Cyclists demand radical change to tip the scale

By Farah Tawfeek

In 2009, 10% to 20% of journeys within western European countries were made on a bicycle, while in Australia the rate reached less than 2%, according to a study published by Cycling Infrastructure for Australian Cities at that year.

The research added that there was a chance to increase the number of Australians commuting via bicycles, especially for the 40% of citizens travelling less than 10km to their place of work or study, or those making short local trips.

Ten years later after the release of the study, the situation is not much different.

A glimmer of hope presented itself to cyclists when Brisbane City Council announced it would be spending $100 million between 2016 and 2020 on bikeways to improve access to local destinations and the city centre via bikeways. However, three years into the program, cycling advocates remain sceptical of the government’s ability to make much of a difference. 

Concerns include the lack of a proper plan, slow response rate and ineffective money allocation.

Green’s councillor for the Woolloongabba, Ward Jonathan Sri, said there was scope to bolster cyclist safety within Brisbane’s existing road network.

“What we often see is that the major parties spend a lot of money buying private properties or clearing trees to create space for bike lanes,” he said.

“I would argue it is better to take road space away from cars. So that might mean taking away one of the lanes on a multi-lane traffic road or taking away some of the street parking. ”

He adds that for the safety of cyclists, car speed must be controlled, “I’ve been calling for a trial of 40km/h speed limits in the inner city, including my entire electorate. There are many streets where I  think speed should be lowered to 30km/h.”

“The added benefit there is not only are you making it a lot safer to ride you are making it slightly less attractive to drive.”

Accessibility

President of the Brisbane Bicycle Touring Association Paul Glennon thinks South Brisbane is not as accessible as the Northside for cycling, “It is quite difficult to cycle on the Southside of Brisbane. For people who live the Southside of Brisbane, the bikeways there are nowhere are nearly linked together as they are on the Northside.”

Another problem, according to the Mr. Glennon, is the lack of a cycling culture in Brisbane, “there is too many people who drive cars unaware of what’s like to be a cyclist. They may not be tolerant of sharing the space on the road.”

He believes the only way to change that culture is for more people to cycle, “this will occur naturally over time, as cycling is getting more popular because it is healthy.”

But he also believes the government can play a role, “the more cycling paths there are, the more people will use them.”

Andrew Demack, advocacy and policy manager for bicycle Queensland, agrees, “we would like to see investment in bikeways that matches targets.”

“We’ve seen in documents that local and state governments would like to see 5-10% of work trips being reached by bicycle. We think that you need to invest at least 10% of the transportation budget into providing safe and connected bikeways.”

He also wants a safer environment for cyclists, “we need to get urban speeds below 40 K/hr.”

He believes the approach to cycling should be more cohesive, “almost every problem we are facing today can be improved via cycling. Cycling would help us battle climate change and congestions, in addition to its health benefits.”