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Sunday, 10 May 2015

Deckchairs. Titanic. Where's the Strategic Direction for Transport?

Hot on the heels of the breathless announcement of $40 million to 'improve' congestion hotspots, we have the announcement of $35 million to be spent on four major cycle infrastructure projects.

Sounds good - and the STC certainly supports sensible initiatives to reduce congestion and to fund improved cycle infrastructure. As so often is the case, however, the devil is in the detail.
West Australian 8th May 2015
West Australian 9th May 2015

The problem with a 'hotspot' approach to road traffic congestion is that it runs the risk of both inducing more traffic and shifting the congestion to another place along the road. A classic example of this is the proposal to add capacity to the turning movements between East Parade and the Graham Farmer Freeway, which will put even more pressure on the intersection of Guildford Road, East Parade and Whatley Crescent. And by inducing more traffic down East Parade, it will make it even more difficult for the people who live in the riverside area of Banks Precinct to get to the East Perth train station, which is their main public transport access point.

What is needed is a coherent overall approach to congestion, including demand management and enhancements to non-car travel options, instead of a knee-jerk roll-out of short-term responses.

So what, then, is wrong with the announcement of $35 million for four major cycle infrastructure projects? In part, it is precisely the same point - none of these four projects is among the priority projects identified in the Government's own WA Bicycle Network Plan. Even though the government has a coherent plan for bicycle infrastructure, it has ignored it when it comes to funding.

In fact, at least three of those projects (Mitchell Freeway extension; Reid Highway; Gateway WA) would, in the past, have been funded by Main Roads as an integral part of the road project, under its commitment to ensure that cyclists are provided for safely as part of its road projects. The funding would have been part of the 'business as usual' road budget not trumpeted as something additional.

Ignoring the Network Plan is not the way to get more people on bikes. Just a few days previously, the UK Guardian ( published a piece on how Amsterdam became the cycling capital of the world (Danes in Copenhagen might want to dispute that) - the key to this was genuine cycle networks. Initially, "bicycle paths were bright red and very visible … cyclists would change their route to use the paths. It certainly helped to keep people on their bikes, but in the end it turned out that one single bicycle route did not lead to an overall increase in cycling. [Then] the City of Delft constructed a whole network of cycle paths and it turned out that this did encourage more people to get on their bikes. One by one, other cities followed suit."

The best 'bang for the buck' for cycling in Perth will come from filling in the gaps in the existing incomplete network, so that we get full value from the investments already made - not from crowing about facilities that would be provided as a matter of course in road construction projects.
Written and Posted by Ian Ker, Convenor, STCWA

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