Though I know some pedant will dispute some fine detail, I’m going to generalise anyway, and say Australian bike planners are unduly smitten by Copenhagen’s and now New York’s cycle tracks, before they have really understood the Dutch model that is more applicable here. Copenhagen, due to a former lack of pedestrian bridges, and New York due to 200 meter long blocks, both have avenues like giant funnels. They had no choice in those cities but to find some way of accommodating all forms of traffic on the same streets. Sure this can be post-rationalised as democratic, giving all users the same mental maps of their city, but come on, for Christ’s sake, why should drivers be given any chance at all to see neighbourhood shops? Put them on poo-shoots to the malls they prefer.
(That was my anti motorist rant for the week. Now back to Australia, and what we could be doing for cycling).
With the sad exception of Australia’s three oldest settlements (Sydney, Hobart then Launceston) that grew almost by accident into hilly terrain, it was flat planes that were chosen as the sites of Australian cities thereafter, at a time in history when relatively permeable grids were being drafted for us in the UK.
This has left us with cities where quiet streets outnumber arterials by at least ten to one. The Netherlands has this, and as our mate cranky Hembrow keeps trying to tell us, Dutch traffic engineers can exploit this situation to block through-traffic on most of their streets. Never mind cycle tracks. When a street is blocked to through traffic it is inherently safe for playing, walking, and of course cycling.
I feel sorry for the guy, bleating over there in Groningen or wherever they keep him, about embedded principles that can’t be summed up with one photo of hundreds of hot Danish blondes riding down the one street. A Copenhagen cycle track is one sexy baby, a silver bullet, something to rally for, but not worth a zak if it is just fifty meters from a parallel street that could be blocked to through traffic.
My own home town of Newcastle has a hand full of cycle tracks, and could use a few more, but I don’t see them as a priority, either here or in other Australian cities that are relatively flat with permeable street grids. These are inherently bike friendly cities. If the car mode share is high it is because these cities have had a lot spent to help driving in the post WW2 era and because lazy bastards like cars. But what concern is that to me, if I never use the arterial roads that driving effects? I use the bulk haulage routes, the equivalent of Holland’s canals, and quiet back streets, that if I were in Holland would be blocked to through-traffic.
Which leads to my pressing complaint about the country I live in: drivers taking short cuts through backstreets. Our backstreets may be 40k zones, but these pricks are all doing 60 and racing through intersections without really looking. Locals with children would welcome some bollards—the rest can get fucked—and of course bollards are cheap.
To conclude: Gehl and Mikael are more charming, but cranky old Hembrow is the one with the message.
I was inspired to write this by one of david’s tweets, retweeted by Edward from Bike Adelaide a few days ago.