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.


  1. Who's gonna fund it dude? Seeing it in action in Amsterdam was utterly eye opening, but sadly I didn't hire a bike at any point due to my fascination with mushrooms. In any case, it may be too late for us. Then again, when did Perth set up all their separate bike lanes?

  2. And my "great arses" comment is better.

  3. Hello er anonymous. You ask who will pay for it - "dude". The answer is the same people who pay for the large subsidy that is the road system. Contrary to popular belief, motorists do not pay for roads through car registration or road tax. There is no such thing as road tax. Petrol taxes go into general Commonwealth revenue. The bulk of car rego charges is made up of an insurance premium that goes some way towards paying for the damage caused by motor vehicles. The rest goes some way to pay for administering the system.

    Converting our roads so that they provide a decent choice other than the car should not be expensive or difficult. It should certainly be no more expensive than building or new roads or maintaining existing ones. Roads in Adelaide are generally very wide. Lanes that are set aside for car parking could easily be converted to separate or raised bike lanes. It is a political choice. At the moment, the public space is set aside for motorists to store their cars at no or a nominal charge. That is a subsidy and it is unnecessary. We do not need as much on-street car parking as there is in the CBD. Perth has a lot less and there are no signs that it has suffered as a result.

    Decent bike lanes need not at first be of the same quality that the Dutch enjoy (although that should be the aim). The Danes do it well too. What they have done could easily be emulated here.

    Outside of the CBD, there is still plenty of space on and next to main roads and there is plenty of space for proper intersection treatments. We also have the makings of a very good suburban railway system. There is plenty of space at railway stations for lots of bike parking that would be well used if there was a decent usable bike network that led to it.

    In new suburbs that are continuing to be built, it is easy. Again, it is a political decision. We can easily require that new suburbs be built not just for motor vehicles but also for people on foot and on bike. In fact, we would be well served building them in such a way that it is easier to get around without a car than it is with one. See eg:

    And hey presto - all of a sudden you have cheap and decent alternatives to the car and the makings of a cycling culture, a safer, more pleasant city, etc, etc, etc.

    PS: In answer to your comments: (1) it's never too late. The Dutch and the Danes started in the early 1970s. We can benefit from all of their know-how. (2) I don't know when Perth set up their bike lanes - but they don't have that many (

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