The next few – hundred – posts will undoubtedly be about issues related to the Bike Futures Conference that I attended last week, as there was a phenomenal amount of knowledge and insight that came from it.
My main impetus for going in the first instance was to see Paul Steely White talk (the CEO of Transportation Alternatives), as he featured so heavily in The Human Scale – the doco that made me want to get into planning in the first instance and really showed the connection between happiness and the built environment. He was an absolute delight. Charming, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, I couldn’t help but wonder what he made of the hosts that are Bicycle Network. They don’t really have that passion and the political will to do what TA have done in NYC, which is frustrating as I believe they could. Their focus tends to be greatly on organised bike rides, and riding ‘events’ where you pay a great deal of money, rather than advocating on behalf of everyday, commuter cyclists. If this is not the case, then why is it that this is my opinion? What is missing from their advertising or their marketing that leads me to believe this?
Not surprisingly, there was a significant number of representatives from local Councils, and a couple of people from my own. Also unsurprisingly, I sallied up to them and chatted to them about biking in the area as the night before the conference began, I was perusing the bike map for the area and I realised that there is not a single stretch of road that is genuinely safe for cyclists to ride into the city on. As I live in the East of Melbourne’s CBD, it would make sense that most people would need a route that goes from East to West in this area. There is a treacherous stretch of road that I use daily to get to work – Burwood Road. It is, I learnt from a council member, the busiest arterial road in the council.
I suggested that they implement a similar system as is on Nicholson street currently, whereby they could close one of the lanes of traffic and make that a bike path, and then, with the remaining three lanes of traffic, alternate the direction of these lanes with lights overhead indicating the changes. So, in the morning, you could have two lanes for traffic going into the city and then the reverse for when the rush hour means two lanes are needed for vehicles leaving the city. I could told that this would cost about 3 million dollars to do this, and that there are all sorts of problems because it is a VicRoads road, not a road owned by council.
My argument is this – what sort of money is going to be needed to be spent on health by this council if people just sit in their SUV’s and cars and don’t become more physically fit? And, even if they are getting enough exercise, I don’t understand why we can’t just have one road – just one! – that is a safe passage for people riding into the city. There is so much evidence that supports people using bikes as a legitimate form of transport, if the infrastructure is built that allows them to do this. My councillor informed that a vast sum of money had been spent on the Gardiner’s bike trail. That’s great, brilliant, wonderful and all, but I don’t live within close proximity of the trail so I’m not going to use it. Why should I be shunted in the gutter of Burwood Road, just because I don’t live near the river which is where the path has been upgraded? I just one road. Just one safe, alternative to get to work each day.
You could say, I just want a route.