Friday, December 09, 2005

Tunnel road rage turns on bikes - enough is enough!!

The emails and frustration fill my in-box as someone who should know better - at a publication that should know better - blames cyclists for Sydney's traffic problems. When will some frustrated motorists comprehend that a bike in the traffic is one less car. The only point Duffy manages to make is that we all agree bikes should have their own lanes just like Berlin or Copenhagen. But we come to accept the small steps forward as advances.

From today's SMH a reply to the bike bashing. (The bashing and other blog links are lower down the blog)

Cycling is a healthy way to break the iron grip of the car

In Europe and North America the benefits of bike riding are obvious,

write John Pucher and Adrian Bauman.

IT WAS rather amazing for a United States professor of transport and urban planning to come to Sydney and read the bike-bashing article by Michael Duffy in the Saturday Herald. Federal, state and local governments in both the US and Canada have been vigorously promoting cycling, through generous funding and pro-cycling planning regulations. The result has been considerable growth in cycling in both countries.
We are yet to hear any transport expert in North America complain that bikes generate roadway congestion or air pollution. On the contrary, cycling is widely viewed as complementary to improved pedestrian and public transport facilities. It is an essential part of an integrated strategy to offer everyone a more viable, more environmentally friendly and healthier alternative to the private car.
Of course, the contrasts with Europe are much greater. In the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Denmark, for example, more than a tenth of all trips in urban areas are by bike. Even among people aged 75 or older, more than 5 per cent of trips are by bike. Cyclists are not a fringe group. They comprise all ages, professions, incomes and both sexes.

There is a clear health benefit as well - rates of obesity are only a third as high in the Netherlands and Denmark, where cycling is universal, compared to North America and Australia. If we are to take the worsening obesity epidemic in Australia seriously, then even small increases in our active travel, such as biking to the shops or with the kids to school, help to meet our daily needs of half an hour of moderate physical activity.

Europeans produce less than half the greenhouse gas emissions of Australians, and almost all the difference is due to greater car dependence in Australia. Increasing cycling, as well as walking and public transport use, are essential strategies to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But it is also crucial for Australians to increase their daily physical activity, simply by integrating active transport into daily routines. That would directly help all Australians by improving their health, but it would also reduce congestion, air pollution, energy use, greenhouse gases, parking problems and the inherent danger of motorised travel.

One wonders upon reading the article by Duffy whether he would like to turn Sydney into the endless sprawl of Detroit or Atlanta, where there is virtually no alternative to the private car. Evidently, he feels that the car is the only acceptable way to get around, and that all other modes should be eliminated, thus forcing everyone to drive for all their trips. Surely, he must feel that buses and pedestrians get in the way of cars just as much as cyclists. In short, he wants to eliminate choice in means of travel. It would be one sure way to destroy the liveability of Sydney. That sort of car-dependent sprawl would be completely contrary to the newly released metropolitan plan, which calls for enhancing the viability and safety of cycling, walking and public transport. All three are essential alternatives to the car.

It is unfortunate that cycling in Sydney has such a marginal status, so marginal that a piece such as Duffy's is even possible. In the highly liveable cities of Europe and Canada, cycling is an essential part of transport systems. Contrary to Duffy's assertion that cycling is inherently unsafe, cycling in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany is quite safe indeed, with clear cycling infrastructure within and between cities, and less than a third as many cycling fatalities per bike trip as in Australia.
So, it's "On year bike, or feet, or the bus". An integrated transport system with choices for Sydneysiders will be consistent with the Government's long-range policy, good for our individual health, and make Sydney the liveable, bikeable, walkable city it should be.

John Pucher is professor of urban planning at Rutgers University, New Jersey, and visiting professor, Institute of Transport Studies at the University of Sydney. Adrian Bauman is professor of public health at Sydney University.

popular previous blogs on cycling:

The Politics of Cycling

Sydney falls behind Melbourne

CCT Bike Lanes not Safe

And the offending 'Opinion Piece'...

Off year bike - for the sake of all of us on the roads

By Michael DuffyDecember 3, 2005

IT'S TIME to get bikes off our roads. As a mainstream form of transport, the bicycle has proved itself the equivalent of communism: a lovely idea that failed dismally in practice. Bikes are dangerous to ride and slow traffic, which creates more pollution. For the good of all of us, we need to ban the bike.
When Government started to encourage bike riding a few decades ago, it was like the balmy days after the Russian Revolution: the future looked golden. It was hoped that a significant proportion of all trips made in Sydney would soon be by bike.
Where it all went wrong was that almost no one showed any enthusiasm to get on their bikes. Today, fewer than 1 per cent of all trips in Sydney are made by bike. The bike activists blame this on the paucity of bike lanes and tracks, but this is like Marxists excusing the failure of communism in the Soviet Union by blaming the nature of its regime. The sad truth is that in both cases a vanguard tried to impose a new form of behaviour on the populace and was rejected. The only difference is that the bike lobby hasn't accepted this.
Every week I travel 10 kilometres down a crowded, four-lane, inner-city road.
Read more here.

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