Millions are spent in the CBD on cars – zilch on bicycles

Steven McKiernan, Convenor of the BTA, observes:

Frustrated with the daily Freeway carpark? Sitting in traffic and the hassle of unfriendly car drivers? Get on your bike like more and more Western Australians who are dusting off their bicycles and using the network of cycleways, on-road cycle lanes, and back roads to get to work.

They’re getting fit, saving money and seeing more of the marvellous parklands, ocean front and river foreshores that we have here in Perth: it can be and frequently is idyllic. Rich, fit and intelligent.

We have a marvellous climate, not too many hills, and a bi-partisan approach in Government to promote cycling as a mode of transport. Employers are recognising that end-of-trip facilities, such as showers, lockers, dryers and secure bike parking are valuable ways to attract and retain staff. All the necessaries are there for healthy, active communities who are engaged in local activities. Shopping for instance becomes an engagement in your community: buying necessaries, chatting with friends, noticing things that aren’t there when stuck behind a steering wheel and a windscreen.

According to Bikewest nearly 3 million bicycle movements were recorded commuting to and from the City during 2010. This is a number that has tripled since 1998.

Yet with this big surge in uptake, we are not seeing the orderly and planned extension of capacity in cycling infrastructure – infrastructure that reduces traffic congestion, carbon emissions, and improves long-term public health expenditure outcomes. In many ways planning for this expansion has failed to keep up with demand.

The regular ten year Perth Bicycle Network Plan Review is nearly four years overdue. This plan commenced in the early 1980’s and identified the clear need for a robust system of cycle routes throughout the Perth metro area. Without the Review we are facing an uncoordinated approach to active transport infrastructure.

Nowhere is this worse than the City of Perth, who have claimed their desire to become a “cycling friendly city”. If only this were true, the proposed projects for the CBD are threatening to turn central Perth into a “dead zone”. Unfortunately the CIty are recidivist – the Trafalgar Bridge has turned cyclists who ride rather than walk across into enemies of the State and subject to $100 fines for riding over what was an integral component of the Perth Bicycle Network.

The Perth Waterfront project, the Northbridge City Link, St Georges Terrace and the East Perth Riverside project are all moving ahead and changing the face and amenity of the City.

Sadly, the approach taken in these projects is consistent; destroying direct, efficient cycling access to the central business district.

The Waterfront project will remove direct east-west cycling access across the southern edge of the City. The City of Perth in their St Georges Terrace project has actively removed safe cycling access despite robust advice from peak State Government agencies along this major thoroughfare in an aggressive anti-cyclist move, and without providing alternative routes. Hay Street and Murray Street are one way streets with little connectivity for people wishing to cross the city. And the already overcrowded Wellington Street is destined to remain a building site for another decade.

It gets worse.

The Northbridge Link planners are proposing (in their minds already decided) to remove the major Fremantle to Perth Principal Shared Path from Harbour Town (Sutherland Street). There will be no access for cyclists to cross the railway between City West station and King Street, which, as part of the redevelopment, will be extended across the sunken railway to Roe Street.

The planners have succeeded in rerouting to a main cycle path (257,000 trips annually) that had no ‘at grade’ vehicle crossings between Station Street in Subiaco and Barrack Street in Perth. It now crosses the main vehicle access to the Arena, a Freeway on ramp, a Freeway off ramp, the intersection at Milligan and Wellington Streets and who knows what other planning ‘gems’ in the King Street crossing. This is tearing the network apart just at the location where it needs to be at its most robust and defined.

Compare this to the City of Sydney who have calculated the cost-benefit outcome of improved integrated cycling infrastructure in terms of congestion costs, reduced absenteeism, productivity benefits and public health outcomes at $2 billion over 25 years (2010 dollars). Improving cycling access drives prosperity and drives future savings.

People in Perth who choose to ride a bike have every right to expect their active transport choice to be respected, and for the bicycle network to be improved, not decimated and segmented.

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About Heinrich

Promoting everyday cycling