Here’s What Australians Don’t Get About Cycling — And Why It’s A Problem 

With an easy rewrite it could be:

Australian cities are losing out on significant financial benefits [Adelaide?? except it's revenue model is based on car parking fee...mind numbing]

Many commuters see cycling as a form of exercise, not convenient transport, and cities are still being built around automobiles. [yep all new development is still constructed without segregated bicyle infrastructure]

Australians often perceive cyclists as extreme athletes...going for a hundred-mile ride on a Saturday...are intense cyclists, and risk scaring off casual bike riders... it's like having race walkers doing the talking for pedestrians [true indeed]

That view of biking as exercise, instead of transport, fuels the concern that cyclists will arrive at the office sweaty, without a way to clean off....common fix by Australian workplaces that want to encourage cycling is to install another manifestation of the cycling-as-exercise image. [yep or ACC trying to do the right thing by putting up shower facilities in Hindmarsh square]

Many Australian cities are working to improve cycling infrastructure, but don’t always do so intelligently. Bike lanes are often placed to the left of parked cars, putting cyclists between moving traffic and doors that can open at any time.  [yep Pirie Street is a perfect example. Twice (2002 and 2011) we have paid Jan Gehl to make a report which strongly recommends putting in proper bicycle infrastructure and still ACC gets it wrong]

This doesn’t keep cyclists safe,” ... a “brain fart"

...changing the infrastructure of Australian cities built in the age of the automobile. ...the same challenge. No difference. Copenhagen, for example, is a 20th century invention outside the medieval city centre, all built since 1900.” [one couldn't wish for wider and better street to put in proper bicycle infrastructure than Adelaide]

Australian cities don’t need to reinvent the wheel, they just need to copy what the cities that did make the Copenhagenize top 20 are doing. If biking can be presented as a convenient way to get around — one that also offers financial and health benefits — the cyclists will come. [do it right and stop reinventing the wheel when we can just copy the initiatives - which we have even plenty of consultant hours on]

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Agree with all of that, well written. 

a great article for sure. everyone should read it

"Workplaces in Copenhagen don’t provide showers — and people who live there don’t understand why Americans feel they are necessary.............American standards of hygiene tend to be more demanding that those in Europe, and sweating at one’s desk is usually frowned upon"

Those damn stinky bike riding Europeans!

haha yeah that was hilarious. Many, not all workplaces do actually providers showers, some internal gyms, along with fruit, paid canteen etc. etc., but no most copenhageners don't change or shower after riding to work. is a good place to look at what the standard attire is.

I guess the americans thinks it is more hygienic to be an obese slob driving a 7-seater SUV and take the elevator to the office.

depends how far you commute……

Team Better Block is making <pun> inroads </pun> in Australia. An American organisation just might get things moving here. First time for everything!

Can't wait to see them do something in Adelaide.

The problem seems to be one of path dependency. We've been locked in to an automotive culture for a long time, after cyclists were deliberately discouraged by prioritising cars over bicycles and removing cycling infrastructure, such as the Anzac Hwy cycle track.

Those same trends were occurring in Europe, but they had just enough cycling culture to stem the tide in some cities.

The problem is that the decay has continued, our cities have become more spread out, with the suburbs becoming simply bedroom communities.

Adelaide is different in a way because we have well over 400,000 people who live within 12km of the city, a distance that can be travelled in a reasonable time (faster than peak hour traffic), with no sweat on an electric bike.

But other key difference is what Alan Parker (OAM) observed. I will quote one of his comments here


The cutback of funding for Victorian Bike plans and those in other states is because of the entrenched negative attitudes of Australian road planners and engineers. This negative attitude arises because the rights of access in British common law have been ignored. In the UK, separate footpaths and bicycle paths were part of new bridges and still are; see the Forth Road Bridge and the Severn Estuary Bridge. In Melbourne there was no separate provision for cyclists on the Westgate and Bolte bridges. In the Netherlands planners had positive and bicycle friendly attitudes. Engineers who planned and built bikeways, are part a bicycle culture which we did not have. I did my own bicycle planning study tour of the Netherlands to study how to develop a bicycle friendly culture in Australia.

Apart from collecting English language versions of Dutch reports and riding the bikeways in 12 cities, I discussed the lack of a “bicyclist culture” in Australia with several planners and research librarians. One of them said to me, “ I can show you the solution to your problem from that window”. We then looked out over the parking area where there were 250 bicycles in undercover racks and just a few cars.  She said, “perhaps your problem in Australia is simple, most of our traffic and road engineers ride bikes to work and yours do not”. I heard these words 13 years ago and passed them on to VicRoads’ engineers and one CEO who were not amused.

What VicRoads (et al) should have done

If only VicRoads (et al) had sent their engineers to the Netherlands 20 years ago to see the many options for using rail line and road reserves, access paths along canals and rivers, and parks to create continuous bikeways. If only they had ridden bicycles along residential streets which have a 30 km/hour speed limit and bike lanes on roads with a mandatory 50 km/hour speed limit, they would have made small land acquisitions to create short cuts in the residential street network to link up other bicycle routes. They would have seen freeways which are designed to be integrated with the national bikeway network; indeed, freeways and major road bridges with separate bikeways and walkways.


Our traffic engineers don't ride bicycles, they simply follow the Austroads guidelines. The Austroads guidelines are so far from international best practises that our infrastructure would still be terrible, even if they had far more funding.



So not best practice then. And not designing for (a) the broad x-section of community, and (b) the future needs of a growing community. So to use a medical practice analogy, cures to a disease are being ignored. At best its negligent.

Not riding bicycles is no excuse. No one expects planners to be hands-on familiar with every aspect of town planning. But we pay them to think, and hire the expertise they lack. Poor planning IMO.

That is absolutely right. They use a document called Cycling Aspects of Ausroads Guidelines. You can download it from the Austroads website. It is far from best practice. A rewrite of that document would be a great place to begin change.

Thanks for sharing Edward. Had a quick look but my blood pressure can't cope with more today, especially after nearly being crunched by a SUV doing a left from turn Gawler onto Flinder st, nearly wiping me out this morning. No indication, no looking just turning and shrugging shoulders to apologise. My palm is still sore from slamming it in the side to wake him up.

Anyway, rather than rewriting Cycle Aspects it would be far easier to copy this publication 'Collection of Cycling Concepts'from the Danish cycling embassy. somewhat easier on the eye too. Obviously Australian road planner know better...

Completely agree. That document has everything.

Sorry about you being cut up.

BTW, was that you outside Bicycle Express with the Danish Avenue bike a while ago?

no worries. not feeling cut up at all. Think it is quite hilarious looking at the frontpage on this website and notice twice as many replies to 'I know I am a cyclist... ' than this blog post. Really says it all doesn't it. I guess I have to headline my next blog post as 'which wheel set is faster' to get some more attention. :-)

Yes that was me with the Avenue. Great bike. 1st service in 7 years which was a dollop of oil to the internal geared hub. Roller brakes, integrated lock and lights, puncture proof tires etc. look after themselves


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