Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Ahead of the pack

A recent article, that made it to the front page, told a lot of us what we already knew - that for some routes in the morning rush hour, it is quicker to ride a bike. The RAA tested four routes using a car, bike, bus, train and tram and on three out of the four, it was the bike that was quickest - by a fair margin.

The testing was actually quite vigorous. This was how it was described on the Adelaide Cyclists forum:

The experiment and subsequent report was produced really with the type of person in mind who has considered using alternate modes of transport for their commute into work but who has never gotten round to actually doing so. I appreciate that there is likely to be some scepticism around the results, but I can assure you all that our aim was to be as fair and objective as possible within the experiment. For instance, the start time for each survey varied to accommodate the departure times for public transport, but were generally between 8-8.15am. We picked start points according to where public transport infrastructure (train/tram) was in place, but with a distance of no more than 10km away from the city. I appreciate that many people live more than 10kms away, but one of the considerations that we had in the report was for people who may wish to consider driving to a park n ride and then cycling the rest of the way to their destination. I think that Glenelg, Mitcham and Paradise offer an ideal case in point for this option. In some cases (Mitcham and Paradise) it is possible to drive/cycle and get to the city quicker than just driving the entire journey.

Given that the bike was fastest 3 out of 4 times, the question then is why we do not have a more balanced use of the different modes available. Again, I think the RAA hits it on the head when they say:

Our official position is one that it is all well and good to try to encourage more people to use alternative modes of transport, but those options/infrastructure need to be in place in order to encourage people to use them in the first place.

Such a statement is intuitively correct. It is where the work is needed.

The newspaper report of the experiment led to a couple of interesting comments on the radio that morning. One was:

it's 80 km from Gawler to Seaford. When are people going to realise that cycling is just not viable for some?

The speaker chose the suburb furthest to the north and the one furthest to the south to make his point. Of course nobody would ride that distance but very few drive it either. I should add that both suburbs are served by trains.

Also, the presenter who said that commutes every day by car from Unley to the CBD - a distance of about 3km. Not just bikeable but walkable. He has every right to drive that distance every day - nobody is stopping him - but his neighbours might give the alternative some thought.

Progress will not come from radio presenters it seems.

I actually think, like most things, it will come from people and businesses. There is a whole movement of people quietly doing their thing to effect positive change in all sorts of areas.

We have all heard of the local company 'On The Run'. They seem to own every second petrol station in the entire metropolitan area and they load them up with all sorts of franchises so that when you walk into the shop, there is no end of things on offer.

I remember growing up when at night and on a Sunday, the only thing open was the local servo and the choice was woeful. And what little there was available was overpriced. These people changed all that with a simple and genius business model. They have done very well out of it and good on them.

I an willing to bet that they will be the first chain of petrol stations to install bike service stations of the type you find overseas where you can pump your tyres, fix a flat, oil your chain or give your bike a clean. I bet they will also lend you allen keys and tools to remove your tyres without charging you.

(I borrowed this from Copenhagenize. The picture was taken by Mads Odgaard)

The payoff for them will be more customers coming through the shops and more likely buying overpriced bottles of water. But it will also mean that like the RAA, they get it and they understand that their business comes not just from people in cars. Business owners who forget that are missing out on a lot of valuable custom and radio presenters and others who constantly gripe about changes to the use of roads are doing them a disservice.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The next few slow years

While our Dutch friends, without any fanfare at all, continue to update their already superior transport network, our Danish friends do the same and city mayors in the United States try to outdo each other in reforming the design and function of their city streets, the small burst of energy we have just seen in Adelaide, that led to the very short and really quite conservative little bikeway on Frome Street, may have just come to an end.

I moved back to Adelaide in 1997. There have been a few different State Premiers and city mayors since then. In all that time, I have never seen so much positive progress as I have in the last few years that Stephen Yarwood has been mayor of Adelaide, including the new Oval, the new hospital, Victoria Square, laneway reactivation, Leigh Street, Peel Street, food carts, RenewAdelaide, hosting Velo-City, online engagement and of course the small beginnings of a decent city-wide safe bike network.

Our new mayor, Martin Haese, made a number of promises on his campaign website but it is a little difficult to see exactly what he stands for. I suppose we will find out in the next few years.

Bike SA held a "spin cycle" for mayoral candidates to talk to cyclists about their policies. One thing Mr Haese said was that "bikeways and business do not mix" so, we were told, the Frome Bikeway has to go.

It is an odd comment and one that flies in the face of all of the evidence on the subject. If you want recent data, have a listen to New York's Transportation Commissioner, Janet Sadik-Khan, on her recent visit to Adelaide:

Just as a couple of examples, on one street corner in Brooklyn, a small car park was turned into a plaza. In 3 years, there was a 172% increase in retail sales. Since Times Square was changed and space was given back to pedestrians, 350,000 people use it every day. New York added 400 miles of on-street bike lanes in 7 years. As we have had here, every argument imaginable was raised against them. Gridlock was predicted. But things have turned out just fine. During weekends, bike ridership has doubled and on weekdays it has tripled.

All of that has been achieved on less than 1% of the roads maintenance budget. Injuries have halved and retail sales have increased 49% where protected bike lanes have been installed. And generally, travel times have improved for everyone.

That's just one city.

As strange as it is, that little bikeway on Frome Street has caused more wailing and gnashing of teeth than any other recent development. Despite all of the doom and gloom (which included Anne Moran telling us on the radio just the other day, without any irony, that Adelaide suffers from the "tyranny of distance" - this is from someone who drives to work from North Adelaide), the bikeway seems to have been a success - more so than many people predicted.

In response to requests from the Advertiser and Indaily, Adelaide City Council provided an update on the use of the Frome Street Bikeway and information on the evaluation process. It is useful to set out the information in full:

The Frome Bikeway opened on Wednesday 14 May 2014 and has been in use by cyclists for five months over winter, generally a time when fewer people ride bikes. However, early observations of the use of the bikeway are encouraging.

A survey undertaken in October 2014 indicates that up to 1000 cyclists are using the bikeway daily. This is a 50% increase from prior to the bikeway being installed. Further increases are anticipated as we head into the warmer season, noting that the full potential of the bikeway will not be realised until it is completed and forms part of a broader, interconnected network.

We have observed more females cycling, which is reflective of females feeling safer to cycle to the city now.

During the AM and PM weekday peaks, cyclists currently represent about 16% of the total traffic on Frome Street which is encouraging considering the current AM/PM peak across the city is approximately 2-3%. It demonstrates that the desire to offer alternative modes of transport is working.

From 2 or 3% to 16% in only six months on a bikeway that is incomplete and stops all of a sudden at Pirie Street just when the traffic is starting to build. It makes you wonder what we might see when it is completed and it is joined by other similar north south routes and some going east to west.

On the radio this morning, Mr Haese was asked whether he plans to rip up the bikeway. Using classic politician speak, he answer was neither yes nor no so we don't really know what his plans are. He did not rule out removing it. His priority is "safety" he tells us and if that means removing the bikeway then he will do so.

At the end of the radio programme, there was talk of the "pendulum swinging back" - a ridiculous proposition. Using that analogy assumes a starting point of equity rather than the heavily car-based and very inefficient city we have now. As for the pendulum swinging too far in favour of bikes, if one single (half-finished) bikeway constitutes going too far then we will never get anywhere. I found it hard to believe the presenter could say that with a straight face.

The futility of that thinking was brought home to me only this evening. I rode north along the bikeway on my way home. Once I got to Pirie Street it ended and it was time to ride along that narrow strip where you're trying to avoid car doors opening on the left and being side-swiped on the left. Two guys were up ahead on their bikes too - riding single file. They were doing the same thing and it meant that Mr Moustache in his Chrysler 300 could not get past until the painted bike lane appeared 6m before North Terrace. Had he caught up to them just a block earlier he would have sailed past without even noticing them.

Safe and decent biking infrastructure doesn't only benefit people on their bikes.

The figures really do speak for themselves both here and around the world. We hear a lot about "evidence based policy". Well, the evidence is there - some of it just published. Adelaide has barely started.

Saturday, 25 October 2014


An 8 year old boy's life was taken away from him a little while ago in Sydney. He was riding close to his home when he was hit by a car. He dies soon after his arrival in hospital.

His family will no doubt never recover and nor will the driver of the vehicle involved.

It happened at the intersection of Paddock Street and Capertree Street, The Ponds, in Sydney's west. This is a view of the intersection:

and here you can see where it is on a map:

You can see it is no far from the main road, Stanhope Parkway. You can also see that all of the surrounding streets are long, generally straight and open to traffic. All of them, including this one, have default speed limits of 50 km/h even though, as the picture shows, people live on them. A quick squizz on Streetview will also show you that it is a very new sub-division.

The roads are quite wide, very smooth and have long sight lines. The curves into side streets are generous and allow turns to be taken at a decent speed - despite give way rules involving pedestrians walking along the street being turned off.

The little boy was riding on the road (rather than the pavement which is on only one side of the road) and, tragically, he failed to give way.

It does seem an extraordinarily high price to pay for a simple and understandable error.

How can we have a road system that is so unforgiving of a simple mistake like that one?

In any workplace, risks are dealt with first by elimination, then by substitution. OHS manuals generally say something along the lines of "If it is not possible to eliminate the hazard, substitute it with something preferably of a lesser risk which will still perform the same task in a satisfactory manner." Something like the same intersection with a much lower speed limit? Or the same intersection on roads with traffic volume reduced because it doesn't need to be there?

I don't wish to appear in bad taste by discussing this but it is very upsetting to hear about anyone killed on our roads. Each time this happens, we should be asking why so that we (and each level of Government) can do our level best to ensure it never happens again.

There is no excuse not to. And there is no excuse to leave that street as it is with its obvious hazard that has now made itself known with such appalling consequences.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The Citizens' Jury

I don't know if it is a first (probably not) but you will know doubt have read that the SA Government's "Citizen Jury" has been tasked to address the problem of cars and bike sharing the road and how they can do it safely. This is its second task. First time round it was asked to consider the issue of ensuring we have a vibrant and safe nightlife.

With the vibrancy question, in its final report the jury came back saying Adelaide nightlife is already vibrant and safe when compared with similar cities interstate and overseas. And so they dealt with making it even more vibrant and safer.

What was good was that the jury did not simply accept that the right question was asked.

I think (and hope) that will be the outcome this time.

Calls to share the road are all very well but they detract from the real issue. They assume that various road users can be divided into labels (forgetting that anyone could be a "driver", "pedestrian", "rider" or "passenger") and assuming equal responsibility and culpability to each. They forget human error and the consequences of it. Please read this excellent discussion of the problems with sharing the road campaigns:

“share the road” campaigns always fall into the same trap: the belief that if you’re sending a set of messages to one set of road users, you have to send an equivalent set of messages to another.

[They imply] that the journeys – made by the combination of the person and the vehicle – are equivalent, and thus by extension it implies that person-plus-car and person-plus-bicycle are equivalent. They are not. And this is, once more, the crucial failing. The authors of the messages wilfully blind themselves to the fundamental inequality of danger due to people’s choice of kinetic energy and base the whole campaign not on danger, but on diplomacy.

Rather than share the road campaigns, that we have tried and tried, we know how to reduce our road toll. It by using the concept of sustainable safety:

Sustainable Safety is all about prevention - preventing crashing from occurring, and, secondarily, reducing the risk of serious injuries when collisions do occur.

One of the core principles of this approach is homogeneity – equalising, as much as possible, the mass, speed and direction of vehicles, to reduce collision risk. In particular, fast objects should not share space with slow ones; and vehicles travelling at speed should not be travelling in opposing directions, without separation. Likewise measures should be taken to separate bodies of unequal mass; for instance, heavy vehicles like buses and lorries should be not be sharing the same space as pedestrians and cyclists. The basis for this approach – and other Sustainable Safety measures – is that human beings are fallible, and that the environment we travel in should respond to that fallibility, rather than expecting us to not make mistakes, ever.

This has been an issue for a long time. You would think that our representatives would have been able to work it out by now. They never do and inevitably MPs (like all of us) rely on their own biases and prejudices to make their decisions. When you leave it to politicians alone to deal with these issues, the risk is that you end up with this sort of thing:

I actually think it's a joke. That bloke looks far too much like Sir Les Patterson for it to be real.

But that is why I think handing the issue to a jury of 35 sensible women and men for all walks of life may finally provide us with some meaningful change.

I have already provided my submission. The closing date is 5 October.

Providing a submission is quite a challenge because whatever you write has to fit on two pages. Font and margin sizes can only get so small before it becomes a joke. But the information is there and with just a modicum of skill (and a few website links) the message can be put across. Indeed, in less than two pages you can probably find a picture or video and say, "er, yeah, that".

(Danish Cycling Embassy)

Have your say!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Why I'll be voting for the other guy

Not long ago, I received an email from Mark Hamilton; one of the candidates running for the position of Adelaide's mayor. It was a very helpful email. Even though I do not live in the Adelaide City Council area, the fact that I am self-employed and working in the CBD means I am nevertheless eligible to vote.

That was very good of Mr Hamilton. I won't be voting for him though.

Mr Hamilton was one of the most vocal opponents of Frome Street and remains so. He described it in April as cycling policy “gone berserk" and a sure sign that ACC is anti-car. I would be the first to admit that the Frome Street bikeway is far from best practice. It is unfinished, its design could be so much better and it was surprisingly expensive compared to what can be done for the same money. But having said that, it is part of one of at least two planned north-south routes and, as far as I am aware, there are east-west routes planned too (or maybe one is). Not only that, as we all know, the bikeway was the subject of fairly extensive consultation before it was begun and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

Mr Hamilton feels this is the wrong direction for Adelaide and to that end, he has developed a 13 point "car friendly" city action plan:

Not people friendly, not family friendly, not even mobility scooter friendly - just cars. I think the chain of logic seems to be along the lines of (1) cars carry people, (2) businesses need people, (3) we therefore need cars.

The 13 points include limits on car parking fee increases, no further removals of on-street car parks, scrapping bus lanes, opposing 40 km/h speed limits and introducing a year long moratorium on new bike lanes.

Car Parks

According to the blurb, "Mark wants to bring back the days when we all had the chance of getting that ‘rock-star’ car park out the front of restaurants, shops and businesses. Plus, maximising the number of street car parks helps our local city businesses and traders."

That is such a nice idea. The problem is, that 'rock star' car park really is a matter of luck. We all remember the scene from Seinfeld when Jerry's dad got a car park right outside his building. He ended up not driving his car for days because he didn't want to lose it. Trying to provide an unlimited number of car parks is a nice idea but it is like the provision of bread in the Soviet Union. There is an insatiable demand and never enough to go around.

The idea also forgets that there is a finite amount of road space available for on-street parking. Mr Hamilton complains about the number of on-street car parks that have been removed but frankly, the number is tiny. They are still everywhere. When they are too cheap (as they are), they are taken and used very quickly. One consequence is that a lot of traffic consists of cars hunting for a car parking space. You can limit that by rationing them - through pricing. That is done either by charging an appropriate amount and/or having a time limit. You can actually do a lot with variable pricing depending on the time of day and demand.

More and more off-street parking is also a nice idea that Mr Hamilton advocates. Not only should the current batch of U-Park car parks not be sold, there should be plans for the next wave of them. If that is what rate-payers vote for, so be it. But they should understand that by building car parks to provide cheap parking, it is a direct subsidy only to motorists who come from out of town.

It also means money that could otherwise be spent on supporting business by encouraging more foot traffic is spent on your car parks.

When you're using up all your energy catering to cars (because of the common mistake about their importance) you can end up not seeing the forest for the trees. This is a small set of shops in Walkerville. It is fairly typical of the kind you see all over the city. Most people seem to come for the IGA supermarket but there is also a hairdresser, a newsagent, a bakery, a florist and a gift store:

Not including the car park for people with disabilities in the front of the picture, there is a total of 14 car parks. That's your limit. Now imagine on a Saturday morning, you have a couple of people who are visiting the hairdresser and planning for a highlights and a haircut. They will be blocking the car park all morning. You'll also have a few sitting in the bakery contemplating life and making their soy latte last 45 minutes. Do we honestly think that the remaining car parks support the other businesses?

If as a business you cater solely to motor vehicles, you are seriously cutting yourself short. It is obvious that not everyone does arrive by car. I cannot see how the businesses would survive if they did. Business owners consistently over-estimate the importance of car traffic to their business - and it seems that Mr Hamilton does as well. But if you set up a system where all of the alternatives are so awful and difficult that people don't bother and you are reliant solely on car traffic, watch what happens. We have seen it around the world. You end up with a donut city that is dead outside of the hours that office workers are there. If that's what you want, knock yourself out.

Anybody advocating more and more free parking has to read The High Cost of Free Parking by Donald Shoup and address the inevitable negative effects.

Bus Lanes

Mr Hamilton's opposition to bus lanes surprises me. Prior to their introduction on Grenfell Street, traffic during rush hour was at a standstill. Cars and buses blocked each other. The new system, while not perfect, is a serious improvement.

If you're sitting in a car in stationary traffic and a lone bus goes by in the bus lane, it is natural to feel a little miffed that those bus passengers are getting a free ride. But often, even that single bus is carrying more people itself than the line of cars you are sitting in. If bus lanes are working well, they do look empty by comparison to the car lane. The important point is that they are carrying more people. A single bus can carry as many people as 50 single-occupant cars. Should the bus be treated on an equal footing with a car containing one person? No. It is a no-brainer to provide faster travel times to people who use limited capacity more efficiently.

Bike Lanes

I am not entirely sure where Mr Hamilton gets his figures from but he says that of 130,000 workers commuting into the city each day, 0.8% of them arrive on a bike. That could be right. But, he says, cycling lanes take up around 20% of effective roadway and "numerous" on-street car parks have been removed to make them.


Name me one street in the CBD where on-street car parks have been removed to make way for a bike lane. I am not sure of any. About three were removed for Frome Street but please show me the "numerous" others.

20% of effective roadway? Seriously? Frome Street is the only place anywhere in the CBD where a single car lane has been removed. That's it. Where do you get 20%? Most CBD lanes don't even have bike lanes and on those that do, the lanes are poxy little painted ones about 80cm wide.

Mr Hamilton's figures suggest that 91% of commuters arrive by car. If he's right, shouldn't we be focussing on that figure? Is that really sustainable? Is that consistent with the sort of city we want? Is there any sense in a transport system that encourages people from suburbs as close as Unley and North Adelaide to drive into the CBD because the alternatives are so inconvenient in comparison? You end up increasing the very congestion you are trying to avoid.

The rest of the world is moving on. It is time for us to catch up.

The one part of Mr Hamilton's Car Friendly City Action Plan that does intrigue me is his plan to "review and reduce the number of existing bike lanes to end up with a tightly defined, safe, bike lane network that doesn’t conflict with city traffic". When that point is viewed in light of all of the other "buses and bikes are shit" dot points, I am suspicious. But you never know, so I'll be chatting with Mr Hamilton when he comes knocking on my door.

In the meantime, I would encourage anyone with a similar worldview to Mr Hamilton to check out the latest from Streetfilms showing how our Danish friends are moving even further ahead of us:

Can I quickly mention helmets just this once?

I was minding my business just the other day when I saw a young child being pushed along at walking pace on a small tricycle via a handle that the child's mother was holding. The child had a big pink helmet strapped to her head. Because you never know.

It reminded me of one of the events at Velo-City 2014 and the fact that Australia can sometimes be a very odd place.

Nik Dow and Freestyle Cyclists organised a small protest ride along Linear Park just to make the point that helmet laws had perhaps not been the panacea that had been hoped and, if anything, have had a negative effect on public health.

Disappointly I could not go along which meant I also missed the jamming session at Bike Kitchen.

There was a good crowd to start with and more joined as they went along including a few of the overseas delegates. That ride was the only time I saw Herbert Tiemens (bicycle program manager at Bestuur Regio Utrecht) and Klaus Bondam (Director of the Danish Cyclists' Federation) on a bike for the entire week. In fact, it was the only time I saw Danish man-crush, Mr Copenhagenize, riding a bike in Adelaide under his own steam. All the other times he was either getting transported on one of the rickshaws or he was making use of the free wi-fi on the tram.

A couple of things struck me. The first is that riding a bike along a river (away from traffic on a Linear Park) is something children do in other countries every single day. When our friends did it, it made the news - front page no less:

Even worse, it required a police escort with officers in hi-viz at the front and rear of the convoy!

And it was the riders who were painted as the strange ones. Funny old world.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

What I learned at Velo-City 2014

At first glance, Adelaide may seem an odd place for hosting the Velo-City conference. When you think of the names of cities around the world that might be described as cycling friendly, Adelaide is not at the top of the list. We have wide roads dedicated solely to motorised traffic and it is rare to see traffic calming on even the quietest residential streets. Nevertheless, thanks to the work (among many other people) of an energetic and forward-thinking mayor, Adelaide did get to host not only the conference but cycling and infrastructure experts from around the world - along with a whole bunch of cool other people.

It was a rare but expensive opportunity and one we will not have again for a long time. That was the reason I forked out the not insignificant sum to get in.

One of the best parts of the conference was meeting with people I had been following on the Net for a while and feeling as if I had known them for a long time; members of Freestyle Cyclists, Dr Behooving, Perth Biker and the fabulous Free-Dame Cyclist, Sue Abbott.

It was not until the very end of the conference that it really made the news, which was a pity because many of the messages really need to be reported - for example, Dr Larry Frank's amazing talk on the links between walkable and bikeable neighbourhoods and general public health (watch out for that one when the presentations come online). Having said that, by the end, both the ABC and InDaily had published good reports.

There have already been a number of blog posts about the conference (the ECF reported on days 1, 2, 3 and 4 separately) so I just want to point out one small presentation that I thought was particularly relevant to Adelaide.

After the opening, including Mikhail (oops) Mikael Colville-Andersen's timely and effective "what the fuck" speech, we had our morning break. I took the opportunity, like the tragic groupie I am, to go and say hello and thank him for coming all this way. After a short chat about Adelaide, he introduced me to Blanka Bracic from Calgary. With all of the stats at his fingertips, he explained how Calgary (a city of 1 million like Adelaide) planned and approved its city wide bicycle network and recommended I go and watch Blanka's talk. Funnily enough I had already circled it as one I definitely wanted to see.

Calgary City Council had up to $22m to spend in a bicycle capital budget. They could have built a car park that would serve 435 people per day or, they worked out, a bicycle track network that would serve 2470 people per day. So they decided on the network. Most cities start with one route (eg: Frome Street) but they decided to do the whole thing in one go and to do it as a trial.

Doing one street at a time becomes complicated. Each has to be justified and subsequent ones are determined by reference to the performance of earlier ones. According to Blanka, they were already on a bit of a roll. Their 7th Street route had doubled bicycle trips and pavement cycling had reduced from 25% to 1%. Something seemed to be working.

The benefits of the pilot proposal were that it was easier to "sell" to reluctant councillors and to a public unfamiliar with cycling networks and the benefits of a complete network would be experienced first hand.

Just as happened when our tramway was extended through the city, there were plenty of information sessions and public displays. It was also well advertised. The message was transport choice with safe space for cycling and predictable space for each mode of transport.

When choosing the network, a minimum number of streets was chosen to ensure minimum disruption (or perceived disruption). Three north-south streets were chosen and two east-west. Once that was done, there were three post-installation options available: (1) leave as a pilot, (2) convert to permanent for $5m or (3) remove everything at a cost of $2m.

When the decision was made, the debate went on for 13 hours and 37 different presenters were heard from. After all that, it got the go ahead. A few councillors were still fence-sitters but it seems the pilot nature of the project is something that tipped the scales in its favour.

Time will ultimately tell what happens but I am quietly confident that once complete, this will become a permanent fixture and, hopefully, something that is expanded.

There are a couple of lessons. The first is that if Calgary can do it so can we. There is very little to distinguish our two cities that would constitute a barrier to this. A complete city-wide network makes so much more sense than part of a street here and there. And a "pilot" is so much easier to sell.

The second is that Blanka and her team faced the same obstacles as we do. Frome Street has attracted a fair number of negative editorials and Calgary was no different. Also, read some of the comments on the newspaper articles I have linked to. You only need to read for about 30 seconds to realise they are exactly the same as we get here.

This went ahead despite them. So could we. The answer I think is to ignore the comments but do what Blanka's team did (and the tramway team did) by advertising and informing well. That way you do not need to respond directly to the negative carping. While I was reading up on Blanka's work after I had heard her presentation, there was a highly relevant tweet from Captain Crom that popped up on my timeline:

You will not get anywhere by engaging with nonsense on comments pages so don't waste energy trying.

I enjoyed all of the presentations at Velo-City but especially enjoyed the round-table sessions where we could share ideas. It was there that I met people from the Department of Transport, Adelaide City Council, other Adelaide Councils and from interstate. What impressed me was the enthusiasm and knowledge they all shared. They taught me a thing or two.

One of my very favourite parts of the conference was Niels Hoe's talk (he runs HOE360 Consulting in Denmark and was interviewed on ABC News before the conference began).

He said during his talk, "if I didn't have all that cycling around me, I wouldn't be as happy" and had one of the best images of the conference:

It simply says, "On her own".


Update: 14.6.14
Blanka kindly emailed me to point out a couple of factual errors I had made. They have now been corrected. And, dammit, I spelt Mikael's name wrong. My apologies.

Update 27.6.14
The talk by Larry Frank I mentioned above has been posted to YouTube. It is a must-see. 

Disappointingly, family commitments got in the way of me attending what by the sounds of it was the highlight of the entire conference - a free evening at Bike Kitchen in Bowden with speakers including Mikael Colville-Andersen, Stephen Fleming and Sue Abbott. I had to follow it jealously via Twitter. Still, what can you do? It doesn't matter. They were here, they inspired and Adelaide is the better for it. It's up to us to keep the momentum.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Frome Street Part 2

In an excellent speech a short while ago, David Burton, the Convenor of the Adelaide 2050 group, pointed out that Adelaide's CBD has one tram line, one railway station and, as from a few weeks ago, one segregated bike lane.

And oh my goodness, has that segregated bike lane caused some frothing at the mouth.

They are still talking about it on the radio and the congestion it is apparently going to cause. Forget that traffic movements on that part of the street are 10,000 a day - the same as Rundle and Hindley Streets, both of them only one lane each way.

Forget that Frome Street does not even take traffic across the whole CBD. Until a few decades ago, it was a couple of tiny lanes. They were widened and a whole bunch of historic buildings flattened to make way for what was to be a wide north-south arterial right through the CBD - a bit like most of the other roads except that was potentially even wider. As things turned out, it never went anywhere.

Forget also that this was the subject of extensive consultation which resulted in overwhelming majority support. The bleaters and moaners were asleep at the wheel (literally!) when that happened.

Stage 2 of the consultation will begin soon to begin the next phase of what will become a (hopefully the first and not the only) dedicated north-south bike route through the city. The next phase is Pirie Street to North Terrace:

This part of Frome Street is much busier than than the length with the completed bike lane. Traffic volume (motorised that is) is about 15,000 vehicles a day. Accordingly, it will be very difficult to argue successfully for the removal of a lane of traffic. It is apparently needed. Close to North Terrace, the right hand lane is needed so that it can be blocked by buses that are held up trying to turn right. The left lane is then used by traffic speeding down the hill towards the bottleneck near the zoo where two lanes become one again. It all makes a lot of sense.

Bearing in mind that we are more than likely going to be stuck with two lanes of traffic each side of the road, the obvious answer is to remove the lane of parking. During busy periods, keep the left traffic lane as a clearway but at other times allow parking. Traffic is lessened at those times so the one remaining lane each side will be quite adequate. It's what happens on a number of roads - Unley Road is an example that springs to mind.

This is a rare opportunity to get the design just right so people can see it works and that traffic is largely unaffected. Getting it right means that it will be much easier to extend the concept to other streets and build the complete network that we so desperately need.

Not only is there a lot of motorised traffic on that section of the street, there are a lot of people on bikes too. A wide lane with plenty of space of overtaking is required. To assist with that, the kerbs on the side of the lane should be forgiving - low and at a 45° angle:

Borrowed from the excellent and well known A View from the Cycle Path. The post it is on explains with the help of a short video why sloping kerbs are a good idea.

My only criticism of the current Frome Street bike lane concerns its kerbs. On both sides, they are the normal height for roads and almost vertical. When riding along you need to be careful not to go too close to either just in case you hit your pedals on them. That narrows the effective width of the lane.

For the next stage, we could do a lot worse than adopt the famous Danish design using the half dropped kerb with a lane as wide as the current parking lane:

From Streetsblog

Oor better still, one with a built-in buffer to deal with doors on parked cars.

There are a couple of benefits:
  • It is relatively cheap and easy to build on to existing streets and roads (including dealing with drains);
  • Although inferior to the best Dutch designs it is sufficient for CBD streets because it provides enough separation for the relatively slow traffic speeds in the city;
  • It can fit well with simple intersection treatments using simultaneous green;
  • It is tried and tested. A standard design should become familiar to even the dumbest motorist.
Although as I say it is inferior to the best Dutch designs, its ease and cheapness is I think vital to its success. We know that transport choice and street layout have very little to do with "culture" and more to do with deliberate political choices. Nevertheless, Adelaide's stubborn resistance to change has to be experienced to be believed. The ridiculous carry-on over one single bike lane shows that it is alive and well.

People listen to those muppets on the radio but if things are done right, we can drag them, kicking and screaming, into the future.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Vox Populi

Thanks to staying up late and checking Twitter, I was led (from at least three different sources) to this brilliant video made by Paul Van Bellen:

What is particularly nice is to see and hear the sensible and rational responses from 8 Australians picked at random outside a supermarket. It makes a heart-warming change from some of the shit we have to read in the comments section of some news websites.

8 out of 8 people agreed that we would benefit from this sort of thing. Not only by providing a choice that is available to non-motorists (like Cameron with his scooter and David with his wheelchair) but judging by the average prices, we would save some serious coin as well.

I'm not sure we can afford any longer not to do this.

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

And so it begins

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.

No really.

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.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Two new Kickstarter inventions

For Christmas, Santa brought me a clever rubbery handlebar iPhone holder and bottle opener in one. It is a new product funded on Kickstarter and is called the Handleband:

I also, not for Christmas, just got myself a pair of Copenhagen Parts magentic lights. They are just great and do exactly what they claim to do. The magnets are strong and stick to your bike frame without any problem. Bumps and potholes do not worry them. And once you put new batteries in, they are bright.

It is only a little thing but not having to mess around unclipping your bike lights and turning them off (often with multiple button presses) is a small bonus. You just pull them off and they stop flashing.

Plus they look kind of cool in their brushed metal casing:

I tried out the handleband. It opens bottles really well and holds on to your iPhone nice and tight. Problem is the weight of the phone pulls the Handleband down a bit. If you're filming your ride, it only takes a small bump and suddenly you're filming the road passing beneath you. I think for future models, the manufacturer might want to make the inside of it (the part that connects to the handlebars) a bit more grippy.

Not to worry though. Using my superior creativity and imagination, I cleverly fashioned a grippy bit for the handlebars by using a patch from a puncture repair kit.

And so here's the first attempt at filming my commute:

It's not the most direct route but one I have perfected over time to minimise exposure to busy roads. It seems I am not alone in that respect.

There are lots of places throughout the route where you will see scope of improvement and masses of potential for decent cycling infrastructure. I apologise for the bumpy picture. A lot of that is due I am afraid to a combination of smaller than usual wheels and shocking road surfaces. Ironically, once you get to about the 2:45 min mark, probably the worst surface is the separated shared walking and cycling path!

If you're coming to VeloCity 2014 in Adelaide, perhaps take notes and tell our decision makers what needs to be done.

And watch out for the lone schoolgirl riding her bike to school - a rare sight indeed.

See you in May.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Light Bulb Moment

I had a light bulb moment the other day. I was sitting flicking through tweets on Twitter when I came across the following tweet and response:

He's absolutely right of course.

If you are campaigning for a multi-modal city, one that gives choices for ways of getting around, simply shouting at motorists doesn't work. It just creates more of the 'them and us' attitude that seems to be evident in articles in cheap newspapers but in reality I am not sure exists.

Making things unnecessarily difficult just leads to resentment - especially when there is no alternative. By itself, removing parking or charging more for it will not reduce the amount of driving unless there is something reasonable to switch to.

As we all know, while well intentioned, 800mm wide painted bike lanes on main roads (and even then on only some of them) do not make taking an alternative to the car viable. On top of that, when you get to your destination, even the simple act of unravelling your lock and finding something to lock your bike to is an added inconvenience compared to pushing your bike into a space near the door and just flicking the wheel lock into place.

And despite claims that putting on a helmet and storing it when you get to your destination isn't a hassle,let's be honest - it is.

The answer, as we have seen from those places that work, is to make the alternatives simple and easy. And that means simple and easy relative to the car. If it is more hassle than taking the car, no rational person will bother.

Based on my very limited knowledge and based on what I have read, the unbroken network of cycle routes is a pre-requisite. Another absolute pre-requisite is avoiding conflict between different and incompatible transport modes by unravelling their routes.

From what I can tell, if you want to make that work over here in Australia, it does not mean digging up suburbs and starting again. We have seen how old suburbs can be brought into the modern age.

It is on those roads that because of differences in speed and mass that bikes and cars must be physically separated. To use an analogy from the London Underground, for those who are interested in these things, the Picadilly and District lines meet each other when the Picadilly comes from under the ground at Baron's Court in the west. They then both run paralled to each other as far as Acton Town. The District Line trains stop everywhere but the Picadilly Line trains speed through only stopping at Hammersmith and Turnham Green (but then only during rush hours):

A picture of the station shows that the two are kept separate:

Chiswick Park - Borrowed from Wikipedia Commons

The Picadilly Line trains speed through on the centre tracks.

Compare that with Aldgate East (in the east) where the District Line and Hammersmith & City Line meet each other:

Trains are the same size and as they travel further east towards Barking, they all stop at the same stations. Consequently, you don't need the separation:

Aldgate East - Borrowed from Wikipedia Commons

All trains run on the same tracks.

The analogy is a bit of a stretch I know but you get my point. Where people live, there is no reason to have motorised traffic speeding through at 50km/h or whatever the default speed limit might be. It is astounding that we still allow that in the 21st century. It is not any inconvenience to motorists to limit them to through routes that are designated as such. Once cars are slowed down and their numbers are reduced to those who actually have business in the street then like at Aldgate East, cars and bikes can comfortably share.

However once you get to more main through routes, you need to go back and have a look at Chiswick Park and see what you can do to unravel modes in other physical ways.

Motorists still get to go everywhere and store their car when they get there but they use routes that are appropriate for that. If their journey is made longer, it is only marginally and it is done so not to make life difficult for them but as part of a wider, sensible and more balanced transport and urban planning policy.

But we know this already, don't we?

Saturday, 1 March 2014

Urban Planning Fails

I was in Port Augusta recently for work. Like many South Australian country towns it is quite small and easily navigable. It is divided in to. Port Augusta itself is about 3km by 3km. Port Augusta west is on the other side of the river and is about half the size. Also like most small country towns, despite the small size, everyone (that is, everyone) gets around by car. That could easily change of course with a dash of design change and a dollop of political will.

Port Augusta has a bit of a poor reputation but it is actually a very attractive town. One of its assets is its waterfront. The centre of town borders the water. On the Port Augusta side is an old wooden quay that still has the old narrow gauge railway lines on it:

Next to that is a shared bike and walking path in between well manicured lawns:

You would think that would be fairly valuable real estate that would be taken advantage of in any planning decisions but what faces it?

The arse-end of Big W and a car park!

You have to walk a bit further and then cross the car park to see the entrance. Even then it doesn't even face the water:

You would hope in time that as those places are redeveloped the buildings and the car park might swap places and windows might be used. Big W and Woolworths (both part of the same retail group) share that area. If the idea was to attract people and try and keep them there, you might think a food court or something with windows facing the water might be a draw card.

Unfortunately, the space has been wasted and we have a beige box, the type of which you could see in any car park across the nation, without any regard to its surroundings. Still, we know now. That space will one day be redeveloped and there will be some connection between it and the water.

Just sayin'

Sunday, 16 February 2014


Our family recently had a beach day with close friends. While the children were doing their thing, we dads were staying cool by standing in the sea. Dad 2 told me about a book well worth reading; by Don Miguel Ruiz, it is called "The Four Agreements". Without spoiling the book I can tell you the four agreements are these: Be impeccable with your word. Don't take anything personally. Don't make assumptions. Always do your best. It's the how and why you should do these things that make the book worth reading.

I haven't read it - yet - and so I am in so position to comment on what it all means. If I tried, I would most certainly be breaking the third agreement about not making assumptions.

But you can see assumptions being made all of the time. On a topic I am interested in, there was an article not long ago on the local newspaper site. Despite our unique in the world life-saving mandatory helmet laws, there has been a sharp rise in the number of people on bicycles killed or injured in the last decade. If you go by the comments, the answer to all of the carnage is bike registration.

Another article (in which the headline set out clearly the assumption) spoke about the daily "battle" on our roads. The answer to that one, suprisingly, is the same.

And then on top of that, I was driving one day just after the new year and listening to talkback in the morning. The usual guy was away so they had a stand-in - quite a well known radio personality. I got the impression that it was not a busy day and that the lady who had rung in and was talking was the only one. She had almost a free run to talk about all of her gripes.

All the usual topics were there and it did not take long for her to get to "those" cyclists. Billions of dollars were spent on thousands of kilometres of bike lanes - which were never used - and roads were narrowed everywhere because of it. What made it worse is that the idiot presenter did not challenge or question any of it. I thought about pulling over and responding but there is honestly no point.

From my very helpful discussion in the sea, a couple of things can be said about all the garbage on the comments pages and on talkback radio. The first is that it should not be taken personally. Even though it seems to be targeted personally it is not. What we are reading and hearing is a whole bunch of assumptions and out-group homogeneity bias. Which leads to the second point - when you hear and read this stuff, how many assumptions are being made?
  • Is there a "battle"?
  • Will registration reduce injuries?
  • Does everyone run red lights?
  • Do motorists pay for roads?
  • Is removing parking bad for business?
Just on the topic of that last one, you might think just a little bit of research or just looking around might reveal an answer to that one. This is Magill Road on a Saturday afternoon:

It is one of the main arterial roads travelling east-west and linking the eastern suburbs with the CBD. It has two lanes each side and a speed limit of 60 km/h. As you can guess, during rush hour traffic does not reach anywhere near that speed. At other times of the day, cars can park on the outer lanes as you see in the picture. Now the picture shows just part of the road - a group of shops. You can see seven cars parked. You could maybe fit 8 or 9 along that stretch.

The stretch consists of about 6 businesses - let's call it 8 or 9 to be generous. That means one car per business. Let's be generous again and assume that each car brought five people. If our assumption is correct, that means five people per business (those people arriving and leaving together) as long as the cars are parked there. And we don't know how long they will be there. For all we know, the occupants could have nipped across the road to the pub for a couple of pints.

Is it really that good for business or is there perhaps another more effective way of getting people to come past?

Note also how the road is too narrow for anything but four lanes of motorised traffic.

Assumptions. Not only that but as we all do most of the time, when you call into talkback or put a comment on a news article, you are generally having a conversation with yourself. A bit like writing your own blog.

Toltec wisdom says ignore it and don't take it personally. Although 300-odd comments on one article seems like a lot, in reality it isn't. And many of those comments are from the same people. I know I posted about 5 while I was having a conversation with myself. For all we know, we're looking at a single bus-load of people.

I should say I am equally guilty. I remember standing at a bbq talking about an airline, how crap it is and how it could easily use larger aeroplanes for busy morning and afternoon flights. A short discussion with someone who had just a basic idea revealed just how little I knew (zero) and how much of what I was saying was just a bunch of garbage I had invented while talking to myself. Stopping, listening and properly researching can sometimes pay handsome dividends.

We should simply ignore all of that white noise on talkback and on the whingers pages of the newspaper. Speak to most people and they support changes. The objectors I think are a loud minority.

Rather than trying to answer the repeated nonsense based on false assumptions and biases, the focus of course needs to be on decision makers. Each time a transport plan or other change is the subject of consultation, we should write our own submission. There is no end of well written supportive argument. Just go to any of the blogs in the top right hand corner. Two quick examples: Charles Sturt Council is inviting submissions on its transport plan for the north west (due date in 7 March). The closing date for submissions on the State Government's Integrated Transport and Land Use Plan has passed but hey, there's no harm in writing anyway even if you're late.

From hearing one of the responsible people speak one day, I can tell you they really want this feedback.

That clever fellow Dr Behooving recently published a post on Cycle-Space that made a similar point about targeting decision makers. I promise I did not copy. I have been mulling over this for some time. Honest. I think it is just another case of odd (but not necessarily great) minds thinking alike.

Can I also say that I would have no problem at all with bicycle registration. I would have no difficulty putting a small licence plate on my rear mudguard (just don't try and force me to wear a plastic fluoro jacket with the licence number on it). But please do not try and kid yourself that licensing cyclists will all of a sudden change things.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

How the mighty fall

In amongst the very many blogs loosely and directly related to bicycles, urban transport and city design, there is one called the Desegregated Cyclist. Its author, Ian Cooper, is one of the last of the diehard vehicular cyclists. For a long time I thought his site was a spoof (and I mean no disrespect) but I think, on balance, he is serious. Only very recently he posted a comment after an article in Forbes Magazine online (if you scroll a little further down, you'll also see my 5 cents worth).

As a vehicular cyclist, Mr Cooper believes that cyclists fare best when the obey the rules of the road and act as if they are equal participants. It's sometimes called "Bicycle Driving". Among other techniques, one commonly used and recommended is the famous "take the lane". By placing yourself in front of the motorist (or truck driver) behind you, they are forced to wait for you to complete their manouvre. And that makes you safer.

It is a brilliant plan but there is one tiny flaw. Most motorists don't realise why some cyclists do that.

That has been Mr Cooper's experience for some time. A lot of his blog posts describe run-ins he and his daughter have had with motorists who do not understand the rules of vehicular cycling or who have placed him in danger by being overly cautious and allowing him, for example, to move through and away from a junction first - even though he did not have right of way. Very often, his descriptions of these run-ins have the title "Cletus Asks Cyclists" - the inference being that Mr Cooper is forever having to educate imbeciles.

Mr Cooper seems to have taken on the very heavy burden of educating the world one motorist at a time. By the sounds of it, some motorists require more than one lesson so it is going to be a long job.

The thing is, Mr Cooper seems to have had enough. He tells us he had a few more run-ins leading up to Christmas. He stopped each time to address the issue. The response was the same - "no one listened". The consequence is that Mr Cooper is giving himself a break.

I really do feel for Mr Cooper. I flatly disagree with his views on dedicated infrastructure and routes for bicycles but I have a lot of symphathy for how he is feeling now.

At the same time, I am not surprised.

So much conflict is built into our roads. Whether you have right of way or not, each junction is a potential source of nerves while you wonder whether the driver about to cut you up from the left has seen you. Bike lane or not, there is also a small niggle of doubt in your mind whether the person (each of them) coming up behind you has actually seen you. Thinking ahead to deal with getting around the parked car up ahead is a source of stress and involves twisting to look behind you and quick decisions about whether or not to slow down - once you do that, you generally might as well stop because your loss of momentum means you won't be able to get through that small gap in the traffic.

The people Mr Cooper is dealing with are not bad people and they're not stupid. They simply do not understand. They are, not unreasonably, reacting to their environment - one that tells them they have priority. And they are no doubt wondering who these weird people are getting in their way, slowing them down and putting themselves in danger (having said that, some would definitely just be turds).

That stress is tiring. It puts people off. As does the fact that even a short simple journey is presumed to require preparation, special equipment, provisions for on the way and a whole bunch of facilities for once you get there. You know how when you go on any short journey, you jump in your car, drive straight there, find a (free) car park and just jump out? No other form of transport matches that convenience here. They could - very easily - but they are presently far from it.

Most of all it is because of what Mr Cooper has experienced. It is what happens when our cities are built in such a way that using any form of transport other than a car (regardless of journey) becomes, as Her Majesty the Queen would say, a right royal pain in the arse.

Mr Cooper is giving himself a bit of a rest until Spring Break. I wish him well. I hope he gets his energy and determination back but with the current state of things, he is facing a losing battle and I fear he may end up like the vast bulk of the population who make the most rational choice based on the clear signals given to them by their built environment.

That of course is the part that needs changing. If (and it is a very big if) we are serious about changing our transport choices and lowering the noise, pollution, danger and cost we all share, we require a fairly radical change.

Mr Cooper has done his best. Encouraging people to ride around in heavy, howling traffic and to take the lane is nice in theory. It is even a fairly rational way to try and keep yourself safe if that is the environment you choose to ride in.

But as Mr Cooper has slowly found (although I am not sure he would admit it), I think it now requires a different approach.

Artwork by Bikeyface, www.bikeyface.com

If Mr Cooper is interested, I can put him on to a ton of propaganda. Here's a great one to start with which was published just a few days ago. Make sure you watch the 4 minute video Ian and all the very best :)

And if you have time, please read this absolute classic from the Waltham Forest archives.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

There are plans and then there are plans

It only took until the second day of the year for an article on cycling to appear in our local news. It's about a plan to turn an eastern suburbs road into a bicycle boulevard.

Bicycle Boulevards have been introduced with success in a number of American cities (Portland, Berkeley, Davis and Boulder spring to mind).

The boulevard is part of a new cycling plan for Norwood, Payneham and St Peter's Council. Knowing that it has no way of changing what happens on State Government controlled arterial roads, the council is upgrading a series of residential streets to create (as best it can) a network. Beulah Road is currently the most used street by people travelling on two wheels. Hence the upgrade plan.

At the moment though, it is just a plan. We are told it is expected to cost between $50,000 and $300,000 and that it needs approval from the Transport Department.

So even now (despite the modest cost) it may or may not eventuate.

This is the main part of the council's cycling plan - its flagship if you will. The pictures look nice but I suspect that in truth it is a stretch of road with snazzy signs at each end, large bicycle logos on the ground and a 30 km/h speed limit. In other words, putting aside the fancy signs at the beginning, it is what all residential streets should be. The reasons for the low speed limit are to allow sharing the road and because frankly there is no need to have a faster speed limit because the road is a destination rather than thoroughfare.

In other words, if it were genuinely part of a network, it would be one small and quiet part of it.

We are blessed with wide main roads. I just wish we could finally use them properly. We all know about the easy to follow graphic:

And in a fit of perfect timing, Copenhagenize just published a post about Copenhagen's easy to follow design manual for bicycle infrastructure and parking. Adopt something like that, apply it each time a road is resurfaced or undergoes maintenance and before you know what has happened, 15 years have passed and you have transformed your city.

Despite my moaning, one thing I think is certain is that this will be a success. Bicycle traffic will increase along it and it should in time lead to more of them in other areas. It won't result in the end of the world for motorists. People will still be able to park and reach their houses.

I only have one wish. Please, please, please let us not refer to it as a "super" route. It is an improvement on what was there before but it does not deserve the title "super".

These are only slow baby steps and we are yet again copying from a city that itself has only taken baby steps and not copied what really works - but there you go. It is something.

Incidentally, do not bother going to the comments on the news article - they contain the same tired old dreary nonsense. Over something that in the scheme of things costs peanuts. And is not even definite anyway.