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Cycling

Apr 6, 2017

If it’s not OK to walk it, why is it OK to cycle it?

A simple but shocking image showing how infrastructure purportedly provided for the benefit of cyclists, expects them to ride in situations they feel are dangerous

Alan Davies — Editor of The Urbanist

Alan Davies

Editor of The Urbanist

East Parade, East Perth (source: @Perthbiker)

“If you wouldn’t walk on it”, asks @Perthbiker in reference to East Parade, East Perth, “why expect people to ride on it?” The pedestrian in the exhibit is photoshopped, but @Perthbiker’s given us a powerful illustration of how inured city managers are to the risks associated with mixing bicycles with fast-moving cars and trucks.

The image shows up the gross inadequacy of much of what passes in Australian cities as safe cycling infrastructure. That sort of design solution is box-ticking at its ugliest. It’s what happens when the key objective is to be seen to do something – anything – without regard to whether or not it achieves the claimed objective of providing cyclists with an option they feel is safe. It’s the design equivalent of greenwashing.

Unfortunately, this isn’t an extreme case. There are plenty of examples of bicycle lanes shoe-horned between traffic lanes in potentially dangerous situations. Here’s one in Clifton Hill, Melbourne, that I negotiated with trepidation everyweek night for years. Here’s one at St kilda Junction, Melbourne. Then there are the numerous examples of bike lanes disappearing or rendered inoperative by cars having permission to park on them.

I don’t know if the evidence shows cycling casualties are higher in these suspect designs. I suspect they’re not because all but the most skilled cyclists avoid them; the rest are repelled by the extremely low level of psychological safety. I can imagine the average prospective cyclist saying: “you must be kidding if you think that’s good enough to get me cycling”. The next cohort of potential riders waiting in the wings wouldn’t countenance driving a car without seatbelts, air bags, and a panoply of active safety technology, so of course they’re going to be repulsed by a lot of what gets passed off as safe cycling infrastructure.

The warrant for increasing the share of travel in Australian cities made by bicycle is strong and well-established. Yet it’s shocking that so much infrastructure purportedly provided for the benefit of cyclists, expects them to ride in situations they feel are dangerous. Hopefully the power of @Perthbiker’s image will get some action.

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