Monday, 25 June 2012

Look Before Opening

We all know about the door zone and how hazardous it can be. A couple of brainiacs have come up with a bit of solution until proper bike lanes are installed. The team of web developers at twenty4 have come up with a cool sticker idea. The project is called Look Before Opening. Check out the website and you can order free stickers that can be used to remind drivers to check the door zone before flinging their door open.

Next time you get knocked off your bike, assuming you're not crushed by a cement mixer, you can hand out one of your free stickers to the motorist concerned to stick on the inside of their window. They'll send you up to 50 stickers free of charge. If you want more than that, just ask. Crazy eh?

I was wondering how they do it and even offered to donate some money on PayPal. They're close to securing a sponsor so order now.

Here's the video:

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Foxes and Buses

Yesterday it rained. A lot. It rained pretty much solidly for 24 hours. The city had about 35mm of rain. Other parts of the State had much more. It rained again today.

When it rains here, the number of people commuting by bike generally decreases. As a rule, our bikes do not have mudguards. Even if they did, riding along in the dark, when it's raining, with cars speeding past you is not everyone's cup of tea. It feels dangerous and it probably is.

Instead of riding, people either take the bus or, more likely, take the car. Hence the increase in traffic whenever storm clouds appear.

People don't take the bus as a rule because the prevailing view seems to be that the service leaves a little to be desired. Our poor beleaguered Transport Minister, Chloe Fox, apparently gets about 350 complaints a day. The numbers of people taking the bus is dropping.

Minister Fox says, "we are trying our best".

And so she is. The timetables have been revised, buses have been fitted with GPS equipment and, according to the Minister, "I think we should also consider increased bus lanes in and around the city." On top of that, some of the contractors running the services have been fined for consistent lateness.

Changing timetables is all very well but a timetable is only as good as the driver's ability to follow it. On our roads there are all sorts of things that get in the way of timetables. Such as other traffic. A big problem we have in Adelaide is that a bus full of 80 people is treated with the same priority as a car with a single occupant. They all sit in the same traffic jams. I don't know about you but faced with the choice of sitting or standing on a crowded bus or sitting by yourself in your own car in the same traffic jam, a lot of people go with the latter. It's not really a huge hassle taking the car into the city because there is abundant cheap car-parking.

Rather than just consider priority lanes around the city, the Minister should seriously consider them around the entire metropolitan area. The GPS should help with that because they will show those places where buses are getting stuck in traffic and where, as a consequence, lanes are needed. If not a whole lane, then at least slip lanes and priority at traffic lights should make a big difference.

Moving people by bus, train and tram is very efficient compared to everyone sitting in cars. It is also much cheaper. Fewer money and resources need to be spent on upkeep and the money people save not having to spend on driving a car quite so much can be spent on local businesses. Plus there are the health aspects that we have heard time and time again.

If you want people to choose the bus, the service needs to be good enough for them to want to choose it. It musn't be late. You shouldn't have to wait a long unpredictable time (I once stood at a bus stop for 40 minutes wondering when the bus might appear over the horizon). You shouldn't have to be stuck in traffic if at all possible.

Avoiding traffic is easy. You make lanes for buses only where it is possible (and it is on most of Adelaide's main roads) and at intersections you have priority passing lanes for buses with traffic lights that allow them to go first. Instead of worrying about timetables, you just have buses coming every 10 or 15 minutes at the same time throughout the day. Rather than a timetable, you just have four numbers printed on the bus stop, eg: 5, 20, 35, 50. They are the minutes past the hour the bus arrives at that stop.

There is a great video (a couple of years old now) on the BBC website about how the town of Lund in Sweden does it. The buses are regular and predictable and, surprise surprise, people use them. The BBC don't allow embedding so it's a case of clicking on the link and watching it after the advert:

I found this picture of Lund here. Hope it's ok to use.

Thursday, 14 June 2012


Here's something you don't see here every day - a pair of his and hers Dutch bikes parked together. They were outside the Supreme Court building on Gouger Street.

The one behind is a Lekker. Lekker is apparently a Dutch word meaning hot, cool or damn tasty. Yes indeed. I have seen that bike parked there a few times and lusted after it.

The one in front is a Batavus something or other. It's unusual for a Dutch bike in that it has an external gear hub. The heavy duty rack on the front looks pretty impressive and I'm sure could comfortably carry a bag of cement - if you ever chose to carry one. Batavus have started selling a few of their bikes in Australia, including a children's version of their Omafiets.

Dutch twins in Adelaide. Awesome.