Welcome to the Goethe-Institut CityScapes Blog.
From January through December 2011, these were the parameters for a playground of diverse, fascinating, vibrant tales: Responding individually to a collective impetus, a host of hand-picked young bloggers uploaded photos, texts, and multimedia. Every month, they were given a new theme. Step by step, they created a kaleidoscope of impressions, opinions, ideas and… plain fun.
This project has now ended. If you like what you see, you may want to check out the brand new CityTales Comic Blog.
Getting around in Sydney is not easy. The city's sprawl, a side effect of the compulsive Australian dream of home ownership, means getting from A to B can be a tedious process.
If one wants complete freedom of movement, a car is compulsory.
That said, the completely unimaginative traffic management, from a time when only the three richest kings of Europe could afford a computer, turns driving into a chore.
Not only are roundabouts under-utilised, but the most perfect failure is the random programming of traffic lights.
To give you a little perspective, if you drive on a road in Germany and stick to the speed limit, the traffic lights will allow you to "ride the green wave." It is – ideally – smooth sailing.
To Sydney, however, this is an alien concept. One can't escape the feeling that the traffic light signals are determined by the RTA throwing dice.
A light turns green, yet 100 meters down the road one has to wait for another two minutes. The costs are enormous – rising fuel consumption, wear and tear and wrecked nerves.
This uninspired handling of Sydney's traffic really makes you wonder if something as visionary as the Harbour Bridge would be possible these days.
But let's not be overly critical. Compared to, say, the 1950s the rest of the traffic planning is of pretty high standard.
What if a car is not an option? Inflated vehicle registration fees, insurances, servicing, fuel, and unworldly parking fees make it an expensive choice.
The problem with bicycles, though, is that Australia's nanny state laws force you to wear a helmet; something which automatically rules them out for the more fashion conscious/ people with pretty hair.
Then again riding a bike will get you killed eventually. They are just not part of everyday traffic like they are in Europe. Maybe the helmet makes sense; I still haven't made up my mind yet about this one.
Lastly there are the trains. In 2009 one in five Sydney train commuters were forced to miss at least one train each month because services were overcrowded.
Supposedly that has gotten better; however, I dare anyone with a wheelchair trying to get from, I don't know, Redfern to... anywhere. One of Sydney's biggest stations does not even have an elevator.
You can forgive the fact that trains are not always clean, that the aircon is cold in winter and not working in summer, that the signage is in need of improvement — but trains that run 15 minutes apart in peak hour? You must be kidding.
And yet, it's the "fastest" way for me to get to work and, on average, it's even reliable.
Still: It's always good to know that one has alternatives — my next move might be an electric bicycle (to make up for my V8 car), or even a scooter. But this being the "caring" state of NSW one of course needs a motorbike licence for that (which I don't have).
Then again it's almost 2012. Where the hell are our promised jetpacks?!