04 March, 2010

Cyclist numbers up in Melbourne

In a follow-up to the comment I made on Tuesday about the annual Melbourne bike survey, The Age has the story Number of peak-hour cyclists soar.

The number of cyclists on Melbourne's roads has soared by up to 50 per cent during peak hour in the past year, according to new figures.

What they actually mean, is that the increase in numbers at some intersections was up to 50 percent. The overall increase in cyclist numbers will be somewhat less than that. None-the-less, it is great news for Melbourne. It's also good to see affirmation of the often observed point that the rate of cycle injuries has fallen as the total number of cyclists on the city's streets has increased. As usual, the explanation given is that when more people cycle, cyclists are more visible, drivers are more familiar with sharing the road with them, and the proportion of drivers who are also cyclists (and presumable interact more safely with cyclists) is greater.

Napier street, mentioned in the article, is next to where I live and is a wonderful example of successful cycle planning. The street runs parallel to two busy streets used heavily by cars. It has been broken at various points by traffic barriers which allow cyclists and pedestrians to pass through but stop cars using the street as a thoroughfare. Where Napier street crosses busy (about 6 lanes) Johnston street, there are cycle priority lanes at the traffic lights. Cyclists going straight ahead can press a button which means they will get priority over left turning traffic at the lights. The street has cycle lanes painted in both directions and regular traffic calming features such as speed bumps, as so the side streets connecting to it. The speed bumps are constructed with a gap between the end of the raised area and the side of the road (or the start of the parking areas) so that cyclists can avoid the discomfort that comes of riding over speed bumps.

I'd love to see concepts like this being used in Wellington. The pessimist in me suspects that while we have people at council making statements like "We shouldn't encourage people to cycle because it's dangerous for them" we won't be seeing much change. I note that Kerry Prendergast, who could hardly be described as having supported cycle friendly policies, (though she's big on building roads), is running for mayor again.

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