Wednesday, 9 March 2011

A view from the bus seat

I have ridden my bike to work and back almost every single day since I bought it four years ago. It has been regularly serviced in that time but sooner or later things get worn and need to be replaced. I had to get brand new tyres the other day. I bought the expensive puncture resistant versions because it slowly becomes irritating having to fix a puncture every second week because of sharp thing on the road.

I booked the bike in for a much needed service too knowing that after four years the cogs and chain also needed replacing. Lucky too because that evening on my way home, the chain snapped so I wheeled the bike back to the shop for an early service and repair.

While the bike's out of action, I have been taking the bus each day and very annoying it is too. The whole way into and out of town there are cars in the way.

On a recent post on Adelaide Cyclists, the convenor of the Prospect BUG, Heather (you can see her around town wearing a "Keep Bike Lanes" t-shirt), told us that Adelaide City Council was inviting submissions on its bicycle plan. One suggestion she had made was for proper (and overdue) bike lanes on King William Street between North Terrace and Victoria Square. The laughable response was that since the tramway has been extended, there is no room. You really have to wonder what that comment is based on. Adelaide is noticeable for its wide streets. Even with the tram, there are effectively three lanes of traffic each side of King William Street.

In the evening rush hour, it is interesting to watch the flow of traffic. The lives of bus drivers are made quite difficult because if they are stuck behind another bus at a bus stop, pulling out can be a trial.

Most frustrating of all is being stuck inside a bus that is standing room only. It takes ages to get from Victoria Square to North Terrace (a pretty short distance) before you finally start moving a bit. If you stand on Beehive Corner when the lights finally turn green for pedestrians, it is interesting to note just how many pedestrians have been waiting to cross and how many people are on the Rundle Street tram stop waiting for a tram. When the tram comes along, have a look at how many people are on it. It is easily between 80 and 100. I reckon there are sometimes that many people waiting to cross the road too.

(This is the Pirie Street tram stop at 5pm. Trams cause congestion we are told. You would notice the difference if all of those poeple drove separate cars)

The same is true of the people on buses stuck in traffic on that stretch of road. Even a fairly empty bus can easily be carrying 20 people. It is does take long before their way is blocked by about 8 cars at a traffic light stopping their driver from pulling out. Invariably, those 8 cars will be carrying about 10 people. The problem is that each vehicle is treated as if it is just as important. Buses carrying enough people to fill King William Street if they were all in separate cars are not given any priority over single occupant vehicles. They should be.

(In this picture, the 174 has managed to nose ahead but all the passengers on the 254X will have to wait for that car turning left)

Why, I ask, is there not a double width bus lane along that stretch of road? It is an easy way of giving priority to buses. The consequence of course will be that only one lane will be left over for private cars. But why is that not enough? It may be that drivers have to sit in traffic jams but that is the perfect way of pricing precious road space. My own view is that congestion pricing is not a useful measure because it unfairly targets people on lower incomes. Pricing road use by time is much fairer. In any event, as we are told so often, Adelaide doesn't really have congestion problems. Sure, people may sit in traffic for an extra 15 minutes but what else would they have done with that time. If they see buses speeding past them and getting to their home suburb more quickly, all the better. Paradoxically, encouraging congestion is the best way of reducing it.

Don't get me started on riding a bike down that stretch of road. It looks like madness.

We all know why this happens of course. Only the elderly, the unemployed and losers take the bus. I really should get a grip.

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