By Paul Hemsley and Julian Bajkowski
South Australian Transport and Infrastructure Minister Patrick Conlon and Adelaide City Council Deputy Mayor David Plumridge have wheeled out a plan to push more people into riding bikes.
The council and the state government have announced the formation the Bicycle Infrastructure Group (BIG) to improve cycling infrastructure and double the number of riders into and out of the city by 2020.
The push to embrace cycling in South Australia and Victoria as sits in stark contrast to ongoing tension and disagreements between the NSW O’Farrell government and the City of Sydney over council’s rollout of separated bicycle lanes throughout the central business district.
Mr Conlon said his state government would work collaboratively with the council on BIG to align their priorities and plan cycling infrastructure that is safer and easier for riders.
Mr Plumridge said the plan is a long-term strategy to make the CBD accessible for bicycles and to promote cycling as the most convenient form of transport for local trips.
“More people on bikes not only leads to a healthier community, it’s more sustainable and creates streets that are calmer, more people-friendly and full of life and vibrancy,” Mr Plumridge said.
The announcement comes as the European Cyclists’ Federation (ECR) visits Adelaide to prepare for the international cycling planning conference, Velo-city Global to be held in May 2014.
Cycling infrastructure including two recently completed ‘bike boxes’ on the corner of Pulteney Street and South Terrace will be shown to the Federation as well as cycling experts, politicians, urban planners and transport specialists.
According to Adelaide City Council, bike boxes are road markings at intersections that provide cyclists with a head start when traffic signals go from red to green.
In the short term, next week’s Bikes Futures Conference 2012 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground will also cover ‘locally based initiatives to tackle the impediments to cycling growth’.
The resurgence of cycling as a mainstream for of urban transport has not pleased everyone. It is the subject of frequent attacks from commercial talkback radio personalities, including Alan Jones, who blame it for traffic jams, reduced parking spaces and even the retail downturn.
However even though the issue of supposed widespread loathing of Sydney’s bike lanes became a significant feature in campaigns by candidates for the recent NSW local government election, they failed to dent the success of independent Lord Mayor Clover Moore who was again re-elected with a sizeable majority.
A quirk of NSW traffic laws makes it illegal for adults to ride their bikes on footpaths but instead encourages cyclists to use bus lanes.
The large recent upswing in bicycle commuting in Australian cities is also having knock-on effects on other areas of government, including education where many schools are now having to contend with increased demand for secure bicycle storage and making drivers more safety aware.
Australia’s capital Canberra has used the popularity of both road cycling and mountain biking to its advantage in destination marketing through the promotion of the Stromolo Park facility – a series of dedicated tracks built on a former pine plantation on and around a mountain that was devastated in the 2003 by catastrophic bushfires.
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