Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Sydney's bike lanes - angels or demons?

Hot off the press is the latest from the City of Sydney about cycling in Sydney's CBD and inner suburbs:

"City takes action on sharing Sydney streets

29 November 2010
As new bike counts show significant increases in riders in central Sydney from March to October this year, the City of Sydney is implementing an education program to help bike riders, pedestrians and motorists interact more safely and respectfully.

Bike counts at 94 intersections in March and October 2010 showed an average 40 per cent increase in the morning (6am-9am), with 29 per cent in the afternoon (4pm-7pm). Growth in areas with dedicated cycle facilities nearly tripling: 124% increase on Kent Street in the CBD; 167 per cent near the Anzac Bridge; and 173% on Bourke Road, Alexandria.

"Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers coexist in major cities across the globe. We want that spirit of cooperation here so that cycling provides a practical, safe and healthy alternative to reduce congestion," Lord Mayor Clover Moore MP said.

"Through our new Street Share Program, we aim to help everyone who uses our streets-whether by car, bike or foot-to share respectfully, and have a safe and enjoyable trip."

"Bike riders, like everyone else, must obey road rules. We want responsible riders who are aware of drivers and pedestrians, slow down on shared paths, and adhere to road rules."

The City of Sydney's Street Share Program will deliver information for bike riders, pedestrians and motorists. The integrated program of strategies include a shared paths safety campaign; "Explore Your City" group rides; grants for community cycling initiatives; a Sydney Loop Ride taking in the harbour foreshore; free bike maintenance; and riding classes.

The City of Sydney uses social media, advertising, newsletters, events and cycling courses to educate road users and promote safety. More than 600 people (70% women) have completed the free Cycling Confidence course and 450 have completed the free bicycle maintenance course. In the past three months, more than 10,000 cycling maps with safety information have been distributed and the City's SydneyCycleways Facebook page has 1500 fans.

The Street Share Program report to Council also prioritises nine planed bike corridors to target safe connections to useful destinations. These make up 53 kilometres of the City's endorsed 200 km bike network, and connect to destinations such as workplaces, schools, universities and parks for both commuting and recreation.

The routes will have the best mix of separated cycleways, bike lanes, contra-flow lanes (which allow bike riders to travel along a one way street), mixed traffic and shared paths. 

Final routes and treatments will be assessed and communities will be consulted to determine the best possible outcome for bike riders, pedestrians, business, residents and motorists.

Ms Moore said; "The City's promotion of safe bike riding and the building of a connected network will benefit everyone. More people riding bikes will improve public health, ease congestion and keep Sydney moving.""

The City of Sydney has installed bike lanes over the last twelve months which have come in for their fair share of controversy. While the plan has been a great idea per se, implementing it hasn't been as well thought out as it could be despite this cheerful media release. There are some horror intersections for cyclists using the paths with high risks for casualties caused by unwary motorists. Many commuting cyclists are shunning the bike lanes and going by their regular routes. Read the full story here in The Australian.

Additionally, shopkeepers are now losing business, particularly along Bourke Road Alexandria because of the bike lanes in front of their shops. Cars can't park in the bike lanes and realistically there's nowhere else to park on Bourke Road. Cyclists aren't using the bike lanes as heavily as the City hoped, either, adding insult to the shopkeepers' injury.

All in all the plan has, in some ways, been a bit of a disaster for both retailers and cyclists in certain parts of Sydney. 

Lord Mayor Clover Moore has hoped to engender an urban village atmosphere, with fewer cars and more cycles, and I applaud her for that. Visions of Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Vienna were all undoubtedly in her mind but I think Sydney's urban sprawl, our less than great public transport system and the subsequent reliance on cars has impacted negatively on the urban village ideal.

It's hard to build cycling infrastructure into a city that's been growing in an ad hoc manner for 200 years. Planning new infrastructure for new suburbs and developments has worked well. There are cycleways parallel to the M7 motorway, and a cycleway parallel to the T-Way public transport road running from Blacktown to Richmond and Windsor; both of these are huge new paths which provide cyclists with a safe road, and they are only two examples of good offroad cycleways.

Throughout greater Sydney I see many cyclists riding on the footpath alongside main roads. It's illegal unless you're under 12 years of age, but adults do it because the alternative of riding with Sydney traffic is appalling. Serious commuters do ride on the roads and most of them have mapped back ways that keep their time on main roads to a minimum. Seeing all these cyclists on the footpath tells me that offroad bike paths, rather than bike lanes on the road, may be the solution to get people riding more. Shared footpaths alongside main roads? I'm sure the Pedestrian Council's Harold Scruby (a self-seeking, publicity-greedy megaphone on legs) would foam at the mouth. But it might just be the answer.

No comments:

Post a Comment