Melbourne has been undergoing a cycling makeover. A frenzy of cyclists can often be seen on the city’s busy streets, commuting to work or basking in leisure time. Trends show a 40–70% increase in cycling to work from 2006 to 2011 among the inner-zone councils of Yarra, Port Phillip, Melbourne, Maribyrnong, and Stonnington. The reason behind a recent bike hike could be that cyclists find it easier to commute via bikes as opposed to public/private transport.
Genevieve Engelhardt, lives and works in Melbourne, she comments that “a lot of the time, cycling is quicker than public transport. At the moment, it takes me 45 minutes by train or tram to get to work, rather than a 20-30 minute bike ride. It is also much cheaper than public transport or a car. I do ride faster than cars sometimes, especially during peak hour”.
Cycle, Savio Sebastian, Flickr
Cycling in Melbourne needs to be more than a lifestyle choice. While most Melbournians either ride for transport or recreational purposes, several factors are indicative of why locals are increasingly choosing cycling over public transport.
It comes as no surprise that cycling is a healthier and greener way for people to travel. It reduces transport-emissions such as local pollution and greenhouse gases. In Australia, it is estimated that in a single year, air pollution from motor vehicles causes between 900 and 2,000 early deaths and between 900 and 4,500 cases of bronchitis, cardiovascular, and respiratory disease, costing between $1.5 and $3.8 billion.
Bike-riding is of course a great way to exercise. It is mainly an aerobic activity, which means that the heart, blood vessels, and lungs all get a workout. While cycling, we breathe deeper, perspire, and experience increased body temperature, which improves overall fitness levels.
Transport (15.5%) is second only to food (18.2%) as the largest item of household expenditure in Australia. Bikes are more cost-effective modes of transport for many Melbournians as opposed to cars. The cost of buying and maintaining a bike is around one per cent of the cost of buying and maintaining a car. Cycles have the potential to become a transport tool for the masses.
Public transport delays are a PTV reality. Unanticipated hindrances in scheduled trams, trains, and bus timetables can create backlogs in our daily lives. Cars often sit gridlocked in peak hour traffic while cyclists reach their destinations quicker and reduce considerable amounts of time either waiting for public transport to arrive or traffic to clear.
Bikes, Tim Moreillon, Flickr
In order to sustain popular cycling culture in Melbourne and across Australia, specific infrastructural systems are currently being implemented by both the federal and state governments.
While existing infrastructure such as bike lanes, bike-sharing systems, lockable cycle spaces, and bike sheds, embed Melbourne’s urban landscape, the state government’s coordinated efforts to improve cycling standards and needs in the region are as follows:
The Victorian Cycling Strategy: Cycling into the Future 2013-23, approved in December 2012, provides a view of how the government will encourage cycling over the next 10 years. This plan is streamlined with the National Cycling Strategy 2011-2016. According to a spokesperson for VicRoads, the Cycling Strategy 2013-2023 outlines a range of initiatives to support and encourage cycling, and sets out how initiatives will be delivered, monitored, and evaluated.
The Victorian state government has committed $100 million towards a Safer Cyclists and Pedestrians Fund which will see new, dedicated paths and routes across Victoria, keeping bikes and walkers away from traffic.
Cyclist in Melbourne, Savio Sebastian, Flickr
The government will also establish Active Transport Victoria, a new division within the Department of Transport. It will focus on increased participation and safety among cyclists and pedestrians across Melbourne and regional cities. Following extensive consultation with local councils and key cycling stakeholders, a review of the Principal Bicycle Network was completed and released in 2012. The network now places greater emphasis on providing access to major metropolitan destinations. The review also found that almost three-quarters of recreational paths on the Metropolitan Trail Network, originally intended for leisure and low levels of transport use, now have high levels of transport use. The revised Principal Bicycle Network now includes these paths.
A range of land managers have a stake in planning future cycling infrastructure. A more coordinated approach will incorporate these interests while also allowing the needs of different types of bike riders to be addressed. By bringing together planning for the Principal Bicycle Network and the remainder of the Metropolitan Trail Network, the government will be able better link bike routes and guide investment. Future plans for cycling infrastructure will also consider extensions to new suburbs and urban renewal areas across Melbourne
Planning for cycling networks in regional urban centres is crucial for growing and supporting cycling across Victoria. This applies in large centres such as Geelong as well as in smaller ones such as Bright. Cycling will play an increasingly important role in meeting transport needs and supporting vibrant, healthy urban communities in regional Victoria.
Cycling is also expected to play a role in making Melbourne a ‘20 minute city’ (where people live within a short commute to jobs and everyday services) and will form part of the infrastructure investment required to support city growth.
Regional Growth Plans will provide broad direction for land use, development and transport infrastructure across regional Victoria, including key regional centres.
Together, the Metropolitan Planning Strategy and Regional Growth Plans will provide a long-term vision for managing Victoria’s growth.
Brunswick Cycling Club Velodrome, Tim Moreillon, Flickr
Smart Roads Network Operating Plan
SmartRoads network operating plans have been developed through extensive consultation with local councils, government agencies, and relevant stakeholders over several years. These plans illustrate which transport modes have priority on the road at different times of the day and can even show priority at individual intersections for each of the local government areas.
Road Use Hierarchy Maps
Road Use Hierarchy Maps showing the priority modes on each road have been developed for each council area. These maps form the foundation for the network operating plan and are available below.
VicRoads will continue to consult and work closely with local government to ensure that their SmartRoads plans continue to meet community and transport needs.
In addition, VicRoads is currently reviewing and examining the Victorian road safety and road rules legislation, as they relate to cycling.
The aim of this review is to:
- identify opportunities to make it easier for people to take up riding and for current bike riders to use roads; and
- better protect bike riders and other road users’ safety.
The outcome of this review will reveal road rule related safety issues that road users and key stakeholders feel should be addressed.
In a world where choice and opportunities for self-expression are infinite, it is likely that Melbourne’s cycling phenomenon will become more robust. With the state’s capacity to endorse safe and smart cycling, in future, Melbourne is undoubtedly on route to becoming a renowned cycling city.
Words: Arefeen Ahmed