Wednesday, 15 December 2010

A fair effort

A recent article on Adelaide Now lifted me a little. It was about the planned O-bahn extension into the city. It described plans for "bus transit zones" on Grenfell and Currie Streets. The Transport Minister says:

Buses account for 12 per cent of traffic on Grenfell and Currie streets but serve 75 per cent of the people using the precinct.

Well yes, but all this time motorists have had over 75% of the space.

I have been wondering for a while whether the new route would be properly separated in the centre of the streets or whether it will be bus lanes on each side. It is the latter as can be seen from this photo:

and this further down Grenfell Street:

I am still puzzled where the $61m is going though. The first tram extension was completed on time and within the budget of $35m. That involved substantial construction, track laying, overhead wires, four new stations with shelters and even moving a big tree on Victoria Square.

This is nearly twice the budget of that but seems to involve some new shelters and some paint. If you look closely, especially in the picture outside City Cross, the existing lanes are painted red. The buses still have to wait and pull out into other traffic which no doubt will be at a standstill at certain times of the day. The approach to bus lanes seems to be similar to the approach to bike lanes. As long as it does not require any earthworks or encroachment on road space, you can paint it. If there is a conflict, the road obviously wins.

The new bigger transit stops are exactly what is needed as are separate lanes but please Mr Conlon, could you finish them?

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bike Hire in Adelaide

After the phenomenal success of the Melbourne Bike Share scheme (not), a recent article in the Messenger Press suggested that Adelaide should give it a go. Currently, of the 30,000 bike hires per year, only 30% are local people. but we are told "cycling supporters want to see a share-style program catering more to city workers."

Bicycle Institute of South Australia chair Jeremy Miller said in Adelaide the scheme required users to return the bike to where they hired it, meaning it did not encourage “everyday use” for locals going from A to B.

That is of course true.

Everyone's favourite bike cap collector, Angus Kingston, naturally supports more bikes in the city but understandably does not think higher prices are a good idea. He said:

One good thing would be if city bikes could be dropped off anywhere so you could grab it at Rundle St and drop it off on South Tce.

Absolutely right.

I have looked and looked and from what I can see you can pick up hire bikes from Adelaide City Council on Pirie Street or from the zoo. To encourage "everyday use", you need a couple of things. The two most obvious are cheapness and ease of use. If you really want people to hop on a bike to, for example, go to a meeting or lunch on the other side of the CBD, you need hire stations all over the place and the bikes must be cheap. People literally have to be able to hop on and go. Unless you are a member, the Melbourne scheme does not allow that.

Bike SA Chief, Christian Haag, has a slightly different view. He says:

City employers should encourage workers to ride to the office and between appointments in town by providing showers, lockers and bike storage.

Hmm. Not sure about that. Having to shower to go to an appointment and then mess around with bike storage? I don't think that will work.

What you need is a system of robust bikes set up like shopping trolleys with their $2 deposit. Put in your coin, ride the bike, return it and get your coin back. That is how the Copenhagen scheme works. This is the Helsinki version which is similar to the Danish version:

(Original here)

They do not look like any other bike and so stealing them is fairly pointless. If you ride them outside of the hire zone, the police will stop you and issue a hefty fine. Here's a short blog post about them. In Copernhagen, they are free. All you need is the deposit.

If you want office workers and locals to use hire bikes, it must not be any hassle at all. If it is, it will fail.

The other thing you need to make a hire scheme work is safety. Setting up a system of shiny new hire bikes is all very well but it will go nowhere if users have to ride them on busy, dangerous and unpleasant roads. That would be the case with any hire system introduced today. It is also the problem in Melbourne. Fix that first and your bike hire scheme will flourish (come to think of it, so will cycling generally). If people know they can pick up a bike for a $2 deposit and ride a few blocks in safety before giving it back, they will use it.

Watch it happen.

New suburbs

Part of the State's strategic plan is to increase the population of Adelaide. I read somewhere that once the population of a State or province reaches 2 million, it starts to be more self-sustaining economically rather than being reliant on transfers from the central government. Whether that is true or not I don't know but economic activity seems to be one of the reasons for trying to increase the population.

All of those people have to be housed somewhere. It will be achieved, as I understand the Strategic Plan, with a combination of higher density living and new suburbs. One of the planned new suburbs is Buckland Park, which is far from public transport and other infrastructure. Another planned suburb called Waterview at least includes a railway station.

Most new suburbs in Adelaide have a particular look about them. They generally are made up of lots of quiet roads, including many cul-de-sacs, new show homes and in the middle a Woolworths or shopping centre with a big car park around it.

We have been doing them like that, with small variations, for years.

Once the suburb is finished, you will see some bus stops pop up along one of the main roads passing through. Call me cynical but it looks as if the bus service is the last thing that is considered. Cycling is not encouraged at all for local trips. A non-direct route out of a cul-de-sac is a tried and tested disincentive.

Mawson Lakes is perhaps a little better because it seems to have some bike trails but as usual, they are not designed as part of a transport system but are there to keep fit. They are pleasant paths which go nowhere. Mawson Lakes also has a shiny new railway station but if you go there you'll see it on the opposite side of the suburb from the shops, university and activity. That stuff has been put nice and close to Main North Road to encourage more driving.

As the population expands, we will no doubt see more similar car-based suburbs. You will not see anything as radical as non-direct routes for cars, separated cycling and walking infrastructure or a suburb built around a railway station.

If you want to see that, you have to go to the usual place. This video was made in 2006. It shows a Dutch town called Houten that was expanded in the 1970s to cater for the then growing population. It was made deliberately to be bike friendly and the results today are plain to see. It is not any less pleasant or harder to get around. In fact, the opposite is the case.

If the new Waterworld suburb off Port Wakefield Road followed these design principles, it would be revolutionary for us but would be the start of a slow and very welcome transformation (turn your volume down a bit at the beginning. I don't know why but they've use heavy metal music).

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Parking lanes

On a recent Hamish and Andy show, they were explaining how most people, when they are watching the Ashes and get up to go and get a drink or food, will do a pretend bowl. The bowling action is always perfect and often ends with a quiet shout of "howzat". One listener rang in to say that when he goes between the lounge and kitchen he pretends he is a V8 supercar driver. When he takes the corner there is sometimes a bit of a slide but it is always well controlled.

Depending on where I am when cycling to work, I occasionaly pretend I am on a beautiful wide and safe cycle lane. When I cross an intersection, I migh also pretend that I am going through special designated bicycle traffic lights. It happens early in the morning before all of the street parking has been filled up. The wide streets with on-street parking are great for it. Frome Road is one of them. This picture was taken just south of Rundle Street:

Usually you are unlucky and there is at least one car you have to get past (like the ute in the picture) which can involve an element of luck and does involve a lot of over the shoulder checking, speed adjusting and, usually, a thank you wave to the motorist who let you in or gave you a wide berth.

On the day when you get a stretch of uninterrupted parking lane with no cars on it, you can pretend you're in a slightly raised separated bike lane. When you get to the intersection, you can imagine the lane gently joining with the road but continuing across the intersection with a wide painted blue or green lane.

(Original here)

People who come to the city by car obviously need somewhere to park but it must be said that they are fairly spoiled. As we know though, there is a massive number of car parks in central Adelaide, most of them cheap or free. At a recent count (see page 30 but watch out - it is a 3mb pdf file), Adelaide had 15,075 on-street car parks and 31,000 private parks. Compare that to other cities, especially Perth which has a total of 13,000 in a similar but slightly smaller area, and it can be seen that we could probably comfortably lose a few.

On the section of Frome Road I cycle along, the price of car parks varies. On one stretch they have a limit of 1 hour but they are free. Further south where you are starting to hit residential areas, these are the prices:

If we assume on a weekday the car park is used for the full 10 hours between 8am and 6pm and also assume the user pays for the whole time, the car park earns $24 a day. In a week, that makes $120. The 4 hours on a Saturday adds 40c. Multiply that by all of the on-street car parks and it soon adds up.

The question is whether it is the best investment for the city. When a space that size is taken up by a car sitting idle, it cannot be used for anything else. Using the space for a wide, raised bike lane is a potentially useful alternative. The space will no longer make $120 a week but will the benefits it brings outweigh that? I think they will. The benefits are well known.

A series of that style of bike lanes on at least a selection of main roads will work wonders. The time is now. If your morning commute is anything to go by, there are more people than ever choosing to get around on a bike. This is what they deserve.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A 10 minute how-to

David Hembrow has a large collection of videos on his blog many of which were made by Mark Wagenbuur.Anybody familiar with sites like Copenhagenize and Amsterdamize would be familiar with David's site. I had to embed this video on to my blog though if for no other reason than I can watch it each time I log in.

It shows an unbroken 10 minutes of Dutch cycling infrastructure. Along the way, it answers various objections to separated infrastructure. The part when he passes the bus twice is particularly good.

Watching the whole thing shows why the Dutch have such a high bicycle modal share among all ages. In my mind, there is really no other way to achieve it.

Compare the video with, for example, Portrush Road between the Magill and Payneham Road intersections. The narrow painted bike lane disappears regularly when the road narrows a little and at any time other than for about two hours each day, cyclists have to get around parked cars. It is little wonder that you almost never see a cyclist on it. Given that it is a designated heavy freight route with a speed limit of 60 km/h, you really have to wonder why they bothered.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Who do we advocate for?

The tireless freedom fighter from Waltham Forest in London makes plain his disappointment with the London Cycling Campaign. It should, you would think, be an advocate for cycling and be doing what it can to get more people out of cars and on to bikes for the better health and wellbeing of all of London. Not so says Freewheeler. The LCC is part of the problem.

In any debate, a common difficulty is that people do not view the debate through the same eyes. Two people may look at a building from different sides but see totally different things even though they are plainly looking at the same building. It is similar with urban transport. People who already regularly cycle see the debate from their point of view. For example, blokes who tog up in the lycra and clip shoes on a Sunday to do 70kms with some mates have a particular view of cycling that others may not share.

In countries like Australia, where we have a fraction of the cycling modal share of old favourites like Denmark and the Netherlands, advocacy groups generally portray a particular image. It matches the general image of the cyclists you see around town.

Nothing wrong with that of course except that it has become the prevailing image of cycling. Look at how any cycling event is promoted, such as the rides that coincide with the Tour Down Under, and a particular image is prevalent. Again, in this country that is what non-cyclists think of when the topic of cycling is raised. They certainly do not see the Danish tv character, Anna Pihl, riding her upright bike to the station to then taking it on the train to visit her father.

The question for me is whether the image is working.

Another way of looking at it is in a presentation I found on the web a while ago. The presenter, Mark Sanders, refers to a "blue ocean strategy", which is a reference to the size of the untapped market (his notes can be read here).

He is absolutely right that there is a massive untapped market of potential cyclists and with them, a massive market for new bike sales. I am not sure I necessarily agree that the big untapped market is in folding bicycles. My view is that it does not matter whether it is a folding or other bike, you need a new strategy to change modal share and unclog our streets.

A couple of things are vital. The main one for me is visible, unbroken and high quality infrastructure. The untapped market of cyclists includes children, grandparents and a whole bunch of people in between. The infrastructure needs to be so good that you would have no problem riding on it with your 8 year old child. The untapped market also consists of all of those thousands of car trips that are made every day to the hardware store, karate lessons, footy games and so on. It is not Sunday afternoon leisure rides. The infrastructure needs to be good enough that it makes more sense to make those trips by bike than in a car (have a check of the latest film on David Hembrow's site to see how that is done).

There are other things equally vital and they are described here far better than I could describe them (number 3 is particularly good).

The point for me though is that politicians and advocates should have in mind all of those people who never get on a bike when they are considering bike plans and policies. That is where the numbers are.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Freedom and independence

I had a conversation the other day with a couple of family members. One, a woman in her 20s, was asked when she was finally going to get her driver's licence. She reluctantly agreed that she would probably start driving lessons soon but pointed out that she and a number of her friends get around very easily on foot and using the bus. Yes, came the answer, but you need to be independent. She protested that she was independent. Quite right too I think.

It is surprising that the idea that you need a car to be independent still holds so strong. It is nonsense of course and thankfully it seems that many young people these days are not falling for it.

Contrary to the misleading images that are displayed on adverts for cars, they do not make you free. They are a major burden. Calculate how much a car costs per month. Include fuel, tyres, insurance, maintenance, spare parts and depreciation. If you own a car, you will invariably estimate conservatively but that does not matter. Get a monthly or weekly figure and then compare that to what you earn. How much of the first working day each month is spent paying for your car? In other words, how long are you working not for you but for your car?

Whenever you drive somewhere, especially somewhere busy like the CBD, a concert or one of the bigger suburban shopping centres, you cannot just jump out at the door and go in. You have to drive around looking for somewhere to store your car. What's the longest you have ever spent doing that? Add up all of the time you have ever spent doing it?

Now cars can be quite useful. Some people just love them and good on them too. If people choose to drive them more than others do, whatever. That's for them to decide. I do have a problem when it is subsidised though. What I am talking about is the idea that they bring you freedom and independence. That assertion I think is overstated.

People who ride bicycles a lot can sound terribly self-righteous when they bang on about it. Having said that, I seriously enjoy riding home with the wind in my face and smelling what my neighbours are cooking each evening. It's great being able to take my bike on the train and then just chain it to something when I reach my destination. It's free to ride and free to park.

Travelling by train or bus is also great. Sometimes there is a bit of waiting but with trains, you just have to read the timetable and with buses you don't generally have to wait too long especially if you're on a go-zone. The best thing is that when you reach your destination, you just hop off. You're not having to drive around looking for somewhere to leave your car. While you're on the bus/train/tram, you can read, listen to music or just veg out.

Adelaide is way off being a great place for getting around by public transport but it's really not all that bad (depending on where you want to go). Improvements could be made easily and cheaply, such as a proper transit mall on Grenfell Street, friendlier bus stops that tell you how far away the next bus is, decent cycling infrastructure that leads to train stations and transport interchanges with plenty of undercover bike parking when you get there, and so on. That day I am sure will come.

The fact is you don't need a car to be independent when you live in a big city. More people than we realise live without a car. And without doubt, many more of our journeys could be done on foot, on two wheels or using public transport. It is a tried and tested way of unclogging streets. Many more people could be more freer and more independent without a car if we helped them along. Such as all of those children strapped into the backs of 4WDs each morning and the many teenagers who have to rely on their parents to drive them to sports practice. Our children aren't stupid. They're perfectly capable if we just let them.

(stolen from Sue Abbott).

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Poo power

As part of the State Government's $2b investment in public transport, the railway lines are to be electrified. From what I understand, tenders have already been invited to build the new electric trains. My own view is that the benefits of electrification are limited. Trains will be newer and shinier and they will require less maintenance. Local pollution will also be reduced although that electricity has to be produced somewhere and it will inevitably be made from burning fossil fuels.

Electrification of itself is not going to increase passenger numbers. Increasing train frequencies and enlarging station catchment areas with bikeways and feeder buses might. That is a different topic though.

Modern diesel trains like this or this would do the job just as well but without the big investment in overhead wires.

I read an article some time ago about a Swedish train that runs on the left overs after animals have gone through abattoirs. It is turned into a biogas. There is more information here and here.

This video shows a bus in Oslo that runs partly on human leftovers - not human remains but poo:

A million of us would produce a decent quantity. I don't know anyone that uses it as fertilizer on their vegetable patch so this seems like a pretty clever use to me.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Aussie culture

In any conversation about cycling, the benefits it can bring and the need for decent infrastructure, the cities of Copenhagen and Amsterdam rear their cycling friendly heads. Someone for whom all of this is not necessarily an issue will inevitably say, not unreasonable, that Adelaide is not Copenhagen.

While Adelaide might not be Copenhagen, it does have some similarities. Contrary to popular belief, greater Copenhagen is fairly spread out and like Adelaide, many of its streets are wide with more than one lane in each direction of free-flowing traffic:

(Original here).

It is the wide separate bike lanes that distinguish it from Adelaide.

Wouldn't be a cool thing though if there was a decent example of Australian style cycling? Well, I was in Byron Bay this weekend. It is, if I may say so, one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. Absolutely stunning coastline and views of the mountain ranges close by, plus the town itself is a pleasure to be in.

One thing I noticed was that cycling has totally taken off there. On the beachfront there were bikes everywhere. In keeping with the beach culture, the bikes the dudes and dudettes rode were often cruiser style bikes you might expect to see on the west coast of the U.S:

On the streets too, bikes were everywhere. Byron Bay is so popular that even on a Sunday, traffic is slow moving. Even with no real cycling infrastructure to speak of, bikes are all over the place. I am a crappy photographer so hardly got any pictures of them all but there were there.

There seems also to be a no-helmet policy. I could be wrong but looking around I saw about one person in five (if that) who chose to put a helmet on. I caught a couple of them. Here are two people, one with and one without:

and here's another:

In the main, riders can be divided into two groups - beach bums in boardies and hippies.

As I say, they were everywhere.

I couldn't tell just by looking what led to such a strong bike presence. The strong hippy culture can't hurt, nor can the large number of young people. The lack of any infrastructure was made up for by the slow traffic which allowed for a shared space system to work very well.

It also has an absence of big box stores surrounded by car parks. Instead the streets are full of independent shops selling everything - stuff you normally would never find in supermarkets or department stores. My only hope is that they survive as Byron Bay gets more popular and the rents get higher.

Whatever the answer is, it's brilliant. True Aussie style cycling culture.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


The Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations require employers to provide a dining area to their employees. In some offices, employees have a large room with tables and chairs, kitchen facilities and a flat screen tv.

Alternatively, you might want to go outside to a cafe and buy your lunch. Some of us bring their own lunchboxes though and might want to go outside and sit in the sunshine to eat their lunch. It is fairly tragic how few pleasant places there are around town. If you are close to the river, there are some quiet benches near the convention centre. Usually at lunchtime you can see a few people eating their packed lunches.

If you right in the middle of the CBD your options are more limited. Near where I work, there is a space with some benches next to the tall black building on Grenfell Street, just down a bit from Simply Devine. It's pleasant because it's a distance away from Grenfell Street so you can talk with your friends without having to shout. The drawback is that you have to be prepared to breath in second hand smoke from the smokers coming out of neighbouring buildings. That seems to be the only place for miles that has an ashtray.

There are also a couple of benches behind the townhall but beyond that, not a lot. You would think that Victoria Square would be set up as a proper welcoming public space. I have lost count of all of the different plans there have been for it. Until they four lanes of traffic cutting through diagonally and across it are cut down a bit, it will remain an uninviting desert in the middle of the city.

Jan Gehl is pretty much a rock star among architects. He has dealt with this issue across the world, including in Adelaide. When he analysed Sydney, these were some of his findings:

Pedestrian walking routes are unconnected

Most public spaces are used to walk through, rather than to sit and enjoy

Pedestrians wait too long at traffic crossings

Streets are dominated by cars

Young children and the elderly are poorly represented among pedestrians.

They apply equally to Adelaide's CBD despite the report that Jan Gehl produced. We know all of this.

Council elections are coming soon. I wish the very best to those candidates who have identified these issues and have the vision and energy to make the changes that we need.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Crap bike lanes

I love this website: I post the odd picture of a crap bike lane but this guy Grant has gone to town. It's brilliant. He has done it for cycle lanes and footpaths.

Worth a look and a vote I reckon.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Go Walkerville

Walkerville is a lovely suburb. It has geographically one of the smallest councils in the State and is full of tree-lined streets and beautiful historic houses. Like some suburbs in the east, it retains a village like feel.

In its Strategic Plan, the council's Goal 10 is "Accessible local services that support social interaction and promote physical activity". Strategy 10.4 achieves that by "[developing] local transport infrastructure that encourages walking, cycling and the use of public transport."

Walkerville Terrace is one of the few shopping strips that can almost be described as pleasant to ride along. Not because of its high quality infrastructure but because motorised traffic along it generally travels pretty slowly. It's especially slow during rush hour when you have a long line of expensive 4WDs filled with one person each making the huge long trek from Walkerville to the city. The painted bike lane allows you to sail past them all - provided you're not doored of course.

In keeping with Strategy 10.4 and as part of its redevelopment of Walkerville Terrace, Walkerville Council has done this to the cycle lanes along Walkerville Terrace:

People travelling by bike are now faced with a pinch point where, yet again, they are forced into faster moving motorised traffic. The important thing though is that there are nice cosy (and free) parking places for all of those 4WDs. If you look carefully at the width of the road now that the pavements have been widened, space has been set aside for the lane of traffic and a lane for parking. In other words, the minuscule amount of infrastructure that was there has now been removed to cater for free parking even though on the right behind where the picture was taken is an IGA with its own big car park and further up the road in the direction of the picture are a whole bunch of free off-road car park - all of them free.

Wherever you are, it's more of the same garbage.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Watch your language

If you are interested in transport and how it is planned around cities, one of the best websites I know of is Human Transit. It is the blog of Jarrett Walker who is an international consultant in public transit network design and policy. He is based in Sydney so totally gets the issues that you come across when designing transit systems in Australian cities.

I follow the blog because it highlights many of the difficulties with designing transit systems and also highlights many of the myths and false assumptions that intrude into the debate.

Two recent posts highlighted what you might perceive to be biased language about city transport. The first, avoiding car-centered language: a directive, links to a directive from the West Palm Beach City Administrator about the use of car-centric language. The directive is here. The amazing thing for me is that it was written in 1996. It's only 4 pages long. Print it and keep it.

The second post, if you mean "car," say "car", and talks about phrases in a transport debate that only make sense from behind a windscreen, such as "installing a pedestrian crossing will slow down traffic". A popular one we read all the time in Adelaide Now is along the lines of "a pedestrian/cyclist was injured today when he/she was hit by a car". The pedestrian has an identity but they are hit (using the passive voice) by an inanimate object - the car.

Both posts, and the whole site, are well worth a read during your coffee break.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A "new" strategy

Somewhere in Canberra, a copy of the Australian National Cycling Strategy 2005-2010 has been gathering dust on a shelf for the past five years. You can still get a shiny pdf version on the Australia Bicycle Council website.

It has just been replaced by the Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011-2015.

Both documents are on the same website.

The new cycling strategy aims to double the number of people cycling in Australia. The most interesting part for me is the section called Progress Over The Past 5 Years. Among commuters, the modal share has actually reduced from 1.9% to 1.6% - both woefully low numbers. Bear in mind also that most Australian cyclists are male so among women the numbers are negligible. And the numbers are of commuters. That is the time when you see most people riding. At other times of the day, it is probably safe to say that the modal share is close to zero. If you ask me, numbers like 1.9% are so low they are the equivalent of absolute zero in cycling numbers. Get rid of all cycle lanes and stop spending money on marketing and I cannot see that the modal share would get much lower. These are mostly the people who would ride a bike whatever you chucked at them.

Doubling the figure would make it 3.2% and that is described later in the policy as "ambitious". It isn't really. By way of comparison, starting from an already impressive 20%, the share of journeys made by bike in Malmö in Sweden increased by 1% every year for ten years. So how is the Strategy going to achieve this miracle? Easy - by following exactly the same policies that have failed during the life of the last Strategy.

The tragic thing is that the strategy at least gives the impression of some desire to change the ridiculous and wasteful way most of us get around but even though brief mention is made of some countries that have achieved it there is no mention of what exactly worked to achieve it.

This policy will not double the rate of cycling over the next 5 years and get people out of their cars. Why should they?

Let's have a look at some of the "priorities" of the strategy.

The first is Cycling Promotion. This has surely been done to death. Talk to anyone in the street and they can tell you the "benefits of cycling". The point is they don't do it. The plan says:

Marketing and education programs that promote the benefits of cycling and encourage people to cycle for short personal trips will continue to be developed and implemented. These programs should target:
i) underrepresented groups, such as school children, seniors and female commuters.

Why market to school children? We know their preferred way of getting to school is under their own steam on their bike. What's stopping them is not a lack of promotion. It's their parents. Roads are unsafe for children. There are way too few safe places to cross and traffic in the main is far too fast. Of course parents don't let their children ride to school. They're not stupid. Also, more and more people are choosing private schools which are not always around the corner. If you want those students to ride to school (and the distance could easily be 5 or more kms), there is only one way to do it. The answer is here.

You need to reclaim some road space from motorists and build a network of proper separated paths. No amount of promotion will convince people to allow their children to ride on roads with fast moving cars and trucks. They are not stupid and it is patronising to think yet more promotion will work.

The next priority is Infrastructure and Facilities. A paragraph is devoted to "end of trip" facilities which usually means bike racks and showers. Bike racks are easy. They should be in abundance at every railway station and shopping centre and all across the city. Showers are necessary if a person is in training but for most people, cycling should require no more exertion than walking. It should be able to be done in normal clothes without the need for showers at the end of every journey. "Facilitate" that and you will start attracting more people out of their cars. I have not seen any evidence for the claim in the Strategy that there has been investment in cycling routes. There are lines painted on parts of some roads and something approaching a proper bike lane on Frome Road but that is really it.

The third priority is integrated planning as it was in the previous plan. There are plans and strategies all over the place that pay lip service to this. I am sure my local council has some sort of plan or policy that claims it is "committed" to encouraging more people to go by bike. Again though, the evidence does not seem to be there. Every single new retail development is surrounded by car parks. One or two token bike stands might be installed but as always, getting to them is just unpleasant. Unless you are one of the 1.6% of the population who makes a conscious choice to get on a bike, nobody does. Integrated planning is what you see on the thousands of cycling and urban planning blogs splattered across the internet. Every new road or development has proper provision for cycling. Not just a token add-on at the end.

Fourth is "safety". After talking about more "educational campaigns", the Strategy says this:

Concerns over safety and aggression from motorists are seen as key deterrents, particularly for female participation, and it is important that road safety campaigns do not just target regular cyclists but also target motorists and pedestrians to increase their awareness of the rights of cyclists and understanding of how to interact with cyclists.

"Raising awareness"? Seriously? There is a great book called Stuff White People Like. Raising awareness is a favourite. Raising awareness is great because you don't actually have to do anything. As long as one person's awareness is raised, you've done your job.

A major deterrent to getting around on a bike is being forced to risk being hit by a car or truck. Minimise that risk and you might get somewhere. How do we do that? Well, without wishing to labour the point, what do those countries with the highest modal share for cycling do?

Priority 5 is monitoring and evaluation. That's actually a relief. I am glad whoever is in charge of this thing will be monitoring how ineffective it will be.

This new Strategy, which is filled with more of the same, will regrettably never achieve what it sets out to achieve. It certainly won't achieve the "ambitious" target of raising only cycling commuter modal share to a measly 3.2%. I would really love to be positive about this but can't. It is a great disappointment.

Main North Road
Original here.

Free-range kids

Love this woman. She was the mother who allowed her son to travel home on the New York subway - something anyone who is 40 or older would have done when they were young, along with going to the swimming pool by themselves, or to the park, or to their soccer training, crossing the road, etc, etc.

She was labelled "America's worst mum". She is worthwhile googling because there is tons of stuff on her.

Pedestrian day

National Walk to Work Day is coming up on 1 October. It's the one day of the year when something appears to be done to encourage people not to get in their cars to drive the short distance to their office but instead to walk. The website says that the scheme is now in its 12th year.

It's a bit like Walk Safely to School Day which is in May. That's the one day of the year when parents are encouraged to get out of the 4wd and walk their children around the corner to school instead of driving. It's all great fun and you can get stickers and everything.

The next day of course is back to normal with streets choked with cars and children imprisoned in the back of 4WDs on the way to school.

A great initiative.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Joining the dots

The State Government is slowly filling the gaps in its world-class cycling infrastructure. The latest street to benefit is Victoria Drive next to Adelaide University. As you approach Frome Road, and after you have passed all of the diagonally parked cars, each of which can pull out half a car length before they finally see you, you are greeted with this:

Some lines painted on the road. As we all know they have magical qualities and act like invisible forcefields to stop cars and trucks driving into them. No wonder so many people, young and old, use them. Drive along Anzac Highway or Marion Road to see whole families travelling together or have a look at the "bike lanes" under the Gallipoli Underpass on South Road to see all of the children riding their bikes to school.

Another fine example of a lengthy piece of quality infrastructure.

But hello, what's this?

This is unusual for Adelaide. A bike lane suddenly coming to an end for no apparent reason?

You might think that this is only half finished and that soon the kerb will be altered to make a proper separated junction there. I bet you a puncture repair kit it doesn't happen though. As usual, the bike rider is directed into the gutter while cars will continue to turn left and ignore them. Watch how nobody uses it and, quite understandably, will move to the centre of the road as they do now before turning left.

I sometimes understand exactly how the guy from Waltham Forest feels.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

A terribly sexist blog post

A good friend of mine has gone on a trip to Europe to find himself. He is young and a bit silly and claims he has gone there in search of the biggest hangover known to man. In fact, judging by his emails, he is learning about art, culture and European history.

The latest city he visited was Amsterdam. I heard a lot about the Van Gogh museum, canals and Irish tourists he met. He also had what sounded like a good time at a "coffee shop". The magic mushrooms he sampled certainly had an effect on him.

I suggested that if he was in one of the world's premier cycling cities he might wish to hire a decent Dutch bike and sample the sights that way. He wrote back and said (and I apologise in advance for the language):

Dude, Dutch women are hot! And they all have tight ar--s because of the cycling.

You can imagine my dismay. There I am publishing blog posts left, right and centre, trying to convince people of the benefits of encouraging a proper cycling culture and he comes along and does it in a single sentence.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Rap video

Yet another cool video from the masters:

Monday, 13 September 2010

How to design a junction

A common complaint from cyclists in Adelaide is that the few bike lanes that exist (and I use the term "bike lane" in a broad sense to include the joke bike lanes we have that are in fact just white lines in gutters) just disappear when the road narrows or you approach a junction. It is at junctions where they are needed the most. Not just lanes are needed at junctions but a proper design that makes it clear when cyclists can go. It also needs to be a design that so far as is possible removes conflict.

Mark Wagenbuur has produced a whole bunch of videos about Dutch cycling infrastructure and deals also with some of the myths about it. This is his latest. It has already been posted around the place but it is so good that I wanted to post it here. Now this is how you design a junction:

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

"Cyclists should pay rego", etc.

Pick any article in the news about, shock horror, actually spending a bit of money on infrastructure to encourage people to get out of their cars and maybe once in a while take a short trip on foot or on a bicycle and you will see the same tired and dull old comments. In short, the argument is this - motorists pay for roads through rego and petrol taxes, cyclists don't so the roads belong to cars.

Begrudgingly, I recently paid my car rego. I paid it for three months online. When you scroll through the various payment stages on the ezyreg website, one of them breaks down the payment into its constituent parts including stamp duty and levies.

The first two are the actual cost of the rego and the amount for compulsory third party insurance. They were about $50 and $155 respectively. That is, $155 is paid as an insurance premium. This reflects the cost of the damage and injury caused by motor vehicles each day although having said that, I think it is safe to say that motorists still get a pretty good deal. If the full cost of the damage caused by motor vehicles was calculated, we would probably have to pay more.

Registration then is $50. That is for a crappy six cylinder Commodore. A four cylinder will cost you less even though you may do more driving.

That raises the question. Does 50 bucks properly cover the cost of roads?

What do you think it costs to fix one pothole? Or to resurface a stretch of road? What does it cost to repair yet another lamppost or road sign that has been knocked flat by a car that "left the road"? More than 50 bucks I guarantee you.

There is a great page on the website of the Public Transport Users' Association in Victoria. Using data from the Bureau of Statistics, they come up with a deficit of about $16 billion a year. They include in their calculation of income from motorists the amounts spent on insurance premiums. They also include GST on car purchases which strictly are not intended for spending on roads. But putting it at its highest and using the most favourable scenario for motorists, there is still a deficit of $16 billion. Who pays that? Taxpayers generally, which of course include motorists but also include people who take public transport to work or cycle or who only have one car or no car at all. Local roads are paid for through council rates. It is the local homeowners who pay even though the beneficiaries are people from other council areas just passing through.

As Wheels of Justice say:

Not ONE CENT of your rego pays for roads. A small component goes toward the admin of running the rego system, the greatest element (over 80%) is a TAC insurance premium. This goes toward paying for the carnage (notice it’s not called bikenage!) that vehicles cause on a daily basis where thousands get killed annually. Our road network is paid for through general tax revenue. Currently only 30% of the excise on petrol has gone to funding roads. The balance is paid by you and me. Bike Rego has been costed by countless governments and abandoned for decades as it would cost far more than it could realistically collect.
When you next go shopping the suburbs, look at the space set aside for free parking. Every major shopping centre seems to have enough space set aside for a decent school. That is a cost that we all bear. Even small shops give away space for parking - partly because often misguided local council planning rules require a certain number of car parks for a certain size of shop. The particularly stupid thing is that because shopping centres with big car parks are everywhere, we know that people rarely drive a long distance specifically to visit that shopping centre. There may be some exceptions like Ikea or the homemaker centre near Gepps Cross but in the main, you will not drive across town to visit Woolworths when there is one close to you. So most of those shopping centres are within walking or cycling distance. True it is that many people pick up their weekly shop and will be taking home a large number of bags but next time you are there, look at how many people are wheeling out trolleys laden with lots of bags. Most people do not and what they are carrying they could easily carry home on foot.

It has become a bad habit and it requires a bit of effort to stop it. It needs to stop too. Sooner or later, peak oil will become a reality and the days when you take a 4WD around the corner to buy a packet of fags and the Sunday paper will be over. If you ask me, it can't come too soon but anyway, we are going to have to get used to it. We can start now.

One solution is, as we all know, proper cycling infrastructure for those short journeys. Not lines painted in the gutter but separated lanes that are so safe that you would happily let your children and grandparent use them. If an 8 year old and an 80 year old can comfortably use them you have got it right.

As for cyclists having to pay rego or some fee to use roads, I say bring it on. I would happily pay $50 a year so that the amount made is not all spent on administering the system. But there is one qualification. My $50 is spent solely on bike infrastructure. It does not go into the general road fund to be spent on the crappy, only open for two hours a day, lines in the gutter that are, without any irony, referred to as bike lanes.

This is I think one of the most linked to videos on David Hembrow's blog. It makes the point I think:

Thursday, 2 September 2010


For a little while I lived in a small city in northern Germany. It only had a population of about 250,000 but it had a great railway station next to which was a proper bus terminal. They couldn't have been better situated because on the other side of the road was the main shopping centre. The bus station was on both sides of the road to cater for buses going in both directions.

I found a recent picture of it. You'll see it even had a bike lane safely passing through. This is the railway station side:

(original here)

This is the other side of the road:

(original here)
It had a number of good points. First, it was close to shops and food and secondly, it was right next door to the railway station which allowed for quick and easy transfers. There is even a covered bridge connecting the two sides.

Compare it to Adelaide and things don't look quite so good. In the city, the equivalent of a "bus station" is the collection of bus stops on King William Street and Grenfell Street. One of the busiest I have seen is on King William Street. It is just outside an old building that seems to have been abandoned for some time. This is what passengers are greeted with:

It looks fairly daggy in daylight but is worse at night time. It is not even properly lit. There is no seating and passengers are left to share the footpath with people trying to walk by. Meanwhile, motorists have three lanes of traffic each side of the road to speed through. There has been a marginal improvement recently when Adelaide City Council had some murals painted on the walls but that is it.

The situation is similar on Grenfell Street around the corner. This is the bus stop for o-bahn users outside of Harris Scarve. Again, passengers have to share a narrow space with passers-by as well as bins, shop signs and other clutter. Like the King William Street stop, it is dark and drab:

In both cases, the fact that the stops are sheltered seems to be by accident rather than design.

When a bus finally comes, particularly in the rush hour, once it gets into traffic, it has to sit and be blocked in by a line of single occupant cars clogging up Grenfell Street.

When it was announced that the o-bahn would be "extended" (which in reality means a reversible lane in the centre of Hackney Road and single bus lanes on the edges of Grenfell Street), already it attracted the usual whining and negative comments on AdelaideNow about perceived congestion being caused.

The fact is it is ridiculous that bus passengers should be held up in this way. It treats them with contempt. At the very least, there should be a double bus lane each side to allow buses to pass each other. Better still, Grenfell Street should be closed to private cars and it should be turned into a proper transit mall as you find in parts of North America, eg: Portland. Alternatively, there should be separate bus lanes in the middle of the road with decent stops and shelters like the Paris Mobilien system.

Also, passengers deserve proper facilities that include space to stand or sit if they choose, displays that show in real time when the next bus will arrive and, of course, shelter.

Like with cycling, the intention at the moment seems to be to make taking the bus as difficult and unpleasant as possible.

If you want a decent bus interchange designed and built, you have to get your Lego bricks out:

(Lego Public Transport Station - Item #: 8404)

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Road works

There are roadworks on King William Street in the city opposite the Commonwealth bank building. Why they are there I do not know. At the moment, the equivalent of a lane of traffic has been closed. A bus stop is also out of action.

The interesting thing is that, certainly on my biased observations, it has made no difference at all to traffic during our 15 minute rush hour. Just as extending the tram from Victoria Square made no real difference to it.

Just goes to show that there is plenty of capacity for wide Danish-style bike lanes raised above other traffic

Bad manners

I was waiting to turn left this morning from War Memorial Drive on to Frome Road before going over the bridge, past the zoo and then on to Adelaide CBD's only proper bike lane. In front of me was a driver in a gold coloured Mazda 3. I felt her pain because she had been sitting there a fair while and there was just no break in the traffic. I don't think my bright light flashing in her back window helped either.

Sometimes you can nip through on the left and join the traffic on Frome Road but it is a gamble because almost every second driver cuts the corner and drives right through the bike lane even though it is painted bright green.

Eventually there was a small gap which the Mazda 3 driver took. The next car was a big red Land Cruiser. From where I was waiting it looked as if Mazda 3 had misjudged the distance just a tad and the Land Cruiser driver, horror of horrors, had to take his foot off the accelerator. He didn't have to hit the brakes. You could tell because his brake lights did not come on once he passed the intersection.

Instead of carrying on as normal though, this fat slob tailgated Mazda 3 as far as he could and beeped his horn until he was right over the bridge. I could help thinking that if he had thought for just a millisecond he may have realised that (a) Mazda 3 didn't do it on purpose, (2) he only had to take his foot off the accelerator (hardly taxing) and (3) Mazda 3 may have been waiting there for a long time.

It confirmed by strongly held belief that only professional driving instructors should be allowed to teach people to drive. Land Cruiser slob is currently permitted to as an instructor to a learner driver and teach them all of his bad habits and bad manners. A terrible thought.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


If, like me, you subscribe to the view that a brief surf of the web mid-morning actually increases productivity because it gives you a little break and allows your brain to refresh, it is a great time to come across new sites, blogs and videos. This one I found on a blog about cycling in Munich. It's made by a Spanish student, hence the Ricky Martin accent, and is all about proper inner city planning. It makes similar points to those often made by people like Jan Gehl but it is good to see it done from a different perspective with cool graphics.

laciudadidea-english from la ciudad on Vimeo.

Another older video that I keep going back to is a talk that John Howard Kunstler did for Again, similar points about the mistake of designing cities and roads primarily with cars in mind. I just like his style:

Friday, 20 August 2010

A different cycling blog

My all time favourite comment that has been shouted at me more than once while I am riding is "get a car". I love it because of its originality and its logic. It is logical that if you are on a bicycle, you are a loser and plainly cannot afford a car. There is a famous quote, often falsely attributed to Margaret Thatcher, that, "A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure." Same thing.

Also, by following the brilliant recommendation and getting a car, you solve the problem that the person has with bicycle riders, eg: "lycra-clad lunatics", "law unto themselves", "disobey all of the road rules", etc, etc, ad nauseum. Getting them into a car is the answer of course. Another car in front of them is exactly what that person wants.

It's also so original. Every time I hear it I nearly fall off my bike as I slap my forehead and ask myself why I was not clever enough to think of that.

As we all know, people who shout that sort of rubbish at other road users are wankers and happily there is a blog devoted entirely to them. It is called A Hundred and One Wankers. It is based in and around London but what is reported could be anywhere. A great read.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Mike Rubbo's election manifesto

Mike Rubbo has made some great cycling films. He is on a mission to bring back the old style sit up cycle into Australia. This film I think is one of his best. It is his suggestion to Tony Abbott to show a bit of leadership and help transform our cities. It's well worth a look:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Melbourne making the news

One of my favourite things about people is their varying interests and how passionate they can be about them. I used to love watching the medieval fighting club at university in orientation week. Some of them travel around the world with their cardboard swords and shields for meetups.

The internet has made pursuing your interests much easier and more rewarding. You can get to know people from around the world who share you particular passion. I have a peculiar interest in looking at pictures of pretty women on bicycles. It is as if Copenhagen Cycle Chic was invented just for me but amazingly there are people everywhere not only following that site but making their own copies.

I also have a bizarre obsession with railway trains.

With the Internet, news in your particular area of interest can travel very quickly. And so it is with Melbourne's new bike share scheme. It is a great idea that is just not catching on. It has been discussed on Copenhagenize, Mike Rubbo's site, Real Cycling and also by that sarcastic guy from Waltham Forest in London. And it's not looking good. Even Andrew Bolt had a serve.

The general concensus seems to be that mandatory helmet laws are getting in the way of it. The argument is that the bike share scheme is aimed at tourists and other people who may wish to make a quick trip on a bike. The helmet laws remove all spontenaity. If you are a tourist planning to spend a day exploring Melbourne on a bike, you'll probably think ahead and organise headgear. If you are an office worker going to a meeting on the other side of the CBD but close to another docking station, you may suddenly have a brainwave and what to take a hire bike but the lack of headgear gets in the way.

I think it is impossible to say for sure whether it is all to do with the helmet laws but I think there is an argument there. Unsurprisingly, the issue has raised yet again the helmet debate. I am no expert but I have tried to read up on the subject and from what I can tell, whether helmets offer protection and the extent of that protection depend on the study. It is not conclusive either way but if Melbourne bike hire is anything to go by, they do seem to be a barrier to cycling.

The concensus on the blogs I have read seems to be to let adults decide. I have to say it is a view I support. If you are speeding along a main road on a road bike in a racing position, you will probably wear a helmet. If you are speeding down a hill on your mountain bike, you will probably also wear a helmet but I think a different type. Perhaps not so though if you are pottering through the neighbourhood on your Dutch granny bike with a baguette and some leeks in the basket.

Where they are not compulsory, people seem to wear helmets for different reasons. It may simply be because it makes your husband or wife feel better (I would probably be one of them if helmets were not mandatory).

My biggest problem with mandatory helmet laws, particularly in this country, is that they have become a cop out. Every piece of government published literature about cycling warns people to wear bright yellow and put on a helmet but there is really nothing else done to protect cyclists. Helmets may indeed make a difference in certain limited circumstances but they are of limited use when you are hit behind by a car travelling at 60 km/h or hit from the side by a truck with a bullbar.

I do not think that helmets themselves discourage cycling. Mandatory helmet laws might but the strongest deterrent is the lack of genuine safety. If people do not feel safe using roads, they will not do so and will not allow their children too. Those countries where cycling's modal share is highest do not have mandatory helmet laws, although many people choose to wear them, but they do have something very different from those countries with a low cycling modal share.s

Looking around the world, there is a clear link between cycling's modal share and the quality of infrastructure. Even inside the Netherlands, cycling's modal share varies between cities and the quality of the infrastructure you find there. Stephen Yarwood is totally on the right track.

(Borrowed from here)

Cycle instead

With moderate fanfare, the Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure has set up a new website called "Cycle Instead". We are told it "generates cycling routes using Adelaide's Bikedirect network of main roads, bike lanes, local streets, off-road paths and some unsealed paths".

I had a go on it and asked for the route from Kensington Gardens to the CBD. It involves a long ride along Kensington Road, across Brittania Roundabout, along Dequetteville Terrace and then take the fast Formula 1 bend into Flinders Street. If you are in a car, the route is probably perfect.

I won't be sending my children on that route in any hurry though.

If you click "low traffic" on the Route Type dropbox, you get a change. The route as far as Dequetteville Terrace is good (you avoid the roundabout at least) and it includes the pathways through the parklands.

This seems to be a good initiative if you are jumping on a bike to travel to work for the first time. If you have been commuting for any length of time, you would probably have already worked out your favoured route. It is not bad but far more effective I think would be proper signposted routes like the suggested Bike Boulevard through Beulah Road with decent treatment at intersections.

(pinched from here)

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

What Kevin Costner said

One of my favourite websites is George Monbiot's blog. He is a columnist with the Guardian.

His most recent entry, called Turning Estates into Villages, summarises particularly well the effect that our built environment has on us. He is right of course. You can see it every day. There is a direct relationship between the built environment and how many children you see playing, how many people walk to the shops or to visit their neighbours and also how many people choose to walk or cycle generally. Those places with wide, fast-moving roads have fewer people walking or cycling. This is nothing new of course. Look what happens when Rundle Street is closed during the Fringe.

When people campaign tirelessly to try and calm traffic, to try and have a school built within walking distance of where they live, to try and have roads narrowed and separate bike paths installed, it is not part of a war on motorists and it is not because they are trying to impose their own form of social engineering on everyone else. It is because these things work. They are connected. The taxes you pay can be used to fund any number of education campaigns about fitness and healthy eating but in the end, people are entirely rational and act in a way that makes perfect sense taking into account their surroundings.

As Kevin Costner said, before he went a bit bonkers and grew gills in that strange film with lots of water, "build it and they will come".

Streetfilms has made the point brilliantly (again) in their latest film about Copenhagen. This time they're describing how the city authorities have calmed traffic and made car-free public spaces.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Two articles

There have been two articles of note on Adelaide Now of late. The first was about Stephen Yarwood's plan for proper bike lanes around the city. He plainly knows what he is talking about. He was in Copenhagen recently for the Velo City Conference with a bunch of urban planners from around the world. Also, listen to what he has to say on Angus Kingston's blog.

Stephen is running for Adelaide City Mayor and civilising Adelaide's traffic is one of his plans. He is not deterred by what happened in Sturt Street and is encouraging us to learn from it to get it right next time. As he says, the first one "was flawed because the lane installed on Sturt St was not actually the same style used in Copenhagen and was not integrated".

The second article was along similar lines. Mariano De Duonni, from urban design firm Hassell, correctly says that the mistake we have made so far is that our approach to bike lanes has been from an engineering point of view and not an integrated design point of view.

Both articles attracted a lot of positive and supportive comments. Gotta love that.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Adelaide Cycle Chic

I don't know who she is but she looks fabulous. I'm starting to see more and more people like this around Adelaide. It's reminiscent of Copenhagen Cycle Chic and its related sites. Love it.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Sturt Street again

The new State member for Adelaide, Rachel Sanderson, was kind enough to leave her new newsletter in my mailbox the other day. The front page talks about a "win" for Sturt Street. Apparently, a "win" is constituted by taking away a bike lane and setting aside public space at no cost solely for the purpose of storing people's cars.

The picture as you see shows Rachel and a business owner blocking the lane and looking along it with stern faces. Rachel kindly presented a petition to the House of Assembly that "showed" that the bikeway resulted in poor road layout, an increase in accidents, caused congestion, confusion, diminished parking and loss of revenue for local businesses.

That is quite a list of assertions and they cannot go unchallenged.

What makes a "poor road layout" is not made clear. It is probably the same thing that "caused confusion". When you're talking about motorists, that is usually code for bleating because the road layout has changed a little and it is too taxing to slow down and actually make the effort to look around for non-motorised road users. All of the bleating, by a vocal minority, was because cars pulling out of side streets actually had to stop and make sure the road was clear. Contrary to popular opinion, that does not make the road dangerous. It has been shown, paradoxically, that a road that is perceived to be damgerous is actually safer because it makes people slow down and concentrate more.

How the bike lane "caused" accidents is equally unclear. How it physically did it remains a mystery to me. I guess it is like the dangerous trees on the side of some country roads that can crash into cars.

The claim of diminished parking is at least honest. The complaint, on behalf of a few spoiled motorists, is that a few free car parks have been taken away and reclaimed by more a more efficient use of the space. As you can see though, that simply won't do. Motorists should be allowed to park wherever they want across the CBD at no cost. It's a human right.

The "loss of revenue" for local businesses is a common myth and has been disproved time and time again.

The smaller article on the same page for me says it all really. Taking away the one piece of proper cycling infrastructure (even though it may have been poorly implemented) is described as a "win". None of the complainers were asked "how could this work?" Instead, we take pride of place as probably the only city in the world that has cocked up a cycle lane and removed it within 18 months without even properly trying. The answer to increasing the rate of people travelling by bike and thereby reducing all of the noise and congestion is "cycle safe coaching". In other words, the same tired old rubbish - proven to fail.

The article almost asks the right question with "Do you feel unsafe cycling in the city?" That question assumes the person already is cycling. If they are, they certainly do not require the sort of patronising training the article is talking about. The question that should have been asked is "Would you feel unsafe cycling in the city if you chose to get around that way?" The answer would invariably be "yes". You should then ask why. The answer will not be "Because I need Cycle Safe Coaching". It will be "because it is unsafe. I do not trust motorists to see me. Until there is proper separated infrastructure for people travelling by bike, I will continue to travel by car. I know it just adds to congestion but it feels much safer to me."

Thursday, 15 July 2010


Two of the trilogy of the cycling blogs recently posted about the quality of their respective cycling infrastructure. Copenhagenize blogged about a lane in Lyngby in Denmark. It is off road as you would expect and does not appear to end abruptly at a junction.

David Hembrow, who lives in Utopia, was not quite so gushing and notes that a number of junctions even in Denmark force cyclists to come into conflict with cars.

Meanwhile, in a parallel universe:

The only proper bike lane in the entire city comes to an abrupt end. Who has right of way if the bike is going straight on but the car is turning left?

Sunday, 27 June 2010


For many blokes, their car is an extension of their penis. You can see them often cruising down Hindley Street looking cool. The particularly clever ones make big loud noises with their exhaust pipes. It's all frightfully impressive.

For most of us though, cars have become a necessity that is imposed on us because of our environment. Even what used to be small neighbourhood groups of shops have free car parking. Wherever you go, pedestrians are an afterthought and it is just easier to go by car - even if it is around the corner.

Imagine if we designed our schools like that. Instead of the walkways you see, imagine if there were special roads for gophers between classrooms and a space larger than each classroom for storing the gophers. Rush hour would be between each lesson with long lines of gophers beeping at each other and their drivers wondering what is causing the hold up. There would be student teacher committees which would spend time dreaming up ways of making it easier for gophers to get around. Eventually, in big schools, someone would come up with the idea of super 4 lane gopher-ways for getting across school more quickly.

Most of the time, driving around in a car is not that much different. Cars don't make us look cool, they don't make your nob bigger and the roads we drive on are nothing like the empty wildernesses you see on adverts for 4WDs. We sit by ourselves in two tonne vehicles going, on average, not much faster than a gopher and not not carrying much more than would fit inside the shopping basket attached to the gopher. We also set aside, at next to no cost, huge tracts of public land for their movement and storage. We also, knowingly, tolerate them causing about 200,000 reported injuries, 20,000 serious injuries requiring long-term care and treatment and 1,400 deaths every single year.

The mind boggles.

How motorists often get it wrong

Walking my children to school in the morning I have to stop what is really a ridiculous number of times to wait for traffic for what is a very short distance. In many cases, I am having to wait though when it is my right of way. It happens a lot too when I go to the shops or just walk around the neighbourhood.

A thorough knowledge of the Australian Road Rules, or at least those dealing with pedestrians, is not a pre-requisite for getting a driver's licence in this country. If it were, you would not see the sorts of dangerous mistakes made (and the arrogance that comes from thinking you're in the right) that we see every day.

If you are walking along a pavement, you have the right of way at every single driveway. That includes driveways into the carpark at shopping centres every day. You would never believe it though watching people speed blindly out of their driveways. The Road Rule is number 74. Here is the very clear picture that comes with it:

Another rule that is less well known is what should happen at junctions (not including t-junctions). If a pedestrian is crossing the road you are turning on to (as a motorist), whether that road is a side road or a main road, the pedestrian has right of way. The Road Rule is number 72. Again, there are two very clear pictures that come with it; one for turning left on to a side road:

And the other for right:

Rule 73 deals with t-intersections and the rules are the same. You give way to pedestrians whether you are turning into the side road:

Or out of the side road:

Of course you should not walk out into the road if a driver is obviously not going to stop. That would be an uncomfortable way of making your point but make the point anyway. Shout and gesticulate.

If you are driving, please always stop for pedestrians. It is hard enough as it is.

Now a glaring omission in all of this is cyclists. What happens for example at a t-intersection when a motorist is turning left but to do so they would drive across the path of a cyclist? If there is a bike lane across the intersection (a rarity) you would think the answer would be clear but the Road Rules are silent. Cyclists are certainly allowed to overtake on the left (Rule 141 lets them). Some motorists are courteous enough to wait for you (usually because they actually use their mirrors and bother to see you), other do not.

As with many problems like this, the best thing is not to sail through but to hold back until you know the driver has seen you. Seems to be the advice on forums.

If we had proper infrastructure, you would hope the rules would be clear for everyone.