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Australian Councillor Who Gets It 5

My friend and documentary filmmaker Mike Rubbo recently made a very inspiring short film that captures a day spent with Australian city councillor Jackie Fristacky. Jackie is a city councillor in Yarra City area of Melbourne where she previously served as Mayor in 2005-2006.

What sets Jackie apart from your typical city councillor is that she commutes to city hall on her bicycle and travels to meetings using pedal power.

In the video, Mr. Rubbo rides the train from his home in Sydney to Melbourne to spend a typical day with the Australian councillor.

In some European cities, it might be normal for a city councillor to ride her bike everywhere – but in Australia (and likewise here in Canada) Jackie is considered a rare breed.

Jackie has helped lead the push for Yarra City to boast the highest rate of cycling in all of Australia – at just under 10%. Imagine what Jackie could accomplish if Australia rescinded its helmet legislation.


Photo – Riding into Melbourne along the Yarra River by Looking Glass 

Yarra also comprises Australia’s busiest cycling street – Canning street – which Fristacky says services 1,000 cyclists per day. In the video, Rubbo shows a slick cycling traffic light that allows cyclists to proceed before automobiles.

In a follow up e-mail, Jackie lists the reasons for such growth in cycling in her district (for a more detailed list, please visit Mike Rubbo or David Hembrow’s blog)

  • Short distances to key destinations
  • Relatively flat terrain
  • Grid street pattern
  • Diverse demographics
  • Traffic congestion
  • 20% of households do not have a car
  • Many businesses encourage cycling
  • Bike paths on virtually all roads in Yarra
  • Mayor and councillors act as role models on bikes

This list could easily describe my city – Toronto – with the notable exception that we don’t have bike paths on virtually all roads.

With municipal elections coming up in October here in Toronto, and a mayoral candidate who wants to rip out existing bike lanes and ban bicycles on main arterial roads, we could use a pro-cycling councillor like Fristacky.

Mike hopes that his video will provide a model for other city councillors to follow to improve the rate of cycling in their cities – so please send the video to your local councillor or any councillor who may be interested.

Jackie can also be contacted directly if you would like to ask her for more details on Yarra:

Councillor Jackie M Fristacky
Councillor for Nicholls Ward, City of Yarra
Phone: 0412 597 794

If nothing else, send Jackie a quick note to tell her how inspiring her story is for other countries going through similar struggles that Australia currently faces.

James D. Schwartz is the editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at

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5 thoughts on “Australian Councillor Who Gets It

  1. Sue 'sans' helmet Jan 28,2010 11:41 pm

    …it would be more inspiring if jackie ‘dumped’ the helmet and the hi-viz vest!

  2. James D. Schwartz Jan 28,2010 11:53 pm

    hah, I knew I could count on you to comment on the helmet and the vest Sue 🙂 I completely agree with you, and it’s especially sad that Jackie feels compelled to wear that reflective vest in the middle of the day.

    But to be honest, it still feels good to see a politician riding a bike (and not just for political reasons).

  3. Anonymous Nov 19,2010 2:39 pm

    Well done Councillor!

    Canning Street sounds busy with 1000 cyclists a day.

    Though technically not a street, the Narrows Bridge in Perth sees 2000 cyclists on a week day, with a total of 587,000 cycle movement last year (yes, there are counters).

  4. Anonymous Nov 19,2010 2:48 pm

    My bad…

    The Narrows Bridge West saw 587,000 cycle movements last year.

    When you add the path on the East side the Bridge total is an impressive 812,000 cycle movements last year!

  5. Pingback: Australia Cycle Chic Newcomer ← The Urban Country

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