Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Bike boost bid fails, finance watchdog says"

According to the Victorian auditor-general, Des Pearson, a bid to increase the popularity of cycling to become a major form of transport has failed. The Victorian Cycling Strategy was launched by the then-Labor government in 2009.

The report, which can be accessed in its entirety here, states that "There was an overemphasis on physical infrastructure solutions, to the relative neglect of other measures essential to achieving the strategy’s goal, such as promoting cycling, educating potential cyclists and reducing the incentives to use cars."

This is bullshit. Firstly, an increase in physical infrastructure is a measure that promotes cycling. Secondly, there has hardly been any increase in cycling infrastructure. Sure, there are a few new bike paths here and there, but not many are particularly good. I've said time and time again, it's not enough to simply paint a green line down the road, jammed in between parked cars and trams, and draw a bike on it. This neither makes people safe or feel safe.

A Melbourne bike lane

Bike lanes need to be wide and separated from traffic. It's that simple. For this to happen, car lanes have to be removed and/or narrowed, and speed limits decreased. There is no way to make cyclists feel safe by jamming them in with motorised traffic. As one astute commentator commented in today's The Age article on the subject, "Sadly, this city was designed to be convenient only for cars, and it will take much political courage to retro-fit it for bicycles. Currently it's just too dangerous to cycle on many roads at peak times. If it were made safe, many more people would commute on their bikes."

Courage is the money-word in this comment and I'll emphasise that point less politely. BALLS. If politicians actually want to make cycling a popular form of transport, they are going to require balls, massive, giant balls, preferably of steel. Because success in this area will, without doubt, piss off many, many people.

People need to feel safe, and to feel safe, they need to be safe. It's that simple.

As a side note, The Age reported that, "Despite recent growth, bicycles are used for just 1.6 per cent, or 184,000, of the 11.6 million trips made on a typical weekday in Victoria, according to 2007-08 figures." This seems a largely irrelevant statistic in the context, given the strategy was implemented in 2009. Surely more recent statistics, or at least statistics taken from after the date that the strategy was launched, would be more useful, no? I can't get my hands on any such statistics, but I'm pretty confident the popularity of cycling has increased a bit in the last few years. That said, it's far from "popular".


  1. In the herald sun they were at least decent enough to mention that
    cycling trips in inner Melbourne and the central business district have grown by about 50 per cent during the last four years

    Um. What. 50 percent growth= failure? Who's pushing the editorial line anyway? RACV? Vicroads? Or are they just stupid?

    Somehow I fear the Auditor General has been misquoted...

  2. Jonathen, you shouldn't let statistics fool you; if we can assume that 1.6% of travel was made by bicycle in 2007-2008, then a 50% increase on that is still only an extra 0.8%, or 2.4% total, which for me equals fail.

  3. 50% increase is a lot better than 0% increase.

    I'm not saying it's amazing, but in a heavily car focused society it's a damn good thing!

  4. I mean we talk in p values of .01, .05 and .10

    .5 IS significant.

    Does anyone actually expect cycling to go from 1.6% to 10-20% in a few years? Seriously?

  5. Could it have been better? Yes. Failure? No. Cycling has grown. It wasn't that long go that commuting in from the outer suburbs I'd be the only cyclist on the road; certainly isn't the case nowadays.

  6. Yes, any increase in the numbers cycling is a good thing. But I maintain that 50% of very little is still very little.

    Further, I don't think government initiatives have contributed much to this increase. Not "not at all", but "not much".

    I believe that the increase in both the price of petrol and the amount of traffic have more to do with the increase in cycling. One reason I say this is a result of having spoken to many "interested but concerned" cyclists. This group of cyclists makes up about 60% of the population and almost all are not riding but would if they felt safer. And I can tell you that they do not feel any safer because there is no reason to feel safer. Melbourne bike lanes simply are not safe enough for people who aren't very confident cyclists.

  7. good people, settle. There is a third way, that I'm fairly sure will make headway. Here's a brief blog post on its potential application in Newcastle.
    Plus I'm working on a book that outlines it fully.