Sunday, October 31, 2010

Canberra Bans Plastic Shopping bags!

Well not all plastic bags as it turns out. There is a mirrored of views on this subject, like: 'I reuse them for bin liners' ,'People will have to buy plastic bags for bin liners', and that 'reusable bags will cause cross contamination for the checkout operators'. I wonder what we did before plastic bags?  People are just lazy these days and don't like change.

I like this video by the Save the Bay (San Francisco) action group and it also features someone on a bike....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The SUV's of Holland & Denmark

We know that SUV's are the biggest seller of Motor vehicles in Australia, It is also said that you can't take 3 or 4 kids to school and go to work on you bike, or can you...............

and here in Denmark...........

They are now available in Australia

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Perfect day for a Ride

Perfect day to ride home from school, on one of the better cycle paths in Canberra we took a nice casual ride home......

and met some school kids riding the other way.....

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The 'War' against Childhood Obesity

The Productivity Commission has released a study into childhood obesity and the various programs and costs associated to help reduce its prevalence. Its conclusion is that these programs overall are having little impact on reducing the levels of childhood obesity.

Canberra Times

There have been several issues raised by various studies as has been highlighted in this report, basically an increase in high energy dense foods and the lack of physical exercise especially in 'incidental exercise' like walking and cycling to school. No surprises there ,you only have to look at the number of bike s in the bike racks at various schools here in the ACT to know that. Back in the day when I attended primary school the bike racks were full, so what has happened over this period of thirty to forty years,. The parents now who were walking and cycling to school are now driving there kids to school.

The perception of safety has become a big issue for most, something that Leonore Skenazy is trying to dispel in her blog ' Free Range Kids'. The ACT is a relatively safe place to ride a bike ,even for school children and even before Mandatory Helmet Laws. Residential road speeds remain quite high compared to European countries as our default speed is 50km/h with some shared zone speeds at 10km/h though rare. That's something we will need to look at if we want to encourage more cycling and walking and also to achieve Vision zero.

Before my kids started school I was not aware of the change in attitudes to local schools and there importance for the fabric of the local community. When the School Closures was announced I received a copy of the report relating to a question that Deb Foskey ( former Greens MLA) asked the newly appointed Education Minister Andrew Barr MLA.Which looked at the number of children within each priority enrollment area (living close to the school) and the schools that they attended.While some schools had low enrollments most of the children in the local area weren't going to the locals schools, but being driven to other schools further away. I like to call them the 'drive-thru' schools. In fact some of these schools, have most of there enrollments from out of area, rather than local children. At morning drop off and pickup there is major congestion. 

We also spend millions on school buses to ferry kids around which is heavily subsidized by the ACT Taxpayer and also in NSW, the School buses are free, which is argued that it reduces congestion, though does nothing for active transport. Parental choice in schooling has been the major factor why children are not walking and cycling to school. The Education performance of the school certainly out ways any health and community benefit ,of attending the local school in most parents minds these days.

Australia now matches the US in childhood obesity levels, though other reports have US Childhood obesity levels at one third of children. In any event a worrying statistic. Note the cycling culture countries of the Netherlands and Denmark, you could also add in Belgium and Sweden. I know that Denmark has been concerned about there childhood obesity levels at there current levels, but has now declined amongst most age groups.

While diet is an important factor particularly the consumption of fast foods and sugary drinks. The importance of physical exercise, like walking and cycling to and from school needs more attention from the relevant authorities. The recent Pedestrian and cycle network review only focused on cycling to work. Cycling kids become cycling adults ,infrastructure supporting cycling and walking to school needs to be funded also.
This video highlights the dominance of the car in the ACT and what Holland has been doing to reduce the dominance of the car.

and a video from David Hembrow's blog of cycling to school in Assen, Holland .

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Intergrated Transport

Bike & Ride or Multi-mode transportation is something of a rarity in Australia and hardly ever promoted ,yet this is a normal thing to do in Holland and Denmark. Because of the spread out nature of Australian cities, this can be a viable option as distances to and from work can be beyond the average bicycle rider. This creates the active city as opposed to the other option Park(car) and ride which is expensive and uses a much larger area.

Bikes parked at an old sign near a bus stop
The bus stop above is a classic example, people on their bikes that want to use such a facility are limited by what you can lock your bike to, some simple bike racks/rails would do. There is some facilities at larger Bus stations but you are limited to some bike lockers and a few rails the lockers until recently you had to pay for.

Civic Interchange bike lockers

The problem with lockers is that if you have a basket, child seats or a non standard bike they wont fit. I think they look unsightly, I guess if your riding a couple of thousand dollars worth of bike, then a bike locker is the way to go,but when your simply biking and riding, maybe a cheaper bike is the option.

In the Netherlands you can see the options available ,and in some of the bigger parking facilities the only trouble you have is in trying to find a park and remembering where you left it.

Underground bike parking,Groningen. David Hembrow

Bike parking at Bus stop

Bike parking at train station
School Bike parking, David Hembrow

Hospital Bike parking, David Hembrow
One of the best bike parking facilities that I have seen in Canberra, is in the new Siruis building in Woden, a two level bike parking facility for about a 100 bicycles. The Architect who is also designing the replacement building behind the new Sirius building will also have a bike parking facilitiy for another 270 bicycles. This obviously helps with the buildings green star rating, and secure facilities like these also encourage this use of cycling to work as well.

Electronic Key card entry
Ground level parking, Siruis Building

What is needed is the infrastructure connecting the town centre to be upgraded. Though I didn't see this underpass on the recent priority list announcement.

Shared path underpass,with unsafe barrier.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Bicycle music video interlude 3

An oldie but a goody! Warning contains nudity.

You can see the making of this video Here!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Milton has a stack on his bike

One of Canberra's favourite sons crashed his bike into the back of a garbage truck. The Canberra Times Reports:

'Canberra Paralympian Michael Milton is recovering in hospital with spinal, shoulder and rib fractures after a cycling accident in Dickson last week.The five-time Paralympian lost control of his bike along Cowper Street and collided with a garbage truck last Friday.
Milton spent the long weekend in Canberra Hospital in a stable condition, but had no memory of what had caused the accident.
Competing with just one leg, the Paralympic champion has won 22 international ski racing medals and is the fastest snow skier in the world with a disability.
In 2007, Milton also began competing in cycling, winning gold medals at the 2007 and 2008 Australian Track Cycling Championships and overcoming oesophageal cancer to gain selection for the Beijing Paralympic Games.'

This man has certainly had it tough, losing a leg at an early age due to Cancer then going on to win paraolympic gold in skiing and world downhill speed skiing records and then turning his abilities to cycling. If losing a leg wasn't bad enough he then had been diagnosed with oesphageal cancer. He fully recovered after having his oesphagus removed, and then qualifying for the Beijing Games.

Get well soon Michael, you are an inspiration to us all!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Priority works announced

Last year the ACT government commissioned a consultant to prioritize future works in the Pedestrian and Bike path network. At the top of the list is the much muted Civic cycle loop which the Canberra cycle lobby group Pedal Power has been lobbying for. This is a loop of the city will have physically protected cycle lanes. One section of the the loop will be a shared zone, which is on Bunda street.

Bunda Street ,Google View
View Larger Map

As you know I am a big supporter of separated facilities using international best practice ,yet I am surprised that Pedal Power are lobbying for such facilities as they have said that cycle lanes are a 'safe a practical choice' arguing that 'mere perception that cycle lanes are dangerous doesn't make them so'. 

Cycle lanes are used in many countries and in Europe, but there are a set of guidelines for cycle lanes  which are used primarily on low volume-low speed roads. Areas that are 50km/h or less. 

 Cycle lanes are a minimum 2 metre's and are coloured for the entire length not just at intersections. In the ACT and in many Australian cities we have allowed cycle lanes on major arterial roads,highways and freeways without some form of protection.

The Netherlands has over forty years of experience and statistics in improving cycle facilities that are safe for everyone to use ,most roads at 50km/h are physically separated with lower residential speed limits and also in town centre areas. Yet Pedal Power wants to argue that over a short period of 10 years in the ACT, there has been no fatalities recorded on most cycle lanes and only a small number of injures reported.

The consultation was a two part study, one looking at the network priorities and the other looking at behavioral change to get more people cycling. The second study was important in my view to introduce worlds best practice for cycling infrastructure that would guild network upgrades.  That study has yet to be released and was only an online survey.

One of my suggestions was taken on board,which was the allocation of network priorities by town centre locations not an overall priority list for Canberra. The first draft had several works predominately in Belconnen and Civic(city centre). Now the Chief Minister (John Stanhope) lives in Belconnen and I could draw some interesting statistics about the amount of works going on in Belconnen lately but that's another story.

Priority projects in each region
North Canberra (including the City)
  • Civic Cycle Loop - Allara Street to Bunda Street via Parkes Way, Marcus Clarke Street, Rudd Street and Allara Street, Civic: on road protected cycle lane
  • Bunda Street (Civic Cycle Loop shared space) - Genge Street to Akuna Street, Civic: shared space project*
South Canberra
  • Brisbane Avenue link - State Circle to Bowen Drive, Barton: on-road cycle lanes
  • Kings Avenue - Russell Drive to Parliament House, Parkes: on-road cycle lanes
  • Accessible street project on Bradley Street between Easty Street and Town Square, Woden
  • Wisdom Street link - Yamba Street to Carruthers Street/Yarra Glen, Woden: off-road shared path
  • Accessible street project on Pittman Street and Athllon Drive, Tuggeranong
  • Athllon Drive - Atkins Street to Hindmarsh Drive, Tuggeranong: on-road cycle lanes
  • Hibberson Street - Kate Crace Street to Gozzard Street, Gungahlin: shared space project
  • Accessible street project on Hibberson Street between Hinder Street and Gozzard Street, Gungahlin
  • Accessible street project on Lathlain Street to Westfield and then to Chandler Street, Belconnen
  • Chandler Street - Benjamin Way to College Street, Belconnen: on-road cycle lanes
Still more cycle lanes on roads that are considered 'high speed high volume roads' ,interestingly another consultation going on at the moment is a road safety policy 'Vision Zero' which is based on the  Swedish policy of the same name. In the Discussion paper it suggests to consider physically separate cycle lanes on high speed roads. Now what constitutes a high speed road is not clear in the document. But a simple graph which has been ignored by many Australian government transport departments is clear and is a minimum standard across many European cities. The cycling countries of  the Netherlands,Denmark and Germany well exceed this standard.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Separation Please!

Sadly on Ride to work day a cyclist has lost his life riding on a major highway in SA. Ridiculously Bike SA and Cycling SA repeated there call to share the road ! On a highway. The call should go out for immediate physical separation of cyclists on ' high speed high volume roads' with grade separation at major highway intersections.

Interestingly in another article a German road safety expert ( head of safety at Mercedes Benz) who has said the higher speed on major highways would be safer also said :

"Authorities would also have to do more to separate different road users, such as cars and cyclists, he said.
''I was very surprised to read on the highway that cyclists have to use the parking shoulder,'' he said.
''In Germany, it is absolutely forbidden for the bicycle to go on the highway. We try to divide the different people, the different partners in the traffic, and it makes it much safer.''

 Germany has a much higher cycling rate than Australia and in some cities as high as thirty percent and safer roads despite having virtually no speed limits on the autobahns.

No surprises that the Netherlands has the safest roads and the lowest deaths per 100 000 population. By introducing policies like Sustainable Safety where there is a focus on the vulnerable road users, physical separation at high speed high volume roads is the key.

Cyclists in the Netherlands, yes wearing helmets!

Major Highway, Netherlands
Here is a simple video by Mark Wagenbuur that makes the case quite simply ,cycling deaths can be avoidable but its not the helmet laws that make us safer its the infrastructure stupid!.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

In a time before Mandatory Helmet Laws (MHL)

Here is a great little film which reminds me of a time before the MHL, when kids were kids, a time when we were fearless and we rode our bikes everyday to school and on the weekends. Now thats dangerous or so they keep telling us.

Check out the Boy's Mullet, a classic!

Here is some classic photo's from the seventies and eighties , makes you wonder how we survived our childhood with such dangerous activities we use to get up to.

Riding to School
Hanging out after school ,watching a burst water main

Going for a ride on the weekend

These days maybe the safest place is in the living room ....................

Yes sad but true. Maybe when you grow up you then can ride a stationary bike at the gym ,after you drive yourself there first!

Ride to Work day

Tomorrow is the National Ride to Work Day with events in most major cities across the country. The idea of a national day is to promote commuting to work  by bike as an everyday option. While this annual day that has been going on since 1998, what effect has it had on increase bike share use in this country. Well according to the new Australian National Cycling Strategy 2011 - 16   our use of the bike has dropped,  though only slightly but given we haven't reached 2% yet its still .1% of stuff all.

There are obviously a number of factors for the slight decline particularly after several investments in cycling infrastructure over that period, though in my opinion not the right type of infrastructure that encourages more people to cycle. If you have a look at the split for cycling for Australian cities, you can see that Canberra leads the nation in mode share for cycling and had the biggest increase in cycling between 1976 and 1981.

So what happened, a major investment and construction of Bicycle paths, arguably the best in Australia which provided safe but not always a direct route to work or other locations. There were several missing links in the network but the focus by the Current ACT Government has been on cycle lanes on roads, like many other Australian cities as a cheap and what they consider, an effective option.

Now I support cycle lanes, but not on major arterial roads with speed limits between 60 - 100 km/h. This approach by Australian authorities is the complete opposite of what is acceptable in the cycling European countries where there cycling rates are much higher,safer and cycling rates continue to increase. Though this is not mentioned in the new cycling strategy particularly from a safety point of view. There seems to be to much focus from the road racing group  in my view not to enforce physical separation of cycling infrastructure on the major roads ,primarily because of the conflict with slower cyclists like children riding to school. But then again when you are hit by a vehicle traveling at 100km/h, at least your wearing a helmet to protect you! right.

Monaro Highway ,Canberra
Cycling super highway, Holland

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bicycle Recycle

No ,this is not a bicycle parking facility, but a place were the old ,tired and unwanted ,unloved bicycles come when their owners have replaced or given up on them. Sad ,because there are some good quality bikes here.

'Millions' to get us on bikes

The Canberra Times ran a story  last week that the ACT Government was spending $2 million to get people on bikes. It is difficult to get accurate spending figures for each year for cycle infrastructure as the funding is for shared infrastructure in most cases and the funding for on road cycle lanes comes out of the roads resealing funding. So when they reseal on a major arterial road they add a bike lane when they remark the lines.

Cycle lane on London Circuit , Canberra
The Government intends to spend $17.3 Million infrastructure for walking and cycling over the period of 2008 - 2012. The ACT Labor Government claims that this is record funding over this period but maintenance takes a huge slice of that budget with very little left to install new paths for several missing links in the network. Focus on cycling infrastructure has been mainly on the unprotected ,on-road cycle lanes ,which are far cheaper to install than physically separated cycle paths. One consultant said to me that you can have lots of poor quality cycle infrastructure or little high quality infrastructure, this with the small amount of funding that is allocated each year.

Last year the Federal Government allocated $40 million which was matched by the states,territories and local councils on cycle paths, shared paths and cycle lanes making that $80 million. This was a 'one-of ' package as part of the Federal governments stimulus during the GFC.

In the Netherlands, Fietsberaad reported that the Dutch government spending is almost a half a billion dollars on cycling infrastructure each year, this in a country of 16 million people and about half the size of Tasmania. This funding has produced the highest level of bicycle use of any country  and arguably the best cycle infrastructure in the world ,with somewhere in the order of 30 000 km of cycle paths. Here are some of the cities spending:

While some cities ,depending on size, have spent less than other cities, this in reality is on top of high quality existing cycle infrastructure. Germany and Denmark have also invested heavily on cycle infrastructure and are only behind the Netherlands in terms of bike use.

So using the same methodology  for the ACT , over this period 2008 - 2012 on shared facilities for cycling and walking ,the figure is around 12 dollars per person per year. How does that compare to road funding this year:

Yes a 'whopping' 500 dollars per person on road infrastructure this year alone, and why not when the majority of us drive every where. Why invest more in cycling infrastructure when we may get the good idea and use our bikes more often, thus 'really' reducing road congestion.