No cycling makes for safe cycling in Australia
So, the latest thing that has been getting Australian cyclists (and anti-cyclists) in a tizzy is the announcement that Melbourne’s Lord Mayer Robert Doyle wants to ban cyclists from the city’s roads.
Oh, don’t worry, it’s all in the name of safety, see.
“Cyclists are very vulnerable road users and there are accidents all the time,” Mr Doyle said. And Premier Daniel Andrews agrees, saying, “This is not about being anti-cyclists. I can’t think of anything more pro-cyclists than trying to keep cyclists safe.”
There are two issues at play here. The first of which is:
The Lord Mayor of Melbourne is right.
In a way, at least. Some roads are simply well over the acceptable level of risk for cyclists, plain and simple. And anyway, he says, Copenhagen does it (how do you like them apples, cyclists!), so why not here?
You know what? It’s true – they actually don’t mind in Copenhagen, and if you read this article you’ll find out why, if you haven’t already guessed (you get no prizes for guessing correctly as this is far too easy).
However, “Bicycle Network’s General Manager of Government and External Relations Chris Carpenter said banning bike riders on specific streets would be “an unprecedented move” and would set Melbourne and Victoria back years in terms of livability.”
This leads me to my second point, which is:
Robert Doyle and the rest of his cronies are entirely missing the point. In a huge, impactful way.
It’s fine to ban cyclists from roads if they have dedicated and fully viable alternatives for those routes. Dutch cyclists are indeed banned from certain roads, but they have a vast network of dedicated cycle paths that mean that they don’t have to go out of their way or deal with any of the infrastructure that is required for cars. It’s a win/win for motorists and cyclists, but while politicians here make a few passing remarks about how they care about cycling and sustainable, active transport, their actions are very clearly in favour of cars and disinterested in cycling. Their idea of separating cars and bikes is to just get rid of the bikes. There is no further conversation about banning cyclists from one major road, while providing them safe, convenient, and priority access on an adjacent one which is connected to a dense network of other safe and convenient cycleways. That’s how it’s done.
It’s basically just, “we care about making cycling safe, so we’re not going to let you do it. It’s for your own good. Because, you know, we care.”
I really can’t believe how they are stupid enough to believe that anyone listening to them is also stupid enough to buy that. That’s frustrating.
Our government is quick to rip out cycling infrastructure without delay and then drag their heels when it comes to replacing it. Sydney is full of it, and in Adelaide there is currently a plan to “improve” the inner city ring road by adding a lane in each direction, kindly donated by some of the centre median and the space currently occupied by the bike lanes (sad as they are). This is a small matter in the grand scheme of things, but it illustrates where the infrastructure priorities lie very nicely:
“The existing bicycle lane on the southern side of Fitzroy Terrace between Prospect Road and Torrens Road, will be removed and a new bicycle/pedestrian path constructed through the Parklands (subject to Council agreement).”
It’s that last part they slipped in there. It’s definitely coming out, but replacing it will be subject to an agreement that has not yet been reached. Sounds about right.
So the point is that here in Australia, even when our politicians make valid points about cycling, they’re failing miserably to put them in a context that actually allows them to make sense (bar a tiny minority). Things tend to travel most efficiently when there is a minimal amount of disturbance to deal with, so it does not take a genius to figure out that having separated infrastructure for different modes of traffic makes the most sense.
The problem is that Australia still hasn’t figured out that there is more than one way to get from A to B, which is especially ironic given that the preferred mode of transport is what is causing all of the headaches in the first place. Your congestion problem will go away if you allow it to, Australia. Unlike an abusive domestic relationship, leaving this abusive relationship with cars and roads for cars does not carry with it the possibility of further drama. There are only upsides. Sure, leaving might take a while, but once this abusive partner is cut off and realizes that their damaging dominance is now over, they will be irrelevant and relegated to the past.
Maybe all Australia needs is a really, really good therapist…
Header image: source