Tuesday, 20 December 2011

My wife is hot

My wife recently bought herself four dresses from Jigsaw. They look fantastic.

The first was more formal than the others. The top half is silk and the rest is a "tulip style skirt finished in a silk jacquard print that sits just below the knee". She looks totally hot in it:

The next is a summery one. It is made of silk and has what is described as a leopard print. The silk is super soft and thin and feels fantastic. She looks totally hot in it:

The thid is a "polka strappy dress". It sits beautifully. Very stylish. After she had worn it the first time, on a particularly warm day, my wife mentioned how comfortable and cool it was compared to jeans. I haven't ever worn a frock for any extended period so I am guessing it has something to do with having a fresh breeze wafting around your underpants. I'd need to get a woman's view on that one. Anyway, she looks totally hot in it:

The last is a cotton summer dress. It's not available off the website any more so you can't get a picture of it. Suffice it to say, she looks totally hot in it.

After she had brought them home and was trying some shoes to go with them (black espedrilles also from Jigsaw), I commented to her that riding a bike in tall heels is actually easier than walking in then. My wife has a bicycle. It's an old Malvern Star girls bike that she has had since she was 12. I cleaned it and oiled it and changed all of the brake pads and cables when I first became a bike-weirdo. I've also attached a shopping basket to the front.

Regrettably, my wife doesn't ride it that often. I always tell her she should ride it to the local supermarket or if she's meeting a friend close by. Ruining your hair with a plastic helmet and having to dodge traffic is probably a bit of a turn-off.

In this country, we seem to have killed off that type of cycling culture. There are pockets of it in Sydney and Canberra but in little old Adelaide, it is rare to see women dressed like that getting around by bike. We will know that cycling is mainstream again when we do.

Charlie Winston "I love your smile" from HK Corp on Vimeo.

Audrey Toutou and a bicycle. All my fantasies at once :)

Friday, 16 December 2011

The steel jacket of rudeness

Like most people I know, I have put together a route home from work that as much as possible avoids riding on main roads. It's self-preservation really. The whole "take the lane" ideology is all very well but it still doesn't guarantee you from being driven into from behind by someone who is drunk, speeding, fiddling with their radio or just scratching their balls.

Despite my best efforts, there are places when avoiding having to navigate a main road is just impossible. On those occasions when I have no choice and it is just too dangerous to ride on the road, I take the pavement. It worries me because that apparently is what upsets motorists (if you were to go by comments on some websites) and we apparently need to "earn their respect" by obeying the road rules before any money can be spent on decent infrastructure.

I ride about 25m along the pavement before I hit the junction and cross at the pedestrian lights. Then I double back about 15m before continuing on my way along the side street. The alternative, if I were to obey the rules, would be to attempt to turn right on to the main road and cross 4 lanes of fast-moving traffic.

This is the view from the crossing. It was taken early in the morning. Hence the shadows. The street I come out of is on the left just beyond the clearway sign. The road I take after crossing at the junction is on the right just next to the green truck:

In years of taking that route, I have never come across a pedestrian. Today was the very first time. I met her just as I came around the corner. I was going very slowly and could easily stop. She stopped too - abruptly. I apologised repeatedly. "That's ok", she said cheerfully. I admitted I should not have been there and explained that the road was just too busy to ride on. She said understood perfectly ("I know, it's horrendous") and we went on our way.

I have to wonder whether the reaction would have been the same from a motorist. There is something about being cocooned inside that steel and glass jacket that makes people shout and gesticulate rudely in a way that they never would if they were face to face with someone. I don't think I would have got quite as friendly a reaction if I'd been in the wrong place on the road. After all, that is not how you earn respect.

Sure enough, once I was on my way I came up to a small junction with a side road to my left and a white Commodore came charging towards the intersection stopping with its nose sticking out into my path. As is so often the case, it would have hit me had I not slowed just in case. He did wait but it was obvious that the driver was in a tearing hurry so instead of taking the next right (which was the way I was going) I waited for him to pass. Sure enough, he sped around the corner with his rear tyres smoking and then sped to the next junction 120m away at the perfect speed to clean up anyone who accidentally crossed from behind a parked car and just loudly enough to annoy every single resident on the street. He's one of the people whose respect I apparently need to earn.

He drove that way because he could. He took two side streets to get himself from one main road to another and use the neighbourhood as a thoroughfare. That is what the road layout told him was appropriate. The speed limit on the side streets was the default speed limit of 50 km/h. There was no calming and no blocked road. The entire set up sent the signal that the road was for him to speed down rather than a place where people lived.

And that is the problem.

By the way, it was a VR Commodore. Registration number WBM-240. Ride carefully.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

The crime of the century

A friend of mine has gone to live and work in Canada for a year. It's the same friend who wrote rude things about the Dutch some time ago. Currently he is in Calgary. He had a strange experience the other day. he wrote:

I was almost going to text message you - get this - in Calgary, Alberta, pedestrians have the right of way.

My friend and I (she lives here) needed to cross a main road, downtown. She just starts walking across and all the traffic stops! What a trip!

I have heard rumours of these strange faraway places that actually treat pedestrians with a little respect rather than total contempt. Until now I thought they were a myth, a bit like the legend of dry land in the film Waterworld.

Meanwhile, back on planet earth in Adelaide, police officers are being sent out to fine people for crossing empty streets. It is of course for our own safety. If it were not for them and the little red man, we would all walk blindly into the path of a bus.

Remember if you want to cross the road, you have to apply by pressing the button. If you forget to, well tough. You still have to stand there even while the traffic is at a standstill. You can jolly well press the button and wait for another traffic cycle - even though that could take 15 minutes.

It's for your own good.

A tip: Rule 231(2) of the Australian Road Rules makes it a crime to start to cross the road when the pedestrian lights are on red. If you are within 20 metres of the pedestrian crossing, rule 234 requires you to cross at the crossing - otherwise you commit another crime. If you're more than 20 metres away, you're fine. The only requirement is that you cross by the shortest route and not stay on the road longer than necessary. I think we should start painting pink blobs on the pavement 20 metres away from crossings so that we all know.

The Beatles potentially commit a crime

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Small towns

I took a trip to Port Pirie not long ago for work. It's a two and a half hour drive north of Adelaide. It has a population of about 14,000. Its biggest employer is Nyrstar which operates the lead smelter there.

It has a few things of interest to visit such as the museum that used to be the railway station. It faces the road because trains used to run down the main street:

I find Australian country towns generally have a great deal of civic pride which is often refected in their parks and war memorials. Port Pirie is no exception:

Like almost all Australian towns though, Port Pirie seems to be built for the motor car. All of its streets are wide with free car parks on both sides:

If there are not enough car parks on the road, there are plenty behind the shops:

A little less thought is given to pedestrians. This is the side of the Woolworths supermarket in the centre of town. It's not exactly inspiring:

If you're interested in riding a bike around, you might have to be prepared for a bit of a walk. This is the bike shop:

Nobody rides a bike there (other than the odd teenager on his bmx) which is a surprise really. A number of people who work in Port Pirie would come from smaller towns such as Laura to the east but the bulk live in Port Pirie itself. This is the town map:

It's about 4km across and 5½km north to south at its longest - distances that are easy on a bike. Yet everybody drives everywhere. I wasn't there at school opening and closing time but I have no doubt there is a long line of cars in the morning and afternoon.

How can that be? Why would people spend money on petrol and wear and tear when they could get most places free of charge? Imagine the boost to the local economy if all of the money tied up running cars was freed up to spend on local shops, businesses and restaurants.

You can see from the photos that the town suffers from the same problem as other Australian towns and suburbs. If you try to bike or walk anywhere, it is only a short distance before you hit a huge, wide, fast-moving road. There is no safe place to cross and riding a bike along it is unpleasant and dangerous. Not only that but driving is made so easy by the bountiful supply of free car-parking.

On top of that, you cannot just get on a comfortable bike (often because they're difficult to get hold of and expensive) and go on a brief errand. You are forced to sweat under one of those plastic hats - another disincentive.

So how could it all be changed? Well to quote a favourite website:

  • You ensure that riding a bike is a pleasure;
  • Ensure motor vehicles are somewhere else;
  • Design streets so that conflict with motor vehicles is rare;
  • Make bike routes shorter than car routes;
  • Make it so you can skip past traffic lights;
  • etc.

Small towns like Port Pirie which are quite self-contained and far from the next town prove that excuses such as population density and length of journey are myths. People respond to their built environment and that is precisely what they have done in Port Pirie.

Friday, 11 November 2011


I think with many people, if they hear Copenhagen held up as an example city one more time they'll probably scream. This isn't Copenhagen, they say. You can't just take all of that and plonk it here in the same way that you can't install Windows on a Mac (they don't really say that but it is a good analogy).

It's not a case of simply transfering things though. Rather, what we can do is look at those things that work, not just in Copenhagen but other cities around the world, and adapt them to suit our own needs.

Copenhagen has a few similarities with Adelaide. They are both spread out, they have similar populations and both have wide streets. The spread out point is one to note. The centre of Copenhagen has a fair few apartment buildings (as does Adelaide increasingly) but once you get out of town, you see a lot of single family houses. Have an explore on Google Streetview (and if you ever watch Anna Pihl, look at where the character Mikala lives. There are lots of areas like that).

I visited Copenhagen some time ago. I remember being distracted by how good-looking everyone was so I did not take a great deal of notice of the cycling infrastructure although I do remember a lot of bicycles around the place. Also, back then, this sort of thing was not really on my radar as is the case with many people.

I found a good post on a blog called Rambers Highway. It seems its author took a trip to Europe and wrote about their travels but then stopped abruptly in December 2010. In any event, the post is all about Copenhagen and its particular style of bike lane. It's a good read and fairly accurate I think. What it shows is what we can learn.

We have all seen pictures of Copenhagen's bike paths. They are very different from Dutch ones. They are not quite as separate from the road for one thing but intead are a half height lane in between the road and pavement. There are some exceptions of course but that seems to be a common look. The lane is subtle but from what we have seen and heard, highly effective. It is something that would be very easy to copy here on our wide roads. There is plenty of space. The problem is that it is so often taken up by parked cars - and often not very many of them. This is on Wright Street:

And this is on Frome Street:

In both cases, all of that useful space is blocked by one car.

Central Adelaide has about 68,000 car parks and so the removal of a few like this on some wide arterial roads would surely not bring the city to a standstill.

The need for clear wide bike lanes was brought home to me on my way home last night. I forget which street I was on but it was one of the many with two lanes of moving traffic on each side and a third lane on each side blocked by parked cars. For of us were waiting at a traffic light in the turning lane (you do that to allow the motorised traffic to pass you on the intersection as you pick up speed). Once we had crossed the intersection, as is so often the case, our way was blocked by a parked car. A great big fat minibus was approaching on our right and did not seem to want to give more space than about half a metre. Unsurprisingly everyone stopped. It was all very polite though - lots of "no, after you". So much for taking the lane though. Self-preservation won over that this time. Not surprising when a Toyota Coaster is looming over you.

In side streets (particularly residential areas), the approach of the Danes is again quite subtle. If Ramblers Highway is correct, there are not separated lanes on every single side street. Rather, the practice is one of properly categorising the street and installing traffic calming devices that alert various different road users to each other's presence. Again, that is to generalise but it certainly matches my recollection of my visit there.

Junction design is a constant source of frustration and fear for Adelaide Cyclists. We can again learn from the Danes and adapt. The Copenhagen blue seems now as well known as Cadbury's purple colour. It's not used on every intersection though because if it is used everywhere, people get used to it and ignore it. And so it is used only on key intersections. For me though, the important thing to learn from the intersections is that the bike paths remain until the reach the intersection. In some cases, depending on how busy the intersection is, the bike path intersects with the turning lane for cars. In other cases, it lowers to road level but that width continues over the intersection and into the bike path on the other side. The consequence is that even though strictly speaking the bike path does disappear, provided both cars and bikes proceed in the same direction, there is no conflict. It's simple but ingenious.

You can see how they do it in this picture. It shows the lane ending and being shared with the turning lane for cars. It is far from ideal but seems to work where the traffic is low enough to permit it:

On busier roads the treatment is different again. There the lanes are properly separated:

This is a rather long-winded way of saying you can achieve a lot without much effort. We're practically set up for all this and it will only take some small changes to have a profound effect.

Subversive thoughts

Geoff McLeod had the unmitigated temerity to make a film that asks one simple question:

If tens of thousands of people in other countries can use their bike every day, including children as young as 8, without wearing a helmet and other safety gear, why can't we?

We are told it has "incensed" the authorities responsible for road safety.

Here's the offending film:

One thing that should be noted is that the images in the first half of the film are not staged. They are real people going about Paris on their bicycles. Another thing to note is that Paris (while it has improved a lot) is not up their with the Dutch and Danes for bicycle safety. And yet the people seem fine. It's not just in Paris either. There are pictures of people doing this all over the place. Outrageous.

That is what I wonder with our helmet laws. We and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world with them. Why is that? What makes us so different from everywhere else? I do not see any signs of other countries following our lead yet. Indeed, the Dutch Cycling Union's position is firmly against helmet laws.

The release of the film reignited the 20 year old debate about the effectiveness of the laws. On one of my favourite forums, Adelaide Cyclists, the debate raged for some time and at the last count had 135 replies. That then led to spin off posts including one asking whether helmets should be compulsory. Of the self-selected sample of keen cyclists, the majority said yes. Take from that what you will.

My own personal view is that whatever you might think of polystyrene helmets (and the newly developed airbag for cyclists), I cannot see that forcing people to wear them has worked. To me they are a distraction and a cop out. Making people share the road with fast-moving cars and trucks and then pretending that you are keeping them safe by forcing them to wear a plastic helmet that is tested only at very low speeds is not fooling anyone.

All of us have by now heard of the man of the people and architect to rock stars, Jan Gehl. He was in Melbourne not long ago as part of the Melbourne Conversations series. He gave a lecture which you can view on the ABC website. He discusses a number of things about cities, including bicycles, and also covers helmets. This is what he says (it sounds best if you read it aloud with a Danish accent) beginning at about 40:30 mins:

We don't have compulsory bike helmets. They found that if they introduce compulsory bike helmets, you can reduce bicycling by 50% overnight. And they say it's much better for health economy that we have many people bicycling ... much. And then we will take the risk of some of them getting injuries while they are young but it's much better that they continue and they're old whatever. And they have campaigns and now a third have bicycle helmets and I think it's very wise not to make it compulsory so we can choose. At certain stretches I always take my bike helmet but going down to the tennis club I don't or going to the corner store, whatever.

Is that really so unreasonable?

Friday, 28 October 2011

The silent majority

On my ride to work this morning, I saw a couple of women waiting at the bus stop. I never try and guess people's ages because I generally offend. If I were to hazard a guess though, and I mean this with the utmost respect, I'd say they were in their sixties. After 9 o'clock in the morning, you see lots of women (and men) that age at bus stops and on the bus.

You never see them on bikes.

In the mornings, I also see plenty of children going to the local primary school. Many are on foot, a few are on scooters and a few are on bicycles wobbling down the pavement while peering under the rim of their helmets. The children are squashed with their parents on narrow pavements while cars sail past on the road with other children strapped into their back seats. The cars are often slowed though because there are so many of them. Long lines of cars are parked on both sides of the road and there is generally a queue of cars near the front gate of the school.

Every time the children on foot need to cross the road, they have to stop and wait for a line of cars. The only exception is the one crossing that is staffed by Year 7s with stop signs and fluoro jackets. The only pity is that the crossing is close to useless. It is right opposite only one of the school gates and by that point most children are on the side of the road they need to be.

I mention this, as I have done in the past, because it is the women at the bus stop and the children exposed to the danger of motor vehicles outside their schools who should be considered first and foremost in urban planning decisions.

There have been a few articles recently about how few children walk or cycle to school in Australia. One was on The Conversation and another in the Sydney Morning Herald. The answer to the question is quite simple and is summed up in one of the comments in the SMH article:

Give us safer and less polluted roads, and we will be able to send the kids to school on their bikes. Until then, I am not going to risk my kids because of a useless government.

A little hearsh perhaps but completely rational and completely correct. We can criticise the parents driving the lines of cars outside schools each morning but who is going to be the first to change?

In the same way that the tax system can be used to encourage or discourage certain behaviour, I think you can encourage certain behaviour by designing the built environment in a certain way.

In residential suburbs in Australia, we could start with two very easy steps. The first is to install pedestrian crossings at each intersection, especially those close to schools. It's not enough to have one token crossing that motorists are not even required to stop at unless stop signs are being held up. What is required are crossings on each side of an intersection (3 on a t-junction and 4 on a normal crossing) that require motorists to stop if a person is waiting to cross.

The second step is to block streets to though traffic. War on the Motorist made the (very good) point recently that there is a difference between roads, streets and lanes:

Roads are for travelling between places; streets and lanes are places, and to be driven on only for property access and loading.

In other words, our residential streets are places where people live, meet and go to school. Once that is recognised, it is obvious that they should be blocked to through traffic. They are not thoroughfares.

Those two things, while very simple, would make a huge difference. They would only of course be a start. After that, you start working in earnest on "roads". What is the purpose of the road? What sort of traffic should be on it? Should that include heavy trucks? What is the appropriate speed? How do we define the space for people walking, those using bicycles and those using cars?

Absolutely vital is to consider the women at the bus stop and children. That is the mistake we make at the moment. Adelaide City Council is to be congratulated on its plans for cycling over the next two years epecially the fact that its plans are "being treated as an interim guide while a major cycling infrastructure plan for the next three years is completed". Note though, they say "The council will set up a reference group to oversee the works and liaise with cyclists and the State Government to ensure community needs are met."

Please don't just liaise with cyclists. Liaise with the women at the bus stop and the majority of the population who might well use a bicycle more if it were made easy.

On a lighter note, the brilliant photographer, film-maker and general all-round groovy person Marc from Amsterdamize has put together another great video. This time to the music of Jack Johnson. Watch and enjoy:

We're Only Human from Amsterdamize on Vimeo.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Contrary to popular belief ...

If you have any interest at all in taming motorised traffic and providing freedom of transport choice for everyone, you will know about David Hembrow's blog and the brilliant videos by Mark Wagenbuur.

His latest video will I am sure become a classic. It is discussed in the latest post on A View From the Cycle Path. It's all about how the Dutch got their fabulous cycling infrastructure. It's not because "the Netherlands is a flat country with its towns close together". It is because of deliberate political decisions in the 1970s to move away from streets designed for motorised traffic flow at the expense of people not in cars, which is what we still do.

Getting things changed didn't happen overnight. It took a decade. It may well take that long here but I'm fairly certain it will happen.


Thursday, 20 October 2011

An index of friendliness

Copenhagenize Consulting recently published its 2011 index of Bicycle Friendly Cities. Amsterdam is at the top with Copenhagen a close second with places like Rio, Vienna and New York coming up the rear. They rated 80 cities around the world but purposely included major cities because of time constraints. As they say, smaller cities like Groningen or Malmö would have been at the top of the list had they done so. In fact, it's probably safe to say that the list would have been full of Dutch cities.

They spent some time putting together a list of 13 criteria by which each city would be assessed. It's worthwhile to see how we would rate. Here are a couple:

Perception of Safety:
Is the perception of safety of the cyclists in the city, reflected in helmet-wearing rates, positive or are cyclists riding scared due to helmet promotion and scare campaigns?
Rated from mandatory helmet laws with constant promotion of helmets to low helmet-usage rate.

As one of only two countries in the world with national helmet laws, we would have to get a zero for this.

Bicycle Infrastructure:
How does the city's bicycle infrastructure rate?
Rated from no infrastructure/cyclists relegated to using car lanes to high level of safe, separated cycle tracks.

Adelaide would have to rate quite low with this but as I say below, we have people at the Adelaide City Council who I think get it.

Urban Planning:
How much emphasis do the city's planners place on bicycle infrastructure - and are they well-informed about international best practice?
Rated from car-centric urban planners to planners who think bicycle - and pedestrian - first.

Again, we would have to rate low but we at least have people in the city council who seem to understand this. Sometimes it pays to whinge. I wrote to the city council recently to complain about the North Terrace Frome Street intersection. It is where the one separated bike lane we have in the city comes to an abrupt end (on a hill) and turns into nothing once you get across the intersection. Not only that, the road narrows to leave you squashed into the gutter unless you puff and pant to get up the hill before the cars and "take the lane". By doing that you're well and truly placing your life in the hands of the motorist behind you.

I got a favourable response saying that, in not so many words, they felt my pain and shared by concern. They even liked my idea of having a separate traffic light for people on bikes that allowed them to get across the intersection before cars were allowed to.

A week later I was sent a copy of the council's Bicycle Action Plan for 2011-13. The budget for the plan for 2011-12 (while modest) is allocated while the budgeted amounts for the following year are as yet only indicative. Nevertheless, if the money can be found it is a significant improvement. For example, the budget set aside for Frome Street in the 2011-12 financial year is $20,000 (for design) which increases to $100,000 in the following year for construction. While an improvement, it is still a very small amount in the scheme of things.

The plan includes extending the network of on-street cycle lanes. The painted lanes we have (often in door zones) are far from ideal (in fact they're largely useless) but they are at least something. I'd just love to see them put on the other side of the parked cars. The plan also includes installing and testing alternative forms of lane demarcation on Morphett and Franklin Street. I look forward to seeing what that involves. I hope it is more than the green carpet we see in a couple of places.

It would be easy to complain that it's far from enough (which it is) but Adelaide City Council is working with a fairly miniscule budget. The plan also only covers two financial years after which you'd hope that a new one will be developed. This and what they are doing with the Picture Adelaide Program (see the previous entry) shows that we are making at least some progress.

The shape of things to come - eventually
Via Amsterdamize

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

The voice of the people

Until now, any article in the local newspaper about bicycles, bus lanes or any effort to make our streets more inviting to human beings rather than motor vehicles is met with the same, tediously predictable comments (with some notable exceptions of course) about motorists paying for the roads, cyclists never obeying any road rules and nearly killing people, and so on.

The tide might be changing though.

A recent article was about bus lanes. The Chief Executive of the Department of Transport, Rod Hook, suggested that dedicated bus lanes and bus stops may be the answer to city traffic congestion. He is without doubt correct. Interestingly, the online poll on the same page was overwhelmingly in favour of bus lanes. Looking through the 50 comments, quite a few posters are in favour. Some even go so far as to suggest removing on-street car parking (another good idea).

A more recent article is about Jeff Shumaker who is the deputy chief urban designer in New York City's Department of Planning. He suggests creating a better balance among the needs of cars, bikes and pedestrians. Crazy, I know. Of the 23 comments at the time of writing, there were a few of the usual boring type, eg: "It wont change the fact that bike riders dont follow the road rules. The leg shaving skinny mocca latte drinkers have no place on the road."

Quite a few though were bang on the money, eg: "if Adelaide had bike lanes like those in the photo attached to this article you would find a lot more people leaving the car at home and cycling around Adelaide."

Adelaide City Council launched its Picture Adelaide program not long ago. It has its own website and iPhone app. With the app, you can take a picture of somewhere in the city and send off a comment with it about how it could be improved, what's good about it and so on. The program has been going for a few months now and all the comments have been collated and summarised. The heading "Getting Around" interested me most of all. This is what it says:

You told us about…
40 km speed limit; fewer cars; more trams; more one-way and closed streets and lanes; bikes and walkers everywhere; free electric bike and car recharge stations; more bike hire and storage areas; free public transport within the city; well-lit, shaded, clean and safe bicycle tracks, paths and laneways.

Interesting, isn't it? Nothing about more car parks, wider roads, higher speed limits and all the rest of it. The clear message is that of a friendlier and more human city. Adelaide's Mayor ran for office on a platform that was all about this. I hope he can keep the momentum going.

The next stage of Picture Adelaide asks three specific questions. One is "Where would you improve bike lanes?" The obvious answer is "everywhere". Add your comments while you can and make sure you tell them what "improve" means:

(Borrowed from a commenter on Adelaide Cyclists)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Minimising risk

A report on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's website begins by saying "A woman died Tuesday morning when her bicycle collided with a car door". Read a little further and you see that that is not what happened at all. The door was opened in her path.

I remember a similar story in German about 20 years ago. A woman was knocked off her bike by a car door being opened. Her young child, who was in the child seat on the back of her bike, was killed by a passing truck.

We can all tell stories of doors being flung open into our path. Many of us avoid or reduce the risk by riding further to the right, sometimes outside of the (very narrow) bike lane. The lanes are useless.

If a person is injured at work because of a faulty system, the employer can be prosecuted and fined a lot of money. They are then expected to take measures to reduce the risk of the same type of incident occurring again. For example, recently an employer was fined $33,750. A 57-year-old employee suffered concussion and deep tissue damage to his neck and back when the ladder he was standing on broke while he was unslinging a load of steel tubing that had been placed in a stillage located on a rack. The company was prosecuted because it failed to ensure a designated area was marked and used for loading and unloading tubing from stillages at ground level, and to prevent employees from using ladders to reach stillages and/or sling tubes instead of moving the stillages to ground level.

Read that again, fined $33,750 because it failed to prevent its employees from using ladders instead of bringing things down to ground level. And rightly so you might say. Employers should do everything they can to ensure their employees are safe. I totally agree but somehow those types of rule do not seem to apply to cyclists. There are sources of serious danger all over the place that could be minimised with proper design. Instead of a bit of thought and money being put into these things, cyclists are just expected to fend for themselves.

When you're dealing with occupational health and safety, the guidelines are always the same. Once you have identified the risk, there is a heirarchy of measures you use to deal with it. You ask yourselves the following questions:

1. Can we eliminate the hazard? If no:
2. Can we substitute the hazard? If no:
3. Can we use engineering controls? If no:
4. Can we use administrative controls (Safe systems of work, permits, signage)? If no:
5. Can we use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)?

The third is the most obvious. Using engineering controls means designing a system that does not put cyclists in a position where every single parked car they pass is potentially going to knock them over into the path of traffic. In this country, we have gone straight to the fifth. We've got the fluoro vests and helmets but they're what you do when the other more effective ways of reducing danger are impossible. Are they impossible? Didn't think so.

I fear this sort of thing will keep happening.

(Picture from an article in the Courier Mail on the same subject)

Monday, 3 October 2011

Peter Goers

Peter Goers is erm different. You can hear him on ABC Radio in the evening. He's a slow talker which makes it very relaxing. He is a refreshing antidote to radio hosts who shout at you at a million miles an hour.

He's also famous for driving a really old Volvo around. We know this from his page in the Sunday Mail. Peter is a friend of the motorist and has written in the past about how unfairly they can be treated.

On his opinion page is a little box with the heading "What's hot and what's not". This week, Peter told us that bike lanes are not hot. He says:

Bike lanes aren't very widely used. Parking is more valuable so let's get rid of them.

Suggesting that bike lanes are not widely used is a very easy mistake to make. What Peter might mean is that he does not see bikes banked up in them. If that is so, it is for obvious reasons. Only Copenhagen has recently complained of too many bikes. We are very far from having that problem.

Similar complaints were made not long ago about a bus and taxi lane that was put on the M4 motorway outside London on the way to Heathrow airport. There were lots of complaints saying that the lane was mostly empty and that cars should be allowed to use it again. Instead of properly analysing it, the Government listened to the whining and reopened the lane. The effect was to slow traffic down for everybody. Peter should be careful what he wishes for.

It's the second sentence in Peter's comment that confuses me though. It is as if parking and bike lanes are mutually exclusive. We all know they're not. On some roads, the bike lane will be painted between parked cars and moving traffic. They are useful because theu provide some protection for the parked cars. In other places, parking lanes are the bike lanes. Here's some top class cycling infrastructure in Medindie:

Describing parking as "valuable" is interesting but probably correct. I took this photo of the car park to a Government office on Main North Road the other day:

Nobody uses it because it's too far to walk from it to the extrance to Target. It would take at least two minutes. The only cars that are ever parked there are these Government Toyotas. They are alwasy sitting there. If built on, that land could fit a whole bunch of townhouses. At $300k a pop, that's probably a couple of million dollars worth of land. The cars are all nearly new. My estimate would be that they each cost between $25k and $35k depending on whether they're Corolla or Camry (I'm sure that's pretty conservative).

So you're looking at about $200,000 worth of cars sitting on land worth seven figures.

And that's on a public holiday when the office is most definitely shut. "Valuable" is certainly one way of describing it.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

School lunch

In the Advertiser newspaper on Saturdays is a liftout called "Cars Guide". It contains mainly adverts for new and used cars but also has a couple of short articles about cars, which in truth are also adverts. In the 24 September issue was a stupid comment. The small article was about a concept car by Mercedes Benz called the F-125. The comment was:

We've come a long way, baby, even if Lycra-clad fundamentalists of the bicycle brigade would like us to go all the way back again.

It was a stupid comment for a variety of reasons. The first most obvious is that it is completely untrue. You can guarantee that nobody who dresses up in lycra to go for long weekend rides wants to be told they're not allowed to drive their car during the week. Others, like the Mayor of Adelaide, who suggest perhaps slowing cars down a bit and removing that particular source of danger from places where there are lots of people around equally do not suggest that cars be abolished and everyone somehow forced out of them. They're simply saying that perhaps devoting so much space to fast moving motor vehicles is not in everyone's interest. Crazy, I know.

Even if the comment was tongue in cheek, it was stupid.

One reason among many for encouraging alternatives to the car is that it is democratic. You have to be a particular age to drive a car and so a sizeable chunk of the population is ruled out, especially children. I cannot stand the sight of groups of cars clogging the streets outside our schools. Not only is it a complete waste of space, it is also very dangerous. If a driver does make a mistake, it is children who suffer. It is no surprise that parents do not wish to subject their children to that danger and so unsurprisingly they do what other parents do and drive their children to school.

There is, as we know, an alternative and it is not walking buses with mandatory reflective vests. This video was made by Joe Dunkley who publishes the excellent War on the Motorist blog. It is 2½ minutes of footage outside a primary school in Assen in the Netherlands. It is lunchtime and children are leaving to go home for lunch - almost all by themselves on their bike. They can do so because it is safe.

Note the left side of the screen though. Motorised traffic is still moving freely. There is no Lycra-clad fundamentalist stopping it or dragging people out of their cars. Making alternatives to the car easier has nothing to do with restricting motorists although a little bit of restriction would not go amiss in this city. Like the phrase says, it is about making the alternatives easier.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Dutch Cycling Embassy

Here's the latest marketing video from the world's number one cycling country. The Dutch Cycling Embassy has been formed which means our governments and councils can get all the help and information they need in one place.

Absolutely brilliant.

Watch it on full screen mode.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Fietsstad 2011

The Dutch are voting for their own bicycle city for 2011. There are 5 contenders - Groningen, Harderwijk, 's-Hertogenbosch, Houten and Pijnacker-Nootdorp. Each has its own 2½ minute video.

Here's the video for Houten:

and here's the one for 's-Hertogenbosch:

The others can be viewed here. It doesn't matter if you don't understand the dialogue. A picture speaks a thousand words. Check out the ages of all the people using bicycles.

Now that's how you do it.

Friday, 16 September 2011

The end of an era

For four years now, in amongst the cheery writing of Copenhagenize, A View from the Cycle Path and a million and one bicycle blogs, there has been one exception - the habitually grumpy, surly, sarcastic Freewheeler of Crap Cycling in Waltham Forest.

For four years, Freewheeler has been cycling around the London borough of Waltham Forest pointing out just how crap things are for pedestrians and cyclists. His/her writing though is relevant to a much wider audience than residents of Waltham Forest. What he points out is relevant to almost anyone who rides a bike in an English-speaking country. Day after day they are fed crap infrastructure while they watch with an equal combination of amazement and envy as other countries just seem to be able to get it right.

Never shying away from speaking his mind, he has come up with such gems as this:
There was widespread agreement that cyclists should do more to make themselves visible on the road

Oh really? In what way do the laws of optics not apply to cyclists? The toxic sub-text of that sentence is ‘because many drivers are not concentrating on controlling a ton of machinery in motion – they are chatting on the phone, reading a text message, changing a CD, finding a new radio station, looking at their SatNav etc – cyclists have a special obligation to draw attention to themselves in order not to be run down.’

That toxic logic even applies to pedestrians. It is now acceptable for a driver to execute a pedestrian on a zebra crossing if the pedestrian was wearing ‘dark clothing’. Road safety is a victim-blaming ideology and the conspicuity red herring is one of its most striking achievements.

this post about classically bad cycling infrastructure (one of hundreds incidentally), superb posts about cab drivers in London and this absolute classic comparing cycle chic in London and Copenhagen:

A must read is the eight part series on things that won't bring about mass-cycling:

1. 20 mph zones
2. "Shared space"
3. Strict liability legislation
4. Cycle training
5. Vehicular cycle campaigning
6. "Safety in numbers"
7. 5% plus modal share in a vehicular cycling environment
8. Legislation and education to make drivers behave better towards cyclists.

Freewheeler's identity has always remained anonymous and so, certainly in my view, he/she has become a bit of a caped crusader, pedalling around North London suburbs pointing out crap - of which there is tons. He commented rarely on other people's blogs. You see them on A View from the Cycle Path from time to time. A brief insight into the character of Freewheeler can be seen in a comment on Real Cycling where he/she expresses a view on the most appropriate role for him/her in an opera about London's bike hire scheme.

Freewheeler's most recent post is now some 5 weeks old. A recent comment on War on the Motorist suggested that after four years of carping, Freewheeler has hung up his fluorescent vest and stopped blogging. Judging by how prolific his/her writing used to be, I'd say that is looking increasingly likely. The good thing is thaht while Mikael Colville-Andersen has spawned a series of Cycle Chic websites around the world, Freewheeler has inspired more and more grumpy, miserable and sarcastic bloggers including the Grumpy Cyclist, the People's Cycling Front of South Gloucestershire and Bristol Traffic. I know which I prefer!

I guess it just became too much. Who knows?

Freewheeler's legacy will remain thanks to those bloggers and the fours years worth of material that remains on the Crap Walkam Forest blog. A fitting tribute would be for us all to look at the world through Freewheeler's eyes whenever we can. Instead of saying, "ooh look. The local council has painted a line in the gutter for us. Yippee", tell it like it is:

"Nah mate, it's shit".

Cycle Chic Freewheeler style

Monday, 12 September 2011

The rego question

I was chatting again with a friend the other day. He was telling me about a mate of his who is adamant that cyclists should pay rego. His argument is that everyone should contribute to the “use” of roads.


Anyone who travels along O'Connell Street in North Adelaide and then on to the northern suburbs would have seen this over the weekend:

It is a very expensive traffic light that has been well and truly knackered.

Now I didn't see how it happened and I wouldn't wish any harm on anyone. I really do hope that nobody was hurt. Having said that though, it is fairly typical of the sort of expensive damage that is inflicted on public property by cars all the time and for which we all end up paying collectively. Usually someone is driving along in their car, texting and minding their own business, when all of a sudden they "lose control" and their car drives into a traffic light/road sign/etc.

I would not be surprised if that's what happened here. Whether it was a car, bus, truck, tractor or whatever, you can be sure that it certainly was not a bicycle. If a bicycle had hit it, at most it would have made a quiet metallic hollow sound.

If the local council or State Government Department responsible for that road chose to take legal action to recover the cost of replacing the traffic light, they would at most get a fraction of the money. Either the local council or State Government will just pay or the money will come from the compulsory third party insurer which, quite rightly, is funded through car registration.

It was not a cyclist who broke it and that my friends is why cyclists do not pay rego.

Friday, 9 September 2011


Over near the zoo, a new roundabout has been installed. It's a big improvement for motorists and a bit of an improvement for pedestrians. Before, it used to be a nightmare for student coming from Adelaide Uni to get across Frome Road and carry on along War Memorial Drive. The road was too wide and cars never stopped. At certain times of day, the only time you could cross was when the traffic was at a standstill in a jam. Now pedestrians at least have a halfway point to stop at.

It's not so great for cyclists though. There is of course a painted bike lane leading up to the roundabout:

If you use it and manage not to get knocked off your bike by a car door opening on the way, you are greeted with this:

The bike lane disappears and reappears again after the roundabout:

The problem is the signal it sends to road users. What does a cyclist do if he or she is turning right at the roundabout. If you stay in the bike lane until the end, are you supposed to creep around the edge of the roundabout until you reach the exit you want? What would the motorist behind you expect you to do? Predictably, on my observations, a good number of cyclists don't use the bike lane that is there unless they are turning left.

Those who are going straight on or turning right do the "vehicular cyclist" thing and "take the lane". It's not for everyone because you're trusting that the person behind you is looking at you rather than speeding across the roundabout and looking briefly ony to the right where they expect another car (not a cyclist) might be.

The roundabout is also a bit unsatisfactory for those of us (and there are many) who come towards the city via North Adelaide and the parklands. We use the jogging track that follows Mackinnon Parade before running parallel with Frome Road. You're not really helped much when you hit the roundabout:

You either have to cross with the pedestrians in front of you and swerve back onto the road or take a sharp right then left and join the road before the roundabout. Either way is a pain. It's impossible to signal your intentions to drivers so you just have to wait until the coast is clear.

There is of course plenty of free information on how to build a roundabout properly whether big or small. And there's also the cheaper, easy to apply here, Danish version:

Take your pick.

Monday, 5 September 2011


I am a total sucker for flashy marketing. When the junk mail arrives in my letterbox, I generally throw away all of the generic flimsy grocery leaflets but will keep the glossy David Jones and Myer brochures and the Freedom Furniture ones that are wrapped in plastic. The grocery ones would probably save me money but being shallow, I just ignore them. Before sitting down to look at the glossy ones, I'll make myself a cup of coffee as if I'm reading a new magazine.

It's quite pathetic really.

I am equally sucked in my well made glossy tv ads. So it was no surprise to me that I was sucked in by the new electric bike made by the same people who make those funny little Smart Cars.

What totally sold me was the way your smart phone can integrate into it and show you how fast you're going, how much battery power you have left, where you are and the weather.

An added bonus is that the ad was filmed in a very groovy city - Berlin. Watch and enjoy:

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

All the wrong reasons

One of the most widely read bicycle blogs is Copenhagenize run by Mikhail Colville-Anderson. He's become a bit of a legend and has one of the coolest jobs around. He gets invited around the world to talk about bicycles.

Recently he was in Barcelona and he had plenty of positive things to say about it and what it was doing to encourage what he calls "citizen cyclists".

Today, it was South Australia's turn to get a mention. It coincided with the news that Adelaide is in the top ten most livable cities in the world, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit's latest survey. That survey measures "livability" by reference to a set of defined criteria. There is naturally a certain amount of subjectivity in choosing those things that are said to make a city livable. Low population density and crime rates seem to be things on which a city can score highly.

As we all know, if ease of getting places by bicycle were a criterion, Adelaide would alas not rate quite as highly as it does.

The mention on Copenhagenize was all about the new campaign from the Motor Accident Commission. It seems to be doing its best to make riding a bicycle have the image of something only losers do. Their latest "safety" campaign is called "Lose your licence and your screwed". The purpose seems to be to scare young drivers into obeying the rules because, as they say, without a licence you're screwed. It is literally impossible to live without a driver's licence and a car.

They have a series of banners, one of which has a picture of a couple on a bike:

Predictably, they have stupid looking helmets on that are obviously designed to make them look even more like dweebs. In any other country, you can see images of young people riding around giving their friends a lift. Scroll through the Amsterdamize website or his Flickr stream and you'll find dozens:

(One of thousands of great pictures on Amsterdamize)

There you go. Your tax dollars being spent on a campaign that effectively says you are a loser. Brilliant.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

A great public service

It is that time of the year again. On my route home from work last year, I was swooped a couple of times by a killer magpie. It was horrible. No matter how much waving and shouting you do, they keep coming back. It started with just swooping (which is bad enough) but over time, it started pecking.

I took a large detour to avoid it.

Just the other day it was back which means a few months of avoiding that corner.

Gus at Adelaide Cyclists has put together a map of killer magpies as a public service. He already has getting on for 2000 members compared to the 4 people who occasionally chance upon this blog by accident so lots of people know about it already. Nevertheless, if you do not, I would encourage you to check the map before you take a trip and add to it if you are attacked. Other people will be grateful.

View 2011 Magpie attack map in a larger map

As you can see, they're everywhere.

One suggested solution is to lose the helmet for that stretch of road:

"Build more roads"

Who would have thought? According to a recent article, little detectors buried at every intersection in metropolitan Adelaide have been counting cars since 2003. They have apparently generated more than 42 billion records which will be used to study changes in traffic flows over time to help with planning.

This then led to a whole bunch of comments calling for more roads to be built because that will reduce congestion of course.

Those commenters who suggested more roads are necessary went the whole hog and asked for freeways. For example, comment 2 said simply "Build a decent freeway system" though what constitutes a "decent" system remains to be seen. Comment 6 asked for an "elevated highway from Greenhill Rd intersection with Anzac Highway through the parklands immediately west of the cemetery and Adelaide High through the outer west sector of the North Adelaide Golf No.2 with clover exits and entries East and West". Comment 49 was similar and asked for an elevated "South Road on stilts above current restricted south road. Make 3 lanes each way".

I think it is safe to assume that none of these people will live near these elevated freeways.

A few commenters bemoaned the MATS plan that was (thankfully) cancelled in the 1970s. Part of that plan was the proposed Modbury freeway which became the very successful north east busway. Parts of the plan have in fact been built, such as the Port River Expressway.

Two major parts of the plan led to its downfall I think. One was the Hills Freeway which would have connected the CBD with the start of the South Eastern Freeway. It would have cut through a number of eastern suburbs. The second was the Hindmarsh interchange. It consisted of a number of flyovers above each and in turn above the suburb of Hindmarsh. It would have been revolting.

A city does not need elevated highways to be economically viable. It may be nice for those people speeding along them to get home but the wider benefits are more questionable. I imagine people living underneath them would not be quite so enthusiastic. A comparison of Glasgow and Edinburgh reveals the difference as anyone who has visited the two cities will have seen. Edinburgh does not have any freeways running through it and it is doing just fine. Glasgow on the other hand is still suffering. There is a good post (with good pictures) on the War on the Motorist blog.

The fact is, building more roads does not solve congestion. There is not a single city in the world that has solved congestion by building more roads. There are some really well written studies that shows the effects of building more roads. Two particularly good ones are "Before and after opening of the M4 Motorway from Mays Hill to Prospect" and "Before and After the Motorway" by Michelle Zeibots.

Building yet more roads merely makes cars even more necessary because the alternatives slowly become impossible. Not being able to get around without a car then becomes a wider problem because people end up paying such a large portion of their income on running their car (or two).

We know it doesn't work. I would really like to us try something different.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Saturday afternoon

So there I was. I'd been to school soccer. There was the lawn to mow, shopping to do, meals to plan, plenty of stuff to fix and shelves to put up. So I did what any reasonable person would do in that situation - made a cup of coffee and put the telly on.

On the ABC was a show called E2 Transport. It's a series made by PBS in the US and is about alternative transport forms to the car. One episode is about the London congestion charge.

This show was all about the Paris Velib bike hire. It was brilliant. Granted it was done slightly through rose-coloured spectacles but even so, the authorities over there have made some great achievements.

In planning the system, the authorities studied a number of systems around the world, some of which had been successful and some abject failures. Whether they looked at Melbourne was not made clear. When they were puttin gthe system together, they looked at the population in various areas of Paris including what businesses were in the area. They divided the city into 400 square meter blocks. Each has its own Velib docking station. The number of bikes is determined by the projected demand.

It has been a roaring success. Not only are the Velib bikes weel used but the authorities have found that cycling generally has increased and local bike shops can barely keep up with demand.

Servicingf so many bikes would be difficult but the company that runs the systems uses a big barge that sails back and forth along the Seine picking up broken bikes from cages. There are people that go around inspecting and servcing bikes. If they cannot fix something there and then, they take the bike to one of the cages on the bank of the river.

The right number of bikes and making them easy to use are key. Melbourne and Brisbane (and indeed Adelaide if it is planning this) could learn a thing or to. You would think the relevant authorities would already have looked at Paris and seen what works and what doesn't. Three particular words shout out at me as an obstacle to success. They are "mandatory", "helmet" and "laws". But hey, that's just me. Apparently, the Melbourne and Brisbane authorities are fairly certain that that has nothing to do with it.

You make up your own mind. Whatever you might think, the people of Paris seem to be doing ok. One drawback so far seems to be vandalism.

You can see a trailer of the show here and the entire series is on iTunes.

Borrowed from here.

An added bonus, if you're into that sort of thing, is that it is narrated by Brad Pitt.

Friday, 26 August 2011

I learned a new word

Well, it's two words really - "desire lines". I knew there was a phrase for them. If you visit a park, it might have footpaths all around it. Sometimes though, you can see a well worn part of the grass that has been walkled on repeatedly. It's like that because that is the way people want to walk. I've seen it too in the Ikea car park. There are little bushes around the edges (perhaps to offset carbon emissions). There are little holes through them where people walk through rather than walking backwards to the designated walk-through and then coming back.

There are pedestrian desire lines all over the city but regrettably they are littered with obstacles. There is a lot of pedestrian traffic between the central market and North Terrace where the railway station is.

A popular one is outside the markets on Gouger Street:

Closer to North Terrace, there is one on Flinders Street:

That one leads along a walkway, past the Adelaide City Council to Pirie Street:

At all of them, pedestrians have to wait. Drivers are generally pretty good in that if there is a traffic jam, they will keep the area clear so that people can get across. However, if traffic is moving, they do not stop.

It would be easy to require cars to stop when someone is waiting to cross. The roads are generally not fast moving and even if they were, drivers would only be delayed a few seconds and they would not get to the next red light quite as quickly.

On my walks around the city, I have only ever seen one crossing that actually requires cars to stop. It only really affects the line of taxis sitting outside the Disrict Court building. This is it:

It seems to connect the central market and Hilton Hotel with a bus stop. It is strange that it is there bacause I do not see it used much. If there is one there, it makes you wonder why there can't be more.

They would make a very small but significant difference.

Friday, 19 August 2011

The cost of parking yet again

The price of a parking ticket has made the news again. Adelaide Now has an article about parking fees in the CBD rising.

With no evidence at all, the article begins by saying "Rising city parking costs sting retailers". Although I have looked hard, I have not been able to find a study that has actually measured theh effect on retail spending of car parking fees.

One of the problems with the article is that it is confusing two things. It says:
Flinders St UPark users are among the worst hit, with hourly rates almost doubling since last year. A five-hour weekday park will cost commuters $25, compared with $13 previously. Weekend street parks also jumped from 30c to $1 when the Council reviewed its fees last month.

The $25 weekday cost for commuters is irrelevant to city retailers. That is the cost for people parking their car and going to work. The question is what casual visitors have to pay. That is shown in the next sentence. Most shopping is done at the weekend and we are told that on street parking fees have jumped (a massive) 30c to $1. How does that break the bank and damage retailers' business?

The council spokesperson who is quoted is dead right. Adelaide's parking costs are some of the cheapest in the country. Not only that, we have a huge number of inner city car parks compared say to Perth. When I was there recently, I did not see any evidence that it had damaged business. I am not sure parking could actually get much cheaper in Adelaide.

The article goes on to say:
Rundle Mall Management Authority chair Theo Maras said it was up to Adelaide City Council to provide affordable parking for people who were visiting or working in the city.
Well, no it isn't. It is up to Adelaide City Council to provide the an environment for the best transport options for everybody, taking into account individual benefits and the wider cost that is born by everybody. Providng "affordable" parking amounts to a subsidy. There's plenty of that already for motorists. We do not need more.

A space the size of the largest room in your house to store your car for only $
Borrowed from here

Sunday, 14 August 2011

While we're talking about parking

When I have work to do, I very much enjoy procrastinating and finding interesting ways of putting it off. One of the best tools of this is Google Streetview. You can go on to the street in any city that has had a Google mobile drive through it. All of Australia is covered along with all of North America and a large chunk of Europe, Singapore, Japan and a whole bunch of other places.

I was checking out the design of some new suburbs in Denmark the other day and after crossing a bridge, came across a large shopping centre called Fisketorvet. This is the view from across the bridge:

Borrowed from here

And this is its entrance:

Borrowed from here

As you would expect for a shopping centre of its size, it offers 2000 car parks. The first three hours are free. If you go to the cinema inside the complex, they will give you a free parking permit at the ticket office.

What is great is that bikes are not forgotten. The entrance is a u-shaped driveway that allows cars to come in and drop people off or pick them up. A wide bike path goes the who way around and then leads to separate, raised lanes over the bridge.

The bike path leads to a bike park with space for 600 bikes. It is difficult to find a picture so here is the Google Streetview image:

This is what choice looks like. How hard would it be to make this mandatory for new shopping centres and large shops? It would add nothing to the cost and its benefit is that it recognises the number of people who do arrive at these places using a transport method other than the car - or who would if they actually had a choice.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Hospital parking

While English yoof are fire bombing cars and looting shops for sneakers and iPads, protests in Adelaide are a little more sedate. Recently, a group of people quietly protested the introduction of car parking fees at public hospitals. It was reported on the Adelaide Now website and in the Messenger Press.

I have my own views about free parking. It does not exist. Somebody pays for it, even if it is society generally because they lose out on a piece of land that could be used for something else. For example, some of the really big car parks we see around big Bunnings stores could be child care centres or schools.

Part of the problem is that, other things being equal, the lower the cost of something, the greater the demand (where cost is not just money but time and inconvenience). I would recommend the paper on free parking and minimum parking requirements that Donal Shoup wrote. The low price leads inevitably to unlimited demand so that it does not matter how much parking you provide, it is never enough.

Occasionally a suggestion is made to charge for parking in suburban shopping centres such as Westfield at Marion. It inevitably leads to howls of indignation. I have been to Marion a few times and depending on the time of day you can spend a very long time driving around trying to find a car park. Charging for them is one way of rationing a limited resource. Often at those car parks, the best positions are taken up by shop owners. I had my hair cut recently and the hairdresser was pleased to be able to point out his new car parked on the street right in front of his shop. That kind of defeats the argument that car parking spaces in front of a business are necessary for business.

Nevertheless, you can understand people's dismay. A lot of people using the car parks are staff, many of whom work at night, and people visiting patients. The cost as I understand it will be about $13 a day. I do not know what the proposed hourly rate is.

Unlike with going to the shops, generally people do not choose to go to hospital. Either they are sick themselves or they are visiting someone they know who is sick. Charging for the privilege does seem a little questionable. I am all for measures to change behaviour and encourage alternatives to the car but you would have thought somewhere other than a hospital would be the place to start. Shopping centre car parks would be far more effective.

Free parking at all hospitals may not be the answer but you would think something fair could be organised. As usual, David Hembrow has written a great blog post on this subject. A good suggestion is in one of the comments below the post. In the writer's city (a Dutch city), at the hospital, anyone can drive in and use the car park. To get out you need a token. Depending on the purpose of your visit, you are either given a token or you pay for one. Patients and their family members are obvious candidates as are doctors and nurses working a night shift.

In addition to a system like that, of course a decent public transport system (with priority for buses and a regular service every day) and a proper segregated bicycle network that leads to places like hospitals would also help so that visitors and staff have a genuine alternative.

Charging people without any alternative really does defeat the object.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

I couldn't have said it better myself

Many blogs you visit have links to the blogs of other like-minded people. It is interesting to visit those when you have a spare minute. Often they become another favourite blog. That's certainly what has happened to me over time.

The problem with it though is that you come across people who write so much better than you do and articulate your thoughts more eruditely than you could hope to.

Rather than paraphrasing what they say, it is better I think simply to quote them directly.

There are two recent blog posts that are I think required reading for anyone interested in making their city less hostile to people getting around on foot and by bike.

The first is written by David Hembrow (his top ten status shows that many, many people are familiar with his blog). It summarises the history of cycling in the Netherlands and the UK and what made them diverge so far to the point that the UK's modal share for cyclists is as low as the woeful share in Australia. The paragraphs about children using bikes and the provision of parking at supermarkets and railway stations are particularly eye-opening.

The second is on the Vole O'Speed blog. To me, it hits the nail on the head. In short, very few people use bikes for every day transport in places like Australia because it is dangerous. It is true that statistically, and using travel per hour as a measure, it is really not much more dangerous than driving. However, as the author says:

the cyclists on our roads now are an unrepresentative, self-selected group. Measuring their casualty rate per mile does not measure the true danger of cycling, it measures the risks to a group who are peculiarly able to mitigate the risks of cycling in fast motorised traffic  though their speed, athleticism, confidence and assertiveness.

That groups consists in the main of men riding sport bikes.

The best quote is this:

It is, simply, objectively dangerous to have metal boxes weighing up to several tons moving at speeds from 20 to 70 mph in the same space as unenclosed human beings.

The logic of that statement is unassailable. If we want to reduce the number of trips made by car (and there are, as we know, many reasons why that is a worthwhile goal), it is first necessary to reduce the danger to which anyone on a bike is exposed. It is not done by helmet laws, educating motorists, pleading with cyclists to obey the road rules to earn respoect, nor any of the many other things that have been tried and failed.

It is done by separating the person from the source of the danger.