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."

1 comment:

  1. yes, yes and yes. I actually sent the honourable member an email about this newsletter. I suggested that just maybe she could do something positive by "consulting" with someone other than her small business owning buddies and actually get on a bike and talk to some cyclists about what actually would work. I also suggested she may like to have a chat to some of our Thinkers-in-residence about their views.

    Thanks for bringing it to our attention Edward.