Adelaide has one protected bike lane, but what Channel Ten should be reporting is missing balls
Fresh off the presses at Channel 10, this piece about the Frome St. bikeway. If you don’t watch the clip, I’ll summarised it below, but first some context.
It looks like this:
It’s only been around for about six months and for the entire time it’s been a significant subject of derision for all the usual suspects, calling for its removal before it was even officially opened. It runs (so far) for a mere 650 meters, and is pretty straight forward, really. The road is not closed to traffic and still provides parking for cars. It is, for some motorists, the worst thing that has ever happened to them. An outrage. There are two other roads parallel to this one (220m and 350m away) that carry more traffic and actually run through the length of the city rather than terminating part way through, as Frome Street does, seen here on Google Maps. It’s not like there aren’t options if you think you need them.
Channel Ten’s news story reports that residents and workers in the city are struggling to accept safe space for cycling, and highlights the safety concern that paramedics would not have access due to traffic congestion (would, because this hasn’t appeared to be the case at any point). According to this article in The Australian, the city has “yet to be contacted by the emergency services in regards to their concerns”, “Andy Hillier, the SA Ambulance Service driver development unit instructor, said the organisation was ‘not aware of any specific issues’ regarding access”, and that it is the ambulance union that has raised the concern. Pretty uncharacteristic for a union to make a fuss about nothing, no?
People – just regular people, presumed to be either residents or workers using Frome street – provide the vital proof, the meat and potatoes needed for this story. Person 1 provides the hard-hitting, “yes, I think it’s dangerous”. Check. Person 2 “almost got hit by a bike crossing the bike lane”. Rip it out! Obviously we need to allow citizens of all abilities or lack thereof to cross cycle lanes without actually looking for cyclists. Sounds more like a confession of ineptitude. Maybe she needs to hold an adults hand when crossing the street. Person 3, who is just a chilling voice placed over an image of a “Watch For Cyclists” sign, remarks that “it’s a nightmare!” (nice association). There we have it. That’s all the proof you need. Case closed.
But wait, there’s more. Residents and workers say that “concrete bollards make parking near impossible”. Funny how drivers can (usually) manage to avoid hitting another parked car, but can’t manage a curb-hight bollard. Some won’t park on the street, and those who do are confused. A clip of a motorist reversing down the bright green and physically segregated bike lane before realizing their mistake and driving off in a huff, with a voiceover: “Some poor fella got a $245 parking fine for parking in a bike lane”, Person 1 remarks. If you have trouble grasping that what you are parking in is a bike lane, what with all the signs, the green paint, the bollards, the general obviousness, then he must have trouble working out how to do up buttons and use door knobs, so my sympathies go out to him as well. Poor fella.
A few remarks tossed in from supporters of the cycle lane that it’s a good thing provide the obliged “balancing” of the story, and then we finally get to the important stuff of mentioning the trouble ambulances might have if it’s congested at peak times (because that could never happen without the bike lane), then reference a very poorly conceived and executed segregated bike lane attempted four years ago that ended up being pulled out, and you’ve got yourself a great piece of reporting. Bravo Ten. Bravo.
Channel Ten followed it up with this beauty a couple of days later about how the city put the speed limit back up to 50kph from the 40kph it trialed for 8 months. What a disaster that one was.
What did we learn from the disaster?
Well, there was “widespread public backlash” against the 10kph limit reduction, where “driver frustration, traffic congestion, and confusion were the main reasons that the lower limit was so unpopular”. What are the reasons? Surely there must be some good ones? Confusion I can understand, with only a small section of the city being a slower speed. One could get caught out if you aren’t paying attention, but that can be easily solved with good signage and time. Frustration? Vague, but let’s go with it. Frustrated with what? How about “pedestrians and some traders reported feeling much safer with the slower speeds, saying the traffic was calmer, and also provided a better environment, especially for outdoor diners. Cyclists also reported feeling safer.” How frustrating.
None of that matters, though, because the drivers interviewed for the piece said things like: “… I think that’s really problematic being down to 40” (because?!?), and, “when you are going 40, it’s… yeah, too slow” (like, duh!), and, “it’s like a snail’s pace all the way in”. So from this conclusive and representative sample we see that the basic problem is that motorists just don’t like being told to go slower, because there doesn’t seem to be any other reason the lower limit is a problem. However, because someone must have dared them to appear even dumber, not 30 seconds later in the same piece, the live reporter says these words: “the lower limit did cut average speeds by 12% as well as significantly reducing traffic congestion“. Hmmm.
So we have a slightly lower speed limit that makes all road users feel safer, provides a nicer environment for businesses and patrons, and also reduces traffic congestion, but because some motorists irrationally kick up a fuss, the council caves in and says they would like to see lower limits across the city, but “has no plans to do introduce anything anytime soon.” I find the politicians in this town to be entirely without backbone.
Again, I’m going to have to point towards NYC (sorry), where they are lowering their speed limit, not across about 1.5km², but across most of the city, and it’s not a trial. That’s how you make changes. That’s how you get progress. You do it, and you don’t shrink away from it when you get irrational tantrums from a few irrational motorists.
Grow some balls, Adelaide. You’re embarrassing.
Header image: Marc-Olivier Maheu/Flickr