. So let's not be too hard on the presenters, and the radio station, but let's not be too soft on them either.

Peter Marshall, Captains Flat, NSW

In front of their faces

In the past I have frequently read in this and other newspapers that Canberra has the most highly educated population in Australia. I now read that school teachers may soon be asked to tell whether or not children are too fat. Don't we look at our kids any more?

C.J. Johnston, Duffy

 

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