You could almost have set your watch by it. The extensive and widely-publicised consultation about the Frome Street Bikeway seems to have been largely ignored but now that construction has begun, the howls of protest begin accompanied by, dare I say it, perhaps a little hyperbole?
You honestly would not believe some of the things that have been said and written: cyclists are privileged and there needs to be some balance.
We are told that short stretch of protected bike lane is going to cause traffic chaos don't you know. Columnists have added their negative two-cents worth and one journalist has gone so far as to make a short film about it. He is one of the presenters of the Matt and Dave Breakfast radio show on ABC 891. I think you pronounce it Matt'n'Dave (like salt 'n' vinegar chips).
Here he goes:
What Matt says requires some comment.
The first point is bike lanes on the other side of parked cars are not just common in most other countries, they are best practice. Instead of cyclists being used to protect parked cars, it is the other way around. The weird thing is though, parked cars don't really need much protection from passing traffic. Motorists as a rule drive in a straight line and do not sideswipe parked cars. If it does happen, it is rare. Having said that, as we all know from bitter experience, travelling by bike between parked cars and fast-moving traffic is just unpleasant and dangerous. Each door is a potential danger and cause of stress. If you are forced to brake suddenly or swerve, you can only cross your fingers that the motorist behind you has given you sufficient space.
It is a terrible system and it is about time we stopped purposely putting people in danger in that way. This bikeway is a start.
Matt's first objection is that cars wanting to park have to stop and reverse. At 0:50, he says the consequnce will be that "traffic's banking up". Frankly, this objection is laughable. The pre-bikeway Frome Road had parallel parking. I don't recall traffic being banked up then. And what about on nearby Carrington Street? That is a two-lane road with parallel parking. Where is all of the banked up traffic on that street? What about Wright Street, Halifax Street, Gouger Street, Rundle Street, Waymouth Street, Pirie Street to name a few? They are all two lane roads with parking each side - in most cases parallel parking. Why is this road suddenly so different?
At 1:05, Matt's second objection is that when cars are parked, the driver's door has to be opened into oncoming traffic? Again, I list the same streets. Why no objection to them? The requirement to check for oncoming traffic applies wherever you are parked - particularly because if you do not check, you risk knocking a cyclist over and potentially under a passing truck. It happened very recently in Melbourne.
At 1:47, Matt expresses his concern for pedestrians. It can't be the width of road they have to cross. That remains unchanged.
He begins at 1:57 at the designated crossing point - something I note was not there before. Previously, pedestrians would have to cross between closely parked cars and risk four lanes of traffic or detour to the end of road and cross at the lights (they would of course have to press a button to apply to cross there).
At 2:00, Matt's problem seems to be the fact that pedestrians now have to cross a designated bike lane. That is itself an odd thing to highlight. Even before the works, people on bicycles used that section of road. Pedestrians who were crossing still needed to watch for them.
Then there is the rather curious comment "there could be bikes banging along here. If you're an elderly person, you'll get cleaned up". Now why would there be bikes "banging along"? What does that mean? Were there not bikes "banging along" before this? And why the sudden additional risk to elderly people? If any person walks in front of traffic they will probably get "cleaned up", so why the comment? Don't we just do what we always do when we cross the road and look?
Note how at 2:12 Matt can magically "walk across the road" as if traffic is not there. No danger to elderly persons. No risk of getting cleaned up. He just strolls across carefree.
At 2:19, again Matt highlights walking "through another row of parked cars" conveniently forgetting of course that it was there before.
Finally, at 2:23 Matt walks "through another high speed cycle lane". Again, why the biased description? Why "high speed"? They will not be going anywhere near as fast as the traffic passing nearby. Why did that get no comment?
Finally at 2:29, the crowning turd in the cowpat - "if you're lucky you'll make it over here in one piece". Please enlighten me - I may be barking up the wrong tree but I would have thought an elderly person would have an easier time crossing two lanes of traffic rather than four. Am I missing something?
Previously, any person crossing the road had to watch for cars and bikes. They also had to walk between parked cars. The only changes are that now there is a designated place to cross and the order has changed. You watch for bikes now before you walk between the parked cars. That is the only change. I think most people can probably cope with that.
There are two lane roads right across the CBD. I have named some of them off the top of my head. Some, like Angas Street, are easily wide enough to accommodate four lanes. For some reason, a decision was made to make them only two. Imagine though if they were four lanes and a decision was made to reduce that. The screams and wails would be identical. But here we are and everything seems to work fine as it is.
Matt did not dwell on the fact that the four lane road has been reduced to two. I think we'll survive. Frome Street starts at a street with only two lanes itself.
Take a chill pill Matt. Give this six months. Traffic will sort itself out. There will be no change to congestion. It will be as bad as it always was. The only change will be that this bikeway will be full of people on bikes.
I look forward to our friends from overseas coming to Velo-City 2014 to experience this sort of nonsense first-hand. It has to be experienced to be believed.