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

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