Sunday, August 29, 2010

Helmet Law, the Curse of the Bike Share

The Age is reporting today that the Melbourne Bike share is in trouble and usage in the last month had declined. This was also from a low starting base to begin with. So the RACV (Victorias equivalent to the NRMA) is considering  a number of measures, none of which includes removing the Compulsory Helmet laws. One idea is a fold-able helmet which can be carried in around in a pocket or handbag.

I must admit this is desperation from Melbourne City Council to show that this scheme is worth the millions of dollars it has invested in it.
Bixi the company which makes these bikes must be laughing all the way to the bank. The idea of a bike share scheme is not a silly one, but if your target  only is the commuter or people already working in the city then it really is an expensive exercise. David Hembrow makes a good point on his blog that it would be far cheaper to give those that want one ,a free bike.

The tourist dollar is important to any city economy and to exclude them makes no sense at all. The Brisbane City council which will also launch a bike share scheme later in the year , has said  that its scheme will  be mainly for commuters as well. They must be watching with interest to see what is happening in Melbourne ,but there will be no waving of the helmet law.

This video highlights the use by tourists in Copenhagen to a bike share scheme but it has not always been a success.

Would it work here in Canberra, the city of the car, probably not but there is a bike hire business which is doing well and that is the bike hire for rides around Lake Burley Griffin. Mr Spokes Bike hire hasn't had the difficulty of several different bike locations but still has the compulsory law to contend with. So how do they get around it? Helmet are supplied with the Bike hire and

'The helmets are sprayed with disinfectant after each days trade, BUT, we always advise that people bring their own hair/head cover to wear under the helmet if they have concerns.' Jillian,Mr Spokes Bike Hire

Interestingly the Pedal Cars are exempt from wearing helmets, but its all about the 'risk' isn't it.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bicycle music video interlude

A cool music video from michele lugaresi , featuring a bike of course!


Friday, August 27, 2010

Canberra Loves 40%

Yesterday The ACT Government announced an interim greenhouse reduction target of 40% reduction by 2020 on 1990 levels, with a view to reach carbon neutrality by 2060.This certainly is a strong target for the ACT and comes on the back of an agreement made by all major cities in Australia to reduce emissions 41% emissions cut by 2020 on 2006 levels. 

World cities use two-thirds of the world’s energy and account for more than 70 percent of global CO2 emissions, so it is in cities that can make a big difference to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Canberra's target has been labeled as ambitious and not surprising as we are one of the biggest carbon emitters per-capita in the world, but also other cities have quite ambitious targets like:

Copenhagen : Carbon neutral by 2025
London: 60% below 1990 baseline levels by 2025 
Seoul40% below 1990 baseline levels by 2030
Toronto: 6% below 1990 baseline levels by 2012; 30% by 2020
Amsterdam: 40% below 1990 baseline levels by 2025 
Rotterdam : 50% below 1990 baseline levels by 2025
Sydney:  70% greenhouse gas emission reduction target for the local government area by 2030 based on 2006 levels
Melbourne: Zero net emissions for the local government area by 2020
Canberra : 40% below 1990 levels by 2020, zero net emissions by 2060
So Canberra is matching and beating some of those targets set . Each city is different in terms of its layout, but all have emissions from two main areas such as buildings and transport.

Particularly for transport the use of the bicycle is important in reducing greenhouse gas emissions with really little effort and cost. Having a look at the graph you can see why.

While this graph shows an interesting relationship between all cities and you can see that cities that have high rates of bicycle use for transport like Copenhagen and Amsterdam have lower per capita transport emissions. Copenhagen is less dense than Toronto and yet has considerable less transport emissions and when you compare Amsterdam and Tokyo which is equal on emissions yet a huge difference in density. 

Canberra fits in between Brisbane and Perth on emissions and density. As we have five major town centres and well spread out, it will be the quality of infrastructure  and connections with public transport that will increase bicycle use in Canberra to any significant levels.
What will Canberra look like in the future, I hope it looks a little like this :

 and more like this:

Here's a great time-lapse video from Mikael ( & Copenhagen Cyclechic). 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Bike Racks on Buses

Pedal Power ,Canberra's cycling lobby group issued a media release last Friday on the issue of bike racks on the new Buses that ACTION ( Canberra's only Public transport) has purchased. They are Scania's Omnilink Steer tag buses that can carry 100 passengers.

Nearly half of ACTION's Fleet now has bike racks but according to Tom Elliott, Executive Director of Transport and Infrastructure in Territory & Municipal Services (TAMS) ,ACTION had to seek an exemption from the RTA (Roads Transport Authority) for the bike racks to be installed.

The issue with the bike racks on the new buses is because they are 15 metre's long as compared to the standard 12 metre buses.Pedal Power was concern that theses new buses wouldn't be able to carry the bike racks and thus the service would be abandon, and leaving the use for Bike carry capability to the smaller buses. Tom Elliott believes that ACTION will get another exemption from the RTA for these buses also.  You can here the interview on ABC 666 Canberra ,where Louise Maher has a go at Tony Shields from Pedal Power for issuing a media release that was premature, given that ACTION hasn't sort an exemption yet.

Bike racks on buses are nothing new and are used by different Bus companies all over the world. I note that the Los Angeles Metro BRT uses bike racks and are using them on much larger buses, so I'm not sure why the RTA has a problem with them being used here in Australia.

Check out this film from

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Mandatory Bicycle Helmet Laws

The Mandatory Bicycle helmet law  was in the news this week with the release of a study by Professor Chris Rissel from Sydney University. This comes after the protest organized by Mike Rubbo about the Melbourne Bike share scheme, and that these bikes shouldn't require a Bike helmet ,and is the only bike share scheme requiring a helmet to use.
Australia Was the first country to implement  a mandatory helmet for all age bicycle use in the early 1990's with New Zealand following because our National standards legislation are the same. There are several studies that show that mandatory helmet laws have a negative impact on overall bicycle use.

Just recently on a 'traffic talk-back' segment on Louise Maher's Drive program on 666 ABC radio Canberra, Superintendent Mark Colbran made an opening statement after a recent blitz at the ANU on people not wearing a Bicycle Helmet. 'Riding a bike is a dangerous activity and that a helmet will safe your life'. This kind of 'scare mongering' is one of the main reasons why Australia has one of the lowest overall bike share of trips in the world.

If you looked at a graph on obesity rates, then this graph would be reversed with Australia and the USA leading the way with obesity rates. While there are several factors relating to obesity like diet and physical activity, there is clear evidence that countries with little active transport have higher obesity rates.
Those that enforced the law here in Australia didn't have the foresight on the negative impact and scare campaigns on bicycle use in Australia.

Many people in this country still don't understand the difference between recreational cycling and urban bicycle use and are usually those people who don't cycle at all. Many people still use there cars to go short distances like the local shops and schools. This generation is lost in my opinion and with the lowest rates of cycling amongst school children it doesn't look any better. So until the next spike in oil prices there may be a change but there is the push for electric cars which will not solve congestion and the construction of more and more roads and car parks.

The Racing cyclist  (Helmet & Lycra)

Father riding with children in Amsterdam (no helmets and 
everyday clothing ).......... Dangerous! I don't think so.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Bike vs Car debate in Canberra

I recently contacted ABC Stateline ACT about doing a story about the history of bicycle use in Canberra. Canberra is known as the city of the Car but I guess most cities in Australia are cities of the Car, but Canberra's early pioneers used the bicycle for everyday use, to go to work ,school or just around town.

Lunch Break for the Public Servants 1950
I intend to publish more on this in the coming weeks. But the Stateline story was much more about the conflict between cyclists and car drivers,. Some good video of the Canberra City ,so here is the full story by journalist Jeremy Thompson. I have a small cameo ,trying to explain the dutch approach to cycle infrastructure, obviously you wouldn't have full separation on every road but particularly on high speed/high volume roads.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Canberra Cycle Chic

I was in Civic the other day to attend the Love 40 meeting at the  ACT legislative Assembly and took some photo's of an encouraging site of people on there bikes and some well traveled bikes,

And this bike the very stylish Velorbis with the lovely white tires.