Last week Councillors Ingrid Waltham, Sam Wainwright and myself attended a Bike Futures Conference in Melbourne. Being so remote in WA it is always good to experience what other people are doing in areas of your interest. It was rewarding to find out that Fremantle is highly regarded, not only in terms of our work on cycling, but also the respect we have regarding sustainability and liveability. Of course as a leader you always have to work for improvement and the lessons we learned at Bike Futures will be vital in focusing that work.
Melbourne has rightfully gained a reputation for making hard decisions in including bikes in hard infrastructure, changing a gridlocked 4 lane highway into a 2 lane highway with 2 separated bike lanes was to say the least politically hard. The result on Princess Bridge where St Kilda Road enters the Melbourne CBD was an extended car travel time measured in seconds for vehicles entering the CBD, and a travel time reduced in minutes for vehicles leaving the CBD. The Council in now receiving accolades not only from cyclists, but car commuters as well.
Ingrid, Sam and myself will be presenting to our Council colleagues and senior managers on our attendance in November, but I will try and have our report also tabled at Council so it becomes a public document for all to read. This Blog is of course a personal summary, whilst the report to Council will be a joint effort, but for me the take away messages are:
- Lifestyle health issues mean first world societies are at a tipping point in regards to life expectancy. Research shows our children have a shorter life expectancy than we have, primarily due to obesity. Getting commuters out of cars is essential to turning this around.
- Our efforts need to focus on the 60% of people who would consider cycling as a primary means of transport but do not. As such we need a very clear picture as to why they are reticent to hop on the bike so we get the best bang for the buck in helping them.
- Hard infrastructure development such as dedicated bike lanes, lane separation strips, and bike priority at traffic lights is needed, but there is an equal challenge in hearts and minds. Changing attitudes will also pay dividends in cyclist numbers and road safety.
- Making decisions based on good data allows for better focused spending. Traffic counts, surveys and even time lapse photography are all tools to get that data.
- Getting older people onto bikes is good, but getting kids onto bikes is essential. Enshrining the bike as the preferred method of getting to school will be difficult. Parent’s need to be sure cycling represents less danger than car trips do. For this we need dedicated bike lanes at schools, a better choice of school location away from major distributor roads as a matter of policy and cycling school busses.
- SSS. Safety, Speed and Separation. The key to getting more people onto bikes is Safety. Safety gained from lower road speeds and separation between bikes and motor vehicles.
I’d like to also thank Councillor Wainwright for taking the initiative in getting in touch with the Hepburn Community Wind-farm people, allowing us to have a very informative and productive meeting with them whilst we were in Melbourne.
On Ya Bike!!