canberra.bike is one year old. 400 articles and 200,000 words later, here is what we have learnt.
Cyclists are enthusiastic. This is good for the cycling industry because they are pretty sure of continuous growth. The only question is how fast.
The speed of the growth is largely determined by leadership. The growth of sport cycling is pretty limited as it competes with the many other sports available in Canberra.
With political leadership, we can move forward. In some countries, this has been a mayor who cycles. If we are interested in getting the job done, then we need an Active Travel Commissioner to muster the necessary momentum.
The city will not get bigger, space is of a premium, which means we need to reallocate the space and the subsidisation from one mode of transport to another. Slow transport – walking, cycling and public transport – is quicker than fast transport – the private car. The car is a failed business model for modern cities. Cars beget congestion.
We need to think for the long haul. The city is built and renewed one section at a time. Decades can pass before an area is improved. Woden is being renewed now after 50 years. In the Netherlands, the decision to support cycling was made in the 1970s. Today, after 50 years, the task of making infrastructure cycling friendly is still ongoing. Making cities liveable is an intergenerational endeavour.
Cycling is about social change. We must encourage our children to walk and ride to school. We give our children this freedom when we choose a local schools. Bring things closer together not only liberates children but also us, because we consider other ways of getting around and finding services – such as our local shops.
Cities are for people. Urban planning understands that we build relationships through daily interactions we have with people, that we meet through happenstance, while going about our normal business. Good urban planning is about designing our cities so that we mingle in our daily lives. Our current transport model focuses on the destination, where the community is a product of the journey.
Health is in the ACT the largest single budgetary expense (50% of the budget). The road safety vision of ZERO deaths is now superseded by the concept of “beyond zero.” The lack of physical activity in our lives is killing us. It is the product of the cities and lives we have built, that see physical activity as sport and supplemental. Walking to the bus, riding to work, taking the steps rather than the lift, bring real health benefits.
The answer lies at our feet. It has all been done before…
Many European cities have succeeded where the UK, USA and Australia have not. These low cycling countries, where only about 1% cycle, need to look to Europe, where 40% can cycle, to see how it is done. Australia is not doing well, it is doing badly. We do not need to reinvent the wheel but rather copy best practice. Looking at Denmark and the Netherlands would be a good start.
Enjoy your cycling. 🙂