Is Melbourne Bicycle Share all spin?

I hope I’m proven wrong but I can’t help feeling Melbourne Bicycle Share is much more about political spin than about transport.

The PR material indicates the scheme is pitched at short-distance and short-duration travellers “running an errand at lunch or going across town for a meeting or lecture”. It extends “your public transport options and makes the CBD more accessible than ever before”.

The big question to my mind is what exactly is the need that this scheme is filling? Or more precisely, what is the justification for the Government subsidy it requires?

The very idea of a CBD is that it is walkable and if the trip’s too far then travellers take public transport. In fact public transport in Melbourne’s CBD, where we have the choice of the city rail loop and a dense tram system, is pretty good by world standards. Quite simply, the CBD doesn’t need share bicycles for transport.

I can’t see a lot of sense, either, in spending public money to take off-peak passengers away from public transport – that’s the very time when the system has spare capacity and should earn extra revenue with minimal extra cost. And why subsidise walkers to ride instead?

I’m not in any event confident that Melbourne Bicycle Share is even going to work. Read the rest of this entry »

Should bicycle lanes be abolished?

Over on the Bicycle Victoria Forums there’s a thread on something called “vehicular cycling”. This term is new to me and probably to most readers too.

As I read it, the key premise of vehicular cycling is that cyclists should “claim” the roads. Rather than being segregated in bicycle lanes that too often are narrow and impeded by parked cars – or worse, herded into off-road paths that are too indirect and are shared with unpredictable pedestrians – vehicular cyclists ride well away from the edge of a lane (although not in the middle) in order to be more visible to drivers and hence safer.

Cyclists in Copenhagen

They are concerned that construction of separate cycling infrastructure, such as Copenhagen-style lanes and on-road lanes, will reinforce the idea that cyclists are not legitimate road users.

There’re possibly some nuances here I’ve missed, but that seems to be the general idea. I think there’s a lot of logic to it. Even if a completely segregated network is feasible, it will be a long-term project, so there’s little choice other than to mix it with motorists in the meantime. And the meantime is likely to be a long time. Even in The Netherlands and Denmark, a significant proportion of cycling continues to be done on roads. So it seems sensible to find ways that cyclists and motorists can co-exist safely.

I can see that responsible cyclists, who ride defensively and maximise their visibility, could very well be safer if they adopt a more assertive approach. However I’m much less sanguine about how safe vehicular cycling is for irresponsible riders. Here I’m thinking mainly about children but there are also some adults who do irresponsible things like ride at night in dark clothing or without lights. Read the rest of this entry »

Will the streets of Melbourne look more like Hanoi than Manhattan in the future?

I’ve believed for some years that motor scooters and motorcycles are likely to become a much more important component of Melbourne’s transport system if the cost of fuel increases dramatically.

Scooters and small motorcycles are extremely popular in cities like Hanoi where, like the probable Melbourne of the future, the cost of transport is very high relative to incomes.

Like cars, scooters offer a very high degree of personal mobility. They also have the advantage that they can ‘thread’ their way through congested traffic, are easy to park and are light on fuel. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to hand Yarra Boulevard over to cyclists

I think it’s time Yarra Boulevard was declared a ‘Bicycle Road’ where cyclists have priority over cars. This would increase safety and send a powerful message to residents and tourists alike that Melbourne is a bicycle friendly city.

Yarra Boulevard is already an iconic recreational and commuter cycling route due to its river and bush outlook, undulating alignment and direct connection to the Yarra Trail. It also operates as an alternative route for part of the Yarra Trail. Read the rest of this entry »

Should bicycles be registered or cyclists licensed?

There was a major debate over the Easter weekend on the VECCI blog about whether or not bicycles should be registered and/or cyclists licensed. It was initiated by an online poll started by VECCI. As of Monday night a narrow majority had voted in favour of licensing (51:47) and mandatory education of cyclists (50:45). Not clear to me why you’d license a cyclist other than to educate/train her, but it’s not my survey.

My view is that registration is not a good idea. However there’s a stronger argument for licensing notwithstanding there are some real difficulties in implementation. Read the rest of this entry »

Cycling in The Netherlands

Fascinating video of dedicated route followed by children cycling to school in The Netherlands. This gives a perspective on cycling that you wouldn’t get from the standard tourist spots. Note the suburban setting – it ties in with my earlier post arguing that the suburbs have greater potential for cycling than the inner city, not least because it would be easier to fit in this sort of infrastructure. (Hat tip to Tom Vanderbilt) Read the rest of this entry »

How to increase commuting by bicycle

I argued yesterday there might be potential to shift a small but important proportion of workers who live and work in the suburbs out of their cars and on to bicycles. This is a somewhat novel view as most of the attention given to commuting by bicycle has focussed on how to increase work trips to the CBD.

The suburbs are an important potential ‘market’ because, unlike commuting to the city centre, the great bulk of suburban bicycle trips to work would be in lieu of the car, not public transport.

I also indicated yesterday that I would look further at possible concrete actions that could be taken to advance greater suburban bicycle commuting. Here are my early thoughts.

The key deterrents to cycling concern safety, compulsory helmets, security and personal hygiene. A possible way of addressing these obstacles could go something like this. Read the rest of this entry »

What role for commuting by bicycle in Melbourne?

In response to my post last Tuesday, Melbourne will be a car city for a long time yet, a reader asked for my views on the role of cycling in Melbourne.

I have a particular interest in cycling, not least because I’m a keen recreational cyclist and commuted religiously by bike for a number of years. I think cycling has a small but significant role to play in meeting Melbourne’s transport needs but my ideas are a little different to the conventional view.

Despite record sales over the last ten years, bicycles account for just 0.9% of all weekday kilometres travelled in Melbourne, so their present contribution to saving fuel and reducing carbon emissions isn’t large. That figure includes recreational cycling too, so we don’t know how many of these kilometres actually replaced car travel.

Bicycles are more competitive for commuting, where they are used for 2.9% of work trips. The journey to work, however, only accounts for around one fifth of all trips in Melbourne, so again we’re not talking big numbers. Read the rest of this entry »