News / Transport

Street art project comes with a serious message

Brunswick MP hopes three new murals will spark a conversation about the role of bikes in the community

Brunswick MP Tim Read and artist Shannon Lamden (aka @heynicemurals) with the mural she has painted in Victoria Street.

Mark Phillips
Monday, June 28, 2021

WHAT could be more typically Brunswick than the combination of street art and cycling?

Local MP Tim Read has brought the two together with the Brunswick For Bikes Art Ride, featuring three specially commissioned cycling-themed murals on walls around the suburb.

The art ride is fun and colourful, but it is also part of telling a bigger story about making cycling a safe and accessible mode of transport in the inner north.

The 2.1km ride was officially opened on Saturday when two groups of almost 100 cyclists were led by Dr Read to meet the artists and see their freshly completed works.

Dr Read, who is both an enthusiastic cyclist and an advocate for better safety and infrastructure for cycling in his electorate, commissioned the three artists following a call for applications in April.

The three works unveiled on Saturday celebrate cycling and the local neighbourhood, touching on themes of safety, community, history, how bikes are perceived and the issues cyclists have to deal with.

Dr Read has used part of his electorate communications allowance to pay for the three new artworks.

“We wanted to do something a bit different to the usual digital ads and newsletters and something that would help artists and celebrate bike riding within Brunswick,” Dr Read said over a warm coffee at the end of the ride when the temperature in Brunswick was a brisk 10 degrees.

Dr Read has been a passionate advocate for improved cycling infrastructure in Brunswick since he was first elected in 2018. In 2019, he released a major report on bike safety in the electorate, which made the case for a protected bike lane in Sydney Road.

His electorate has arguably the most bike users in the state, if not the nation. On an average weekday, almost 35,000 cycling trips originate from the City of Moreland, which is more than any other local government area in Australia. They include 900 bikes an hour down Royal Parade to the city from the direction of Sydney Road.

Dr Read himself cycles to and from the city every day when Parliament is in session. He said cycling had the benefits of reducing traffic congestion, cutting carbon emissions and improving public health, but it was still being held back as a more common form of transport by poor road safety.

“The message I want to get across is that bikes are part of our community,” he said. 

“We have more people riding bikes to work in Brunswick than any other place in Australia. Policy makers think of bike riders as people in lycra, but I think of bike riding as a way to get from place to place. It’s more chilled than being hunched down over the handlebars going at a fast pace.

“I want people to know that bike riders are in their work clothes and use their bikes for daily transport and shopping.”

But Dr Read’s campaigning for a separated bike lane in Sydney Road is not universally popular, particularly with shop owners who argue the removal of on-street parking would be a deterrent to customers visiting the area.

“Perceptions of poor safety are well justified on roads like Sydney Road where the surface is a patchwork like a blanket that has been repaired so many times you’re not sure what’s original,” he said.

“Quite a high percentage of Sydney Road is devoted to a relatively small number of car parking spaces and a better use of that space would be separated bike lanes. We need separated bike lanes elsewhere as well.”

Dr Read said it was a misconception that the proximity of the Upfield bike path meant there was no need for cyclists to use Sydney Road.

“It’s too narrow and the pedestrians and bikes are squeezed into a tight space. When trains arrive and passengers get off, it’s like the running of the bulls.”

The cyclng group with Connor McLennan’s work at Cycles Galleria in Lygon Street. Photo: Nathan Hart

Theo Hartman and Emi Yoshitome with their mural in Union Street.

The first piece the tour was shown is by Chicago-born sign painter and mural artists Connor McClennan on the wall of Cycles Galleria in Lygon Street, Brunswick East. His work has a heavy pop art influence and incorporate the slogan ‘Share the road’.

The tour then moved onto a private residence in Victoria Street, which had been painted by Shannon Lamden, also known as Hey Nice Murals. Her brightly coloured work references the Tour De France. Earlier this year, Lamden painted the new name on the track at the Brunswick velodrome.

The third and final artwork is a collaboration by Theo Hartman and Emi Yoshitome on the wall of Radhaus in Union Street, near the Upfield railway line. Hartman is an artist, mechanic and geographer originally from the San Francisco Bay Area who runs the bike club at Coburg High, where he is a teacher. Yoshitome, who did the original drawing the work is based on, is a graphic designer originally from Japan.

She said the illustration captured everyday scenes in Brunswick, including children playing, pedestrians and, of course, plenty of cyclists.

Sadly, the mural was tagged overnight on Friday, although the artists were philosophical about the damage.

“I’m not too fazed,” Hartman said. “We’ve got blue, orange and black paint, so it’s easy to fix.”

All three murals will be coated with a graffiti proof surface in coming days.

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