When it comes to The RiotACT stories that attracted the most comments in 2017, five of the top ten articles that had readers reaching for their keyboards were about transport, with cyclists, light rail and cars all making an appearance. The NBN rollout, NIMBYs, privatisation of Canberra’s jail, the cost of housing in the capital and new shopping trolley legislation rounded out the year’s top ten most commented posts.
John Hargreaves’ opinion pieces are guaranteed to get The RiotACT readers talking, and this one was no exception. The January article took aim at Jon Stanhope’s suggestion that the Alexander Maconochie Centre be privatised. Hargreaves wrote that the proposal went totally against the stance Labor has had for decades and will not transfer the risk of failure, but just be more expensive and less compassionate. There was robust discussion about the initiative by readers, with little consensus about the best way forward for the AMC.
The RiotACT readers were keen to share their experiences about apartment living after reading Maryann Mussared’s article about (un)affordable housing in the capital early in 2017. Her story suggested that as building development moves ahead at a break-neck pace, it’s probably time for us to think about rebalancing our expectations with reality – and apartments are part of the solution. But as the discussion unfolded, it was clear that not everyone could see themselves embracing apartment living.
As the Christmas and New Year break wound up, Kim Fischer wrote that NBN Co had quietly removed the rollout plan for the NBN from its website so it could not be compared with a new, revised plan – one that pushed nearly all of the ACT to the very back of the rollout schedule. While some commenters suggested the NBN was a disappointing joke, others argued that with the light rail coming, Canberrans can’t have everything and should stop complaining.
Rachel Ziv was shocked and infuriated when her shopping trip in February was complicated by having to find a coin to unchain her supermarket shopping trolley after new legislation came into effect in the ACT. The responses from readers ran the gamut from those dismissing it as a first world problem to others who shared Rachel’s concerns.
Kim Huynh’s story at the beginning of the year considered the reasons people are unkind to cyclists and oppose bicycle infrastructure in the capital. He posed two questions to readers: Where do you sit when it comes to lycra wearing and bicycle infrastructure? What are some key dos and donts when it comes to cycling in Canberra and beyond? Many readers were keen to share their experiences, both positive and less so.
Chris Steel MLA made it two transport-related posts in a row when he wrote that self-driving autonomous electric cars have the potential to replace conventional vehicles in the future. He called on the ACT Government to safeguard the liveability of our city by investing in a multi-modal transport future. Not all readers agreed with him, however.
John Hargreaves made his second appearance in the top ten with his story about what he termed ‘selfish middle-aged and old NIMBYs’ who object to anything and everything progressive around their street or shopping centre. Reader responses ranged from “suck it up, there will always be whingers” to the suggestion that people would be less likely to be oppositional if they could trust the government.
It was back to bikes again with Anne Treasure’s story about a trial of infrastructure to separate bike riders from motor vehicles on roads and pedestrians on paths. She wrote in January that sharing the roads and paths around Canberra relies on the understanding and mutual respect of all users, but as the comments showed, this was not always evident. As Kim Huynh noted, there was a huge response to the article, much of it supportive. Others criticised cyclists and opposed moves to allocate more resources to them.
Coming in at number two is Charlotte Harper’s story from March, in which she described the extensive construction and disruption associated with the light rail project but thought it would be soon forgotten. Readers were invited to vote in a poll that asked: Do you think we’ll all forget the inconvenience of the construction stage once the light rail comes online? With a 60% yes vote and only 34% no, most respondents agreed with Charlotte’s take on the situation, but the comments reflected a variety of perspectives.
This year’s most commented on story, which also appeared in other The RiotACT top ten lists this year, was a piece from Robert Knight in June, which argued that Canberra’s car-centric culture was detrimental and had to change. With over a hundred comments covering the spectrum of perspectives, it was clear that many readers had passionate opinions on the topic.