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Archive for the ‘cycling’ Category

Miranda Devine had a rant this week about cyclists:

But hostilities were fed by the lies told by the Government and the RTA, which gave cyclists unreasonable expectations and ideas above their station. The former roads minister Carl Scully, a vegetarian cyclist, threw $250 million at the lobby, further fuelling expectations which were dashed by subsequent roads ministers.

Most bike paths turned out to be little more than white paint on a road, with no room for a bike between parked cars and traffic. But they sent a signal to cyclists that motorists were somehow in the wrong.

In Devine’s view, it seems the fact that cycle paths were promised and then built so badly that they are dangerous and force cyclists on to the roads is proof that the cycle paths should never have been built at all (she has a slightly more balanced view today, calling for courtesy from everyone).

I was pondering this as I went on my first bike ride of  the summer today. I am normally an overly conscientious rule follower. If there is a rule, I know  about it, and follow it. Daggy, I know. But put me on a bike, and I become the person who convinces themselves that the rules are stupid, and I am trustworthy enough to break them. For example, today I rode my bike for 10 metres on the footpath to avoid about 200m of busy traffic filled road that was a bit too scary for my current inexperienced biking state. I rode at a maximum of 10km an hour, and easily avoided the two people walking towards me.

But I broke the law.

Many cyclists go much further, and do quite dangerous things (to pedestrians – I still find it pretty hard to understand the motorist who is scared of cyclists). I know, I’ve been knocked down by a cyclist while I was a pedestrian. But the problem is that nearly anywhere you go in Sydney, while you are safe for most of your journey, there are spots where your choice is to do something illegal (but safe) or something legal, and much less safe. Cyclists get into the habit of breaking the law because the infrastructure makes it so hard for them to obey it. And then they get to the sense of entitlement that sees them knocking pedestrians over on the footpath. The local mayor says that gaps in cycleways are what caused the incident that got Devine so hot under the collar.

I’m never quite sure how far cycling can go in becoming a serious form of transport in Sydney – it’s very hilly, and hot and humid in summer. But it’s a bit silly blaming only the cyclists for their bad behaviour when the road system almost forces them to break the law.

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Cycle Lanes

In a front page story in the SMH today, the NRMA (NSW’s peak motorist lobby group) accused the government of wasting money on cycle lanes.

“The Iemma Government is building a cycleway alongside choked Epping Road, despite as few as 25 cyclists using that corridor each day. At $7.6 million for the Epping Road cycleway, the NRMA says that would amount to spending $300,000 per cyclist on a lane that is unlikely to attract many more riders, based on the experiences of the M2 motorway. The NRMA wants the Epping Road cycleway to be scrapped to allow lanes to be widened for trucks and cars.”

The SMH goes on to comment that

“The Westlink M7 cycleway added $60 million to the cost of that project, a legacy of the former roads minister Carl Scully.”

As a cyclist, my first reaction was anger, that one of the few places in Sydney that might get to effective cycle access is being targeted. But then I wondered why it is that the cyclist lobby seems to have so much success with getting a lot of money spent on long distance cycling solutions. Most people agree that the trips most likely to be replaced by cycle trips (going by what happens in cities where cycling is prevalent) are short trips of 1-5 km or so (here’s a typical example from an inner city Council website).

To improve the chances of people taking short trips, councils need to think imaginatively about marking out quiet, relatively flat streets as cycle safe places, with footpaths marked out as appropriate for cycling in places where the roads are just too dangerous. I’ve ridden on this path a few times, which is a good example (although not especially useful for transport compared with recreation).

But in Sydney as it is today, with a cycle route almost always involving some serious traffic at some point, the people who are most likely to cycle on the roads are the ones who really want to. They are also the cyclists who would really love a long distance ride, that lets them get up a good speed, without having to give way to pedestrians every 20 metres or so. And until we get cycle paths that less brave cyclists can use, they are going to be the main people putting the real effort into campaigning for better access.

In my ideal Sydney, there would be good cycle routes that I could happily take my children on all over Sydney. But the situation today is nowhere near that. It really annoys me that the NRMA is campaigning to stop spending money on cycle transport. The NRMA is implicitly saying that if you stop spending money on cycle paths, it would instead be spent on roads. And they may be right, the budgeting processes of any large organisation are rarely logical.  But if we as taxpayers have a set amount of money to spend on cycling, I wonder if we’re spending it in the most effective way. Would it be more effective if it was spent on smaller projects dotted around the whole of Sydney?

Edited to add that the main point made in the considerable reaction to this story in the last two days has been more that bike lanes never join up to anything else. Cyclists are expected to live at the beginning or end of the cycleway, but if they want to go anywhere else, they take their chances on the roads like everyone else.

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Mrs Macquarie’s Chair

This morning, first thing, I cycled around to Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and back. The city was just waking up, with volunteers out early getting ready for various Australia Day events. There were bunches of volunteers meticulously sweeping the streets ready for the Australia Day 10k wheelchair race.

There were queues of vintage cars patiently waiting to turn into Macquarie St to get to Hyde Park for their vintage car rally (with their 60 something drivers debating whether they were allowed to carry their Australian flags – really I think that silly banning of the flag at the Big Day Out has done more harm than good).

And there were lots of people in wetsuits at the Opera House getting ready for the surfboard race over to McMahons Point.

I lost energy about 300m before the end – unfortunately still with a hill to climb to get home. Not especially fast, but I do feel as if I’ve had some exercise.

Happy Australia Day!

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Cycling to work

I cycled to work today, which is not that much of an achievement, given its 4.5 km, but I still feel proud. A few observations:

  • there are heaps more people cycling to work these days – I reckon twice as many as when I last cycled to work more than a year ago
  • it’s still really annoying that you have to climb three flights of stairs to get on to the Harbour Bridge
  • It’s quite ironic that the City of Sydney has cycle paths converging from all directions, but none at all in town, even though traffic moves not much faster than a bike through town
  • It’s amazing how much pedestrians rely on their hearing, rather than looking, when deciding to cross a road

But I proved to myself that I can do it, that every bit of the journey works, and I fully intend to do it once a week – at least until the end of daylight saving.

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