St Kilda Toy Run permit refused

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by Damien Codognotto OAM, Spokesman, Independent Riders Group

TOY RUNs are a Christmas tradition for Melbourne’s motorcycle & scooter riders. They began in 1978 and weremoved to St Kilda in 1992. 10,000 bikes rolled into the Lower Esplanade. Gifts were loaded onto trucks to help needy kids.

Entertainers included Eric Bana, Rod Quantock and the Jennifer Lee Band. Artists performed free. TOY RUNs were in St Kilda until the early 2000s. They were, and are, organized by unpaid volunteers. In nearly 40 years there has never been a safety or behavior problem.

The 2015 TOY RUN was to be next to LUNA PARK on December 6. Red tape increased. The date changed to the 13th so the TOY RUN wouldn’t interfere with other events including an open-air cinema. TOY RUNs are daylight events! Police had no resources for the 6th. We wanted to cancel. The City of Port Phillip (CoPP) didn’t. Maybe they didn’t want to be seen as Scrooges.

2015 TOY RUN was a huge success in perfect weather. Two police riders arrived before the parade. They weren’t briefed but did a great job. The City Sightseeing Bus led 600 bikes on Beaconsfield Parade. Spectacular! Bicyclists, pedestrians and diners in cafes cheered as the decorated machines rumbled along at a leisurely 45 kph. Traders like TOY RUNs. They attract well behaved people who spend well. They add color and excitement to an area.

Fifty TOY RUNs are held each year. Hobart hosts 5000 bikes. Adelaide hosts 6000. Newcastle hosts 10,000. Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer attended a TOY RUN at Melton 35 kms west of Melbourne.

There was a meeting on February 2 at CoPP offices. No minutes were taken. Sgt Denton raised safety concerns. I asked him to look at the video and point out the problems so we could fix them. I don’t think he expected video “evidence”. He said I had an attitude problem. The police who had been at the event did not get to say anything. In less than 5 minutes Sgt Denton ordered the police out.

The VicRoads rep was late. He wanted organisers to pay for road closures. This would be more disruptive than the escorted parade, it would not increase safety and the money could go to help families who need help.

A motorcycle footpath parking ban was introduced at police request for safety and noise reasons. Regular two-wheel visitors to Acland Street were angry and they called a protest rally. Residents complaints to Councilors about motorcycle noise had been referred to police but no action was taken.

On March 2, Inspector Beer ran a parking ban meeting at the St Kilda police station. No minutes were to be taken. Inspector Beer had heard about my attitude. She said the TOY RUN was not on the agenda. Next day I rang her about a TOY RUN meeting. She emailed “… Given … what appears to be a divisive and uncooperative agenda, I see no point in any meeting.”

How do solve a problem if you don’t talk about it?

The 2016 permit was refused on March 8. Why? The letter said it was explained at the February 2 meeting. It wasn’t. We asked the CoPP and local MP Martin Foley to tell us why the TOY RUN was refused a permit. No response so far.

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