Cycling in Melbourne Australia
National cyclist survey results launched today at the Australian Bicycling Achievement Awards in Canberra. Link: http://www.cyclingawards.com.au/node/41
A national survey conducted by the Cycling Promotion Fund (CPF) and the National Heart Foundation of Australia has found more than 62% of Australians want to be able to ride a bike for transport, but road safety fears are keeping bikes in the shed and off the road. The data released today at the Australian Bicycling Achievement Awards in Canberra found that while more than 60% of Australians have access to a bike, almost 70% were not considering cycling for transport in the near future, even though more than half of those would like to.
According to Stephen Hodge spokesperson for the CPF, the main reasons why people were not riding bikes were unsafe road conditions (46%); speed/ volume of traffic (42%); don’t feel safe riding (41%) and a lack of bicycle lanes/ trails (35%).
More details in survey findings. Obviously.
Riding for basic transport or for short trips, otherwise known as utility cycling, is almost non-existent in Australia. Utility cycling is the true benchmark upon which to judge whether cycling policy is working. (Counting the number of people riding to work is not.) If 60% of respondents claimed that they wanted to do this, but currently don't, then this suggests to me that using a car or taking private transport is still seen as a more convenient and safe way of getting from A to B.
Wimps. (I suspect a fair number also use that as an excuse for the real reason, laziness.)
The message we need to get across is cyclists only get hurt when people don't see them, so ride straight and don't weave in and out of parked cars. Also, motorists actually don't want to scratch their paint, no matter how much they might hate you for that 2 second delay, and that's better safety for cyclists than a helmet!
So, to the wimps I say, be seen and be predictable and you'll be fine. Jeez, 62% are bigger girls' blouses than me?! Sheesh.
I try not to stereotype the Melbourne drivers, but there are the bunch of drivers who aren't afraid of scratching paint - 4wds with bull bars, beaten up wrecks and trucks (that can crush a car and not leave a scratch. On my local streets it's always the guys with the beaten up cars who are not too scared of brushing within centimetres of me on their little rat run to escape Punt Road, Chapel Street, Williams Road and Orrong Road. You can be confident though being in front of a hatch-back with metallic paint, or the black BMWs from Toorak that leave 3 car lengths between them and the next car on Alexandra Avenue!
Steve, there's a big difference between having the confidence to ride in traffic and accepting the reality that it's a zero-sum game. You can build up all the confidence and experience you want, but a motorist who hits a bike does not discriminate between whether the cyclist was experienced or inexperienced. People who are turned off cycling due to unsafe road conditions are being perfectly rational in my opinion, and it's becoming increasingly evident that the policy of trying to encourage these people to ride like gladiators in unrestricted traffic is failing terribly.
If 62% of people rode bikes it would be safe!
John, waiting for these people to get out and increase safety in numbers is like waiting for Godot. It ain't going to happen. The day we accept it ain't going to happen is the day we can concentrate on more effective methods.
Who rides like a gladiator? I ride like a guy uses a bike instead of a car. I aim for speed, but not at the expense of decorum when I arrive at work. I dress to suit cycling and carry a bit of a change, but I don't dress like I'm ready for Le Tour. The point I make (yes I make it vehemently) is cycling is safer than all the hype, probably safer than driving (according to numbers I've been able to put together, anyway) and motorists don't want to hit us anymore than we want to be hit by them.
There's nothing gladiatorial about my riding style and, after more than 35 years of riding for transport, the only injuries I've ever sustained were my own fault while mountain biking when I was a decade or more younger. I sure as eggs don't recommend gladiatorial riding, I just recommend getting out of the car and getting out on the roads. Be aware of risk, but NEVER let risk rule your life, just ride safely, visibly, with confidence and often.
Hi Etienne, I thinks Steve's point is about riding in a manner that minimises risk; riding assertively is not about riding like a gladiator but about riding consistently and visibly so that you will be seen and drivers can predict what you will do. I often disagree with Steves statements & ideas but here he is correct. No, a driver does not discriminate b/w experience & inexperience, but a bike disappearing behind a parked car and then popping out unexpectedly & behaving in an unpredictable manner is more likely to be collected than the same one riding in a straight line at a consistent speed.
I'm not waiting for safety in numbers, I've been riding in Melbourne traffic for 30 years (showing my age here) and can say that things have improved a lot, & one factor is increased awareness through more bikes on the road (& lots of other factors too of course). I'm not waiting for Godot, but at some stage there will be a critical mass that makes cycling make sense for far greater numbers - at least in certain areas - & the result will be safer cycling for all. Probably when petrol hits $2 per litre!
Steve John, I admit gladitorial was the wrong choice of word. Like both of you I've been doing Melbourne traffic for a long time without incident (over 20 years and counting) and I've learned all the skills that you both mentioned. And Steve, I fundamentally agree with your statement that risk should never rule your life. Work with it, mitigate it, but never be overwhelmed by it.
Still, I stand my ground in claiming that the current conditions are massive a turn-off to everyday people who don't cycle. Even if the results of the survey represent perception overtaking reality, it's perception that usually wins in the end. We can also argue that a bit of education and hard-selling will convince potential cyclists that everything's not as bad as it seems, but this is exactly what's being going on for the past few years with limited success. The people have spoken and they are not interested.
The problem here is what to do next. The obvious solution is to create safer infrastructure, however this is an expensive and timely proposition and can actually make the situation worse if not implemented properly. So if we're going to be sharing the road with cars for the time being then it's vital that a fair playing field is established; one that protects the most vulnerable road users. I don't share John's optimism that motorists would change their habits with an increase of the number cyclists on the road. Intolerance towards non-petrol-powered vehicles is ingrained in the Australian motoring psyche, and I can only see this dissipating via generational change. While I'm not a huge fan of creating laws to influence behaviour, it seems that tougher speed limits and/or strict liability would have to be introduced to protect cyclists from these death machines.
Anyway, I don't claim to be an expert on these matters. Just a frustrated bike-user shouting from the sidelines.
Well, BV's Ride On mag, in it's latest edition, has 4 articles which are supposedly "encouragement" articles and they all kick in VERY early with stuff about the danger of cycling. Seriously, by focusing on the perceived dangers, rather than on the easy fixes any cyclist can employ to stay safe, we're our own worst enemy.
In marketing they say that, to sell steak, you have to sell the sizzle, not the meat. The car industry never mentions car crashes, and while they do mention safety, it's always the solutions - air bags, ESC, ABS, etc. Cycling today has "modern disk brakes", "tough, puncture-resistant tyres", "computer designed geometry for safer, sportier cornering," yet all we ever seem to talk about is what's wrong with cycling.
The campaign for better roads for motoring is a back room secret and so it should be for cycling. The road design and safety issue is nothing to do with encouraging PEOPLE to cycle, yet there, in the middle of 4 supposedly positive cycling articles by or about high profile personalities who cycle, are "war stories." Where in the car industry do you ever see that? Lets face it, that mode's safety record is no more illustrious than cycling, hundreds of motorists and bystanders die every year.
We, the cyclists, have to stop telling "war stories" and big up the modern bike's safety features, the joy of cycling, the freedom! (Especially while we're trying to convert people from cars to bikes.) It's no more dangerous, when done properly (and that's not rocket science), than any other mode of transport, it's just got this reputation and is an easy media beat-up, and as various studies frequently find, it's the motorists more to blame (not pointing a finger here, other than lack of awareness on the part of a minority) for the danger than cyclists.
Cycling is not dangerous, driving is, and most drivers get this. The few drivers who don't get it keep adding to the road toll, regardless of the vehicle their victims use. Cyclists need to stop taking responsibility for mistakes motorists make and start standing up for what is good for individual cyclists. The sizzle.
As an aside: any of my "anti car rants" are for a completely different issue - the sustainability of civilisation in the face of overpopulation, peak oil and global warming. 7+ billion people can't have a car each, no matter what fuels it. The car has to be expunged from civilisation if civilisation is to be sustained - that's a simple engineering fact.