Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cycling Counts.

The ACT Government from time to time regularly do traffic counts this is done by having a cable stretched across the road connected to a counter device. They can also be used for cycle paths as is the case here at the back of Curtin.

Pedal power along with other groups around the country do  annaul cycle counts with volunteers that go out and physically count cyclists passing by. The ACT count by Pedal power only focuses on Civic,though you could argue that Civic is the centre of Canberra, but Canberra has five town centres so it is important to cover all areas. This would be hard with volunteers so using mechanical means would be easier.

One of Mark Wagenbuurs video's show the cycle counting process in Utrecht, Netherlands. Interestingly Utrecht has about the same population as Canberra, though very different lay out. You may see in this video that a part from great cycling infrastructure, they have good public transport as well, with Light rail,articulated and bi-articulated buses. 


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

National Ride 2 School day

National ride to school was held on the 16 March, though this day in the ACT had  received no attention  from the ACT Education Department or the ACT Government or dare I say our cycling advocacy group Pedal Power. The recent pedestrian and cycle review which was completed over a year ago yet has just been released by the ACT Government, only focused on the commuting to work networks. Yet Children nationally make up a significant proportion of the cycling community, more so than adults who cycle regularly.

About 30 to 40 years ago ,80% of school students in Canberra used to ride and walk to school ,yet here we are a generation on, the situation has reversed with about 80% of school children being driven to school. This is the same situation around Australia. What has happened over that time?
School Bike parking,1965 (ACT Heritage Library)

Woden Valley High School 1969, (ACT Heritage Library)
Yes there are the arguments about road safety ,stranger danger and that ,parents don't have enough time any more at it is easy to drop them off in the car. So much so that parents are driving past the local schools and dropping them off at schools closer to their work. So there is no chance for children in some areas to walk and cycle to school.

Now there is no law against this as the ACT government supports parental choice ,but what about the rights of the child, is this what children want .Many children when asked would like to walk cycle,scooter and skate to school as opposed to going in the car.

A recent study by the Australian Council for Education Research  found that children who traveled to school by car had a remarkably narrow view of their community. When researchers asked car-borne kids to draw pictures of the way they saw their world they drew abstract, isolated images of neighborhoods where the car and the road were the central theme. Traffic lights, road signs, office buildings, shopping centre's and fast food outlets dominated.

This is the current scene at many schools in the ACT during Primary School Start & Finish times.
Children that ride or walk to school are more resilient in the urban environment and are more capable of adapting to changes that happen to them in life. Another  recent study on heath and well being  by UNICEF has shown that children with more active lifestyles have better numeracy and literacy skills and are generally more happier about there future life prospects.
On average children in the Netherlands are the happiest in the world according to the UNICEF study and their rates of walking and cycling to school haven't changed in 50 years despite the changes in lifestyles, for example, like both parents working. Yes there is a big difference in infrastructure as there is more cycle paths and right of way provisions at intersections ,but many of us  here in Canberra live within 2 km of primary schools and within 5km of high schools so there is no reason why more children can't ride to school.
1970's Canberra,(ACT Heritage Library)
1970's Canberra,(ACT Heritage Library)


Monday, March 28, 2011

Canberra's Big Ride

Canberra's Big ride was held on Monday the 14th March ,where 1300 people took part in three different rides ranging from 25km to 105km.
Amy Gillet Foundation
This year the ride was combined with the Amy Gillet Ride, which promotes the road safety message of sharing the road and that " a metre matters"


Amy Gillet was tragically killed while on a training ride on a rural road in Germany .

In Australia about 40 people last year lost there lives while cycling and several thousand more were seriously injured or injured. While I agree there needs to be a better understanding between drivers and cyclists on the road, it is a 'big ask' to share roads that are 'high speed high volume' and with only a painted line as protection.
As someone who used to cycle on the Tuggeranong parkway to work, riding along with cars, trucks and buses traveling past at a 100km/h or more was a silly thing to do and had a few near misses. You do have the option to ride on some of the good cycle paths in Canberra but what is needed is more direct routes and more bicycle super highways.

Yet the only option the ACT government is providing is on road cycle lanes on our major highways and arterial roads and proclaiming that they are safe.

The argument by the ACT government is that they couldn't afford to have a completely separated network as the ability to do so has been lost. Yet we are still spending millions on roads and car-parks.
I would strongly argue that the ability to have a separated network is not lost and that what is needed is political will.

There is an argument that the elite riders and commuter cyclists would prefer to use the roads and think the cycle lanes are just fine as there are. So what is the solution in the Netherlands I wonder? They have many elite cyclists and  recreational cycling is very popular. I posed this question to David Hembrow ( A View from the cycle path) about elite cyclists and this was his answer:

Dutch racing cyclists ride on cycle paths. They do it for the same reason as everyone else. The cycle paths smooth, direct, take priority at junctions etc. If they were on the roads then their journeys would
take longer. There are a couple of photos here:

Racing cyclists, Netherlands

BTW, cycle sport is incredibly popular in the Netherlands. That's one
of the reasons why while NL has a much smaller population than
Australia, it's produced a lot more cyclists who've won stages in or
worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France.

Just like for everything else to do with cycling, sport cycling is
very well supported in the Netherlands. I can perhaps explain best by pointing out what our small town, Assen,with a population of just 65000 people, has by way of facilities. 

As well as the many hundreds of km of rather wonderful cycle paths in
the area, which are used quite heavily by racing types, Assen has a cycle track racing circuit, a cycle trials circuit, and also several BMX circuits and MTB circuits. There are also a lot of rough cycle paths through the woods which are maintained for the benefit of MTBers.

We have two quite large cycle racing teams based in this area: The world famous Rabobank team (the Rabobank is a bank which started in this area of the Netherlands) and the not quite so well known
Skil-Shimano team are often to be seen practicing on cycle paths near my home. These are top world class athletes - certainly not "beginners".
Like most cyclists, they also use the rather abandoned minor roads in the countryside. Minor roads are almost impossible to use by car.

Racing Cyclists,Netherlands

The Dutch are really keen on cycle racing. Perhaps only the Belgians
have more enthusiasm for this sport.
And as I was talking about Belgians... there has been a story recently in the Netherlands about Dutch racing cyclists maybe using the roads
in the future, but it's a push from the other direction. i.e. from people who are out for a quiet Sunday ride who would rather that large groups of racers weren't on the cycle path with them. Mostly this is
an issue in Zeeland, because it's near the Belgian border and Belgian racers regularly cross the border in large numbers to use the Dutch cycle paths. They come across the border because the conditions are
much better for them on cycle paths here than on roads in Belgium. A few minor problems have been rather exaggerated and I expect this to blow over...

Cycle path ,next to a Major Highway along one of the dike's, Netherlands
 Thanks David.

So there is definitely the opportunity to do so here and there are some good examples from around Australia, where physical separation is being applied.

 So the safety message of :

 ...interestingly in the Australian Road Rules it is illegal to come within 2 metres of the rear of a Motor vehicle. Yet a metre matters when passing a cyclist?

The Campaign instead should be:

 nothing less for high speed high volume roads.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Surrounded By Cycle Paths

The newest residential development in Gungahlin ,Harrison Four in Canberra's north has a planning theme 'Surrounded by cycle paths'.Would this mean that they are planning cycle friendly streets  :
  • Reduced speed limits to 30km/h
  • Cycle priority streets
  • Cycle/pedestrian right of ways on low volume streets and intersections
  • Grade separation(underpasses) for busy roads so as to not impede cyclists or pedestrians .
  • Direct route planning for cycle ways to major facilities like schools and shopping precincts
  • Shared zone areas (woonerfs) ( max 10km/h) around shopping precincts and no through streets

Well no but what you notice about new developments is each group of residential blocks and even parks are completely surrounded by roads. The default speed limit in the ACT for residential  areas is 50km/h. There are several crossing points and no 'no through roads' for cars. People will only choose to walk or cycle if it is easier or quicker to do so and if you don't restrict car use then people will still continue to drive even for short distances.
While I haven't seen the street view details I can imagine they will be the same as any other new development ,take the new suburbs of Molonglo ,Wright and Coombs.
The street view clearly shows that provisions for cyclists have been overlooked and the cyclists are protecting the parked cars.
Planned Streetview

Safer cycling solution as it should have been planned

 Now you wouldn't design every street like this though given our default speed limit of 50km/h then cyclist needs to be protected. You will encourage more people to cycle especially children ,women and the elderly.

I took this shot in Gungahlin recently, this is a relatively new development yet only cycle lane was installed when there is plenty of room to install a separated cycle way . In this instance the access street should have been a bidirectional cycleway cars give way to cyclists and drive at a slow speed.

This would be the example as in Holland:

I think the only development that can lay claim to the notion 'surrounded by cycle paths' is Houten in Holland though many other dutch towns are just as impressive.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Canberra Cycle Chic

Well it has finally happened, Canberra is the newest member of the Cycle Chic genre, with the announcement of a Canberra Cycle Chic Website.

City News ,Article
Trish Smith has taken the plunge and started her website, which of course is based on Mikael's Copenhagen Cycle Chic. It will be good to see the many cyclists other than the lycra clad MAMILS (middle aged men in lycra) that seem to be general 'cyclist' you see. Bike Adelaide recently commented on the style of cyclist he saw on his visit to Canberra recently,

'at least 50% of those I saw choose to ride like the rest of the world does - in normal clothes and without a helmet.

Ahhh.. helmets ,can you be Cycle Chic wearing Helmets? ,maybe not but where giving it a go.

Here's some elegant ladies from the original Copenhagen Cycle Chic.

...........and I almost forgot ,there was a time in Canberra when even before Cycle Chic that women and men dressed in normal clothes to go to work. How normal!
Canberra, 1945