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)

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