Thursday, May 14, 2009

A reply to Trevlon Hall’s INFRASTRUCTURE & THE FUTURE: An Australian Perspective

In what is fast becoming a quite enjoyable trend in flatland, that being the long and thought provoking blog post, Trevlon Hall has put forward a call to action with a result rather then an opinion that‘s mealy subjective.

The aim of this piece is to look at some of the key points raised by Trevlon and discuss weather it is even practical to attempt to apply them in Australia.

It is perceived by sections of the Australian flat community that Australia is in the second world when it comes to flatland. Compared to other countries, we fall way short on rider numbers, access to product, mainstream media penetration and sponsored riders and events. That’s not to say we don’t have some of those things, it’s just they aren’t on a level with other places.

However, this is also the way it is in much the rest of the world, in fact, despite all we don’t have in Australian flatland, what we do have is pretty damn good considering.

Trevlon’s idea, whilst noble in spirit, is completely impractical in Australia. If we use Melbourne as an example of how you might begin to move on his call to action, you would first need to look at obtaining land to locate a spot. For this you only have two options; government or private enterprise. That is to say you’ll need to lobby government for them to give you either money or land or both, or you can try and get money together via other means to buy the land outright and build your own space. The ways to do both of this things are many and varied, but they also cost a packet and in the case of government you’ll need many people supporting you.

When it comes to government you have three options; federal, state and local (all of which are currently broke I might add). Now, say in Melbourne and around Victoria there are twenty riders who ride on a regular enough basis to justify a legitimate dedicated spot and another 50 (and that’s being incredibly generous) who have an interest in flatland. That is no way enough people to lobby and convince either state or federal government to allocate crown land, as well as money to the construction of a flat spot.

You might have luck with local government, if those 70 people all live within the same local council, but they don’t, they are spread out all over Melbourne and Victoria, which is quite a large area. This means that even if you can get something together from the local council or through private enterprise, some riders just aren’t going to go because it’ll be to far away and others won’t like it because it’s not to their taste. The Imax experience has shown this time and time again.

The famous Imax riding spot in Melbourne

The private enterprise model would have you begging for money from everyone, and I can tell you, people don’t generally give big amounts of money for nothing. Now I’m not saying it’s impossible, just impractical.

But the real issue I see with Trevlon’s idea is the reasons behind it. His argument boils down to flatland exists, there for it has intrinsic right to a private space. I don’t agree with this, I feel if you want recognition for anything, you have to earn it, or there has to be a real need for it. Just because a few guys who ride kids bikes in an odd way feel they are entitled to it, does not in my mind make me think that government or big business should provide such recognition.

The example of tennis is used to suggest that flatland can pull itself up out of the street and into mainstream respectability. However I would argue that the example is flawed as flatland is deeply linked to the street and street culture. The ‘paradigm shift’ Trevlon calls for is removal of flatland from street culture in an attempt to attain higher status by having space allocated for something that already exists. This supposes that for flatland to gain respectability it must be allocated this own physical space and reject its association with the street.

The thing is that tennis has had hundreds of years to come and go, fall in and out of favour and so forth. Yet tennis was originally the cultural practice of peasants (as was soccer and rugby league), flatland has never been the cultural practice of peasants. The peasant culture of successive European basket-case nations throughout the last few centuries bears very little in common with today’s global street culture, of which I believe flatland falls within and is most suited to.

Flatlanders ride in public and trespass on private spaces because that is, what I feel, flatland is about. It’s about using what’s already there for a second different purpose, or recycling modern infrastructure. Why create more of what already abounds (well, in the developed world anyway).
The issue of getting hassled in public spaces is used to support the argument, however on the model suggested, it seems to me that you are just as likely to get hassled riding at an open dedicated flat spot as you are on a tennis court. I have found that the only people that hassle when you ride are drunks and bogans, so they’ll come and bother you no matter where you ride if its out doors.

I believe that Trevlon has raised some good points, and his cause is true, however when applied to Australia I think that such action would prove impractical, impossible and even unfair considering the wide range of selection most Australian riders have when it comes to choosing of riding spots. Yet he should also be commended for putting forward ideas, that if realisable might benefit sections flatland community without negatively affecting others.

Read Trevlon Hall’s original post titled INFRASTRUCTURE & THE FUTURE on flatmattersonline here:

Well known Victorian rider, Ali Finlay, has kindly offered to provide regular commentary to issues that face the flatland community in Australia & beyond. This has been the first of many installments that will be coming out... stay tuned!

1 comment:

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