Cycling in Victoria needs improvement

I just bought myself a lovely road bike – second hand mind you, but it’s a big step up from the heavy hybrid that I bought about 5 years ago which had a hard life and suffered when I didn’t have a garage to shelter it from the rain. I’ve been cycling to the city from Elwood regularly over the past few months. It’s not a long ride – probably about 8kms. It’s faster for me to ride than to drive / catch a tram / catch a train and I get some exercise and luckily we have lockers and showers at work.

Encouraging people to cycle to work would seem like a great idea for state government. It takes cars off the road, reduces congestion, relieves public transport, reduces emissions and also improves the health and well being of cyclists. Riding around Melbourne you hardly feel like cycling is encouraged and there is constant spending on roads to transport cars with 1.1 passengers in them. There are some marked bike tracks but they suffer from the following problems more often than not.

  • Cycling lanes often have cars, construction and buses blocking them.
  • Cycling lanes are sandwiched between parked cars and moving cars – they are much safer if placed between pedestrians and parked cars as they are in The Netherlands and other countries.
  • Cars turn left or go to park and often do not notice bike lanes or check for cyclists.
  • When there are left turning lanes for cars, cyclists are expected to cross one or more lanes of moving traffic just to continue cycling straight.
  • Some bike lanes simply disappear and may or may not continue down the road.
  • Bike lanes are not clearly marked – very few of them are painted green, making them noticeable in a car.
  • People open their car doors into bike lanes, trades people load and unload stock from vans in the lanes.
  • When forced onto the road, the majority of motorists do not understand a cyclist has the right to share the road and often use horns or abuse cyclists who are ‘slowing them down’awful_bike_lanes

(right) – an example of bike lanes that are force cyclists into gutters and then merge into motor vehicle traffic without adequate signage (Rathdowne Street). From melbournebug.org

Most recently our State government has been pulling out the public purse to treat us with some transport spending – to improve Melbourne congestion, improve public transport and, seemingly as an afterthought, spend some money on improving cycling. The funding for cycling was so low that it will pay for about 2km of bike path per year. It’s 100 million dollars over 12 years.. but to put things in perspective…

That’s 20 cents extra per year per person. Compared to the other transport projects.. That’s less than half of one percent of spending on one of the best forms of transport for our state. For more information see Bicycle Victoria

Type Cost %
North East Link $     6,000,000,000 26.6%
Trams, Trains, Busses $     5,400,000,000 24.0%
Regional Rail Tracks $     4,000,000,000 17.7%
Metro Rail Network $     2,400,000,000 10.6%
Suburban and Regional Roads $     3,100,000,000 13.7%
Freight Strategy $     1,100,000,000 4.8%
Trucks off suburban streets $        380,000,000 1.6%
Cycling tracks $        100,000,000 0.4%

ghost_bike_swanston

I personally saw the body of Carolyn Rawlins covered with a sheet on Swanston Street while riding to work – it really made the issue personal for me. She was struck by a bus and killed on ‘pedestrian’ Swanston Walk which is still used by tourist buses, taxis and motorists – making it far from safe for cyclists or pedestrians. A memorial ‘ghost bike’ has been placed near a statue on Swanston Walk as a memorial to Carolyn.

I have to say that I see many cyclists doing stupid things on bikes – ignoring traffic signals, jumping gutters, dodging pedestrians on the footpath – all of which makes people resent cyclists and see us as a hazard. We all need to learn to share the road safely.

I’m personally going to write to the Premier, John Brumby, and Melbourne City Council and put forward the case for better funding of cycling infrastructure for the benefit of all Victorians.

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