Monday, February 28, 2011

Second class citizens part 2

Canberra has been overgrown  lately and is looking quite green from all the rain but with all the rain the comes the over growth of the grass.

Recently Mowed grass, next to cyclepath

Copenhagen cycle track cleaning vehicles

The ACT Government has had to spend an extra $1.5million on mowing this summer. just to keep up.
Now you'd think in a 'Cycle Friendly City' such as Canberra we would have cycle path cleaning vehicles just like in Copenhagen to keep the cyclepaths clear. Well sadly this is not the case. Most of the debris is left on the path until the wind or rain washes it off. Brilliant!

Cycle path ,Curtin
Cycle path ,Curtin

1.2m footpath ,whats left of it!

Keeping the roads clear

Though when debris and grass clippings are left on a the kerbside of a road ,what you will find is usually the next day, a street cleaning vehicle is deployed to clean the road side. Yet the cycle/footpaths are left in the state there in. This narrows the cycle path even less than what they are now, and also creates a safety risk to the bike rider and people walking by slipping on the wet and loose debris.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Señor Enrique' Peñalosa is coming to town

Enrique' Peñalosa is making a visit to Canberra , As a follow-up to the recent Time to Talk - Canberra 2030 project, the ACT Government is hosting a free workshop with Mr Peñalosa on Wednesday 9 March from 5.30pm to 7.00pm at the Canberra Business Events Centre, Regatta Point.
Peñalosa will certainly be welcomed though his ideas may not be, particularly for a car -addicted culture town like Canberra. For those that haven't seen or heard of him before (where have your been!) Street films conducted an interview with him a couple of years back.


I have been sending several links to the transport section of Territory and Municipal services (TAMS) and have written a few letters to the Canberra Times about what Peñalosa has achieved in Bogota' and what Canberra could learn. So this is certainly a great opportunity, but when you hear statements from Peñalosa like 'restricting car use ' ,that frightens many-a-politician here. If our politicians only had a three-four year term only like Peñalosa had, then maybe we could get things done.

I have asked the Chief Minister about having a Ciclovia style 'Car free day' ,which would be on a Sunday,  his responce is a lack luster ,'we will consider it'. So I won't be holding my breath.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bicycle music video interlude 6

This one is from Hungry, filmed during a Critical Mass (Spring 2008) in Budapest - featuring 80.000 bicycle riders.
Tartó Béke (Long-lasting Peace) music video from Kaukázus (band from Hungary).


Saturday, February 19, 2011

One of the Best Cycle friendly Cities.

The Chief Minister Jon Stanhope proclaimed that he would compare Canberra as one of the best 'Cycle friendly cities' in the world, in reply to a question on Chief Minister Talk-back, ABC radio , Friday . He was asked why the Pedestrian and Cycle review which was part of the 2010 - 2016 Sustainable transport action plan now (Transport for Canberra), hasn't been released yet and why are we still putting cycle lanes on 'high speed high volume roads'.

'I would put Canberra up against any city in the world in comparison to its pedestrian and cycle networks. While I haven't been to the Scandinavian countries of Holland and Denmark, nothing I've seen from around Australia comes close. When I was overseas last year (Spain) I also didn't see anything that matches Canberra.'

 Reminds me of the saying "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king" .

While I maybe paraphrasing , this is basically what he said. There is no doubt that Canberra has a good cycle network with a extensive network of asphalt shared path that are used by walkers runners, skaters and bike riders at 2.4metres wide and several concrete footpaths at 1.2m. The addition of Cycle lanes on major arterial roads has been the next phase of the network.

Cycle path ,Lyneham
Cycle lane, Monaro highjway.100km/h
Major arterial road with Bus lanes and cycle lanes , Road speed limit 80Km/h

Footpath crossing a bridge ,Woden

Cycle path, Kambah

So why aren't Canberran's cycling more?

While our use of bicycles to work is higher than the national average most people in Canberran's use their cars because it is more convenient to do so, even for such short journey's to the local shops or to see friends.

Local Shops, Car parks full
  • There is plenty of free parking , and where there is pay parking it is relatively cheap in comparison to other world cities. 
  • Speed limits are high in residential areas and around town centres, which makes it unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists 
  • Priority at most intersections are for motor vehicles. 
  • Car travel speed times are more important than safety of pedestrians and cyclists.

Lets just remind ourselves what a cycle nation look like and the infrastructure that has made it all happen.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cycle Education, Canberra

During the school Holiday's two of my children attended the Kids Road & Bike Safety Holiday Programme
run by Cycle Education. It was interesting to watch and I made a little video of the occasion. After a couple of hours tuition, they rode off on a ride around the suburb, looking at the road environment as they are in a real sense.


Cycle Education provides the only bicycle traffic safety tuition to school age children in the ACT after the Belconnen Traffic centre run by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) closed in June 2007.

The former Traffic centre at Belconnen.

The AFP's reason for closing the Traffic centre was on a report by consultants, The ARRB Group. Their analysis focused on the comparison of two Bicycle education courses. The 'Bike Ed' Course and the Traffic Centre Road Safety Package (TCRSP), were undertaken in 2006. Ironically both courses are no longer running but the consultants reason for recommending the closure of the Belconnen site where the TCRSP was:

“Research found the centre's training methodologies were not in line with many modern
teaching practices. In particular, it was found that training children in an artificial environment
could lead to an inflated sense of confidence, which may be counter-productive outside the
training environment.”

Really ! someone better inform the many European countries such as the Netherlands that they must be doing it wrong. The Victorian and NSW governments still provide such programs run in miniature traffic environments ,the NSW program is called the Community and Road Education Scheme (CARES),which is run by the NSW Police and provide outdoor  lessons include bicycle safety checks, basic riding skills and obstacle course, riding on the road environment training track which features a roundabout, traffic lights and other ‘real life’ road characteristics.

What was interesting in the study by The ARRB group that it referenced a number of studies and two that stated:

 The literature review also revealed that traffic centres such as that operated by the AFP, have
little to offer children in the development of bicycle and related road safety skills. Scientific
evaluations conducted in Europe in the 1970s and early 1980s revealed that such off-road
facilities did not adequately simulate the real traffic environments and were not effective in
improving the behaviour of children who underwent training; training conducted in the real road
environment was found to be significantly more effective than that conducted off-road (Christie
2000). A more recent study by Hughes and Pietro (2004) concluded that no clear evidence
existed that traffic centres are an effective road safety education strategy, and it was not
possible to support the establishment of such facilities. In addition, such centres may
inadvertently encourage students to become over-confident about their ability to cope safely in
 Christie's study of 2000 was sighting the effectiveness of off road training facilities for novice drivers and not for bicycle training or proficiency, and shouldn't have been sighted as a reference for the analysis of the two courses. These types of facilities shouldn't be assessed by annual road toll figures, but in children's awareness of traffic and the ability the learn traffic signs and signals in a safe environment. Christie doesn't give a good analysis of the Bike Ed course in Victoria which the ACT Bike Ed course is based on either in another report.
Do artificial traffic environments give a false sense of confidence? I wouldn't expect so as most children and school students would ride on cycle paths that are physically separated from the road traffic. The major issues are at  road intersections, particularly ones that are not signalised. That's when in my view ,facilities like the ones below are needed.

This relatively new site at Sydney Park , Alexandria which opened in 2004 is run as part of the Community and Road Education Scheme (CARES).The issue I have with these facilities as that are not are true representation in the sense of existing or new bicycle facilities in the road environment like cycle lanes and separated paths.

The picture of cycle education in the Netherlands highlights the separate cycle facilities in a true representation of a traffic roundabout. They learn how to react in traffic, keep distance and read traffic signs.

Getting back to the Cycle Education program in Canberra which provides good skills, a better quality facility is definitely needed than just  a school playground and a traffic roundabout marked in chalk. Some schools have better access to good cycle networks than others and are ideal for school based cycle education but a few central facilities need to built that provides adequate cycle training and proficiency.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Northern Ireland backing Mandatory helmet law (MHL)

Northern Ireland looks likely to back Mandatory Helmet laws after a vote in the Assembly was in favor 20 to 18. The private member’s bill had been tabled by Pat Ramsey of the SDLP, who is seeking to make helmets compulsory with a £50 fine for any cyclist caught not wearing one.

Tim Edgar of CTC told BBC News: "We want to make cycling as safe as possible, just like the supporters of this bill.
"But there's robust evidence that making helmets compulsory puts people off cycling in the first place.
"That would have a significant impact on the current levels of cycling which we've worked so hard to increase over the last few years.
“Money and time needs to be invested to tackle the causes of road dangers such as speeding traffic,” he continued.
“Safer, well-designed roads must be a priority and children should be given the skills and confidence to use them, through on-road training and practical guidance.
“For a relatively small sum of money, we could give every child the opportunity to cycle safely and enjoy all the benefits that brings.”

Last year in another part of the British Isles, Jersey,  politicians rejected 25 to 24 the law for adults, but agreed to make them compulsory for under-18s.

Many politicians argued whether it was the States' place to compel people to wear helmets.
Deputy Phil Rondel said the emphasis should be on teaching people the importance of wearing a helmet, rather than forcing them to.
Deputy Sean Power said: " I wear a helmet 99% of the time, but I don't want to be forced to wear a helmet 100% of the time."
Politicians agreed 32 votes to 16 to make it law for under-18s to wear a cycle helmet.

Canberra noticed a fall in cycling rates after the introduction of the law in 1991 and  given the low rate of cycling  this was  a concern that hasn't been fully realized ,until now. You could argue that cycling commuter rates have been increasing but that has largely been due to some infrastructure improvements, the real concern is the low rate of overall cycling and especially school children/students which hardly cycle at all. Those children and adolescents would be reluctant to start cycling to work or university in the years to come. Many parents I know view cycling as dangerous would not let there children cycle to school or the local park.

Can one have a cycle friendly city with mandatory bicycle helmet laws ,many would argue no and I would be one of them. What we need  is to encourage cycling culture, one that doesn't require helmets ,high visibility clothing and lycra. What would that look like I wonder................