People like to ride bicycles. A national survey by the Heart Foundation and the Cycling Promotion Fund found 60% of Australians had a bicycle (1). Every year in Australia, bicycle sales exceed car sales.
The Heart Foundation survey also found most people who own a bicycle would like to cycle for transport. However in practice they do not. Compared to many other world cities, Brisbane has a low bicycle mode share, only 1.2% of total trips in Brisbane are by bicycle (2). By comparison in Beijing 32% of all trips are made by bicycle, in Bremen it is 25%, and Tokyo 20%.
Brisbane is beaten by 343 world cities in the bicycling mode share stakes, including many cities in the USA such as: Portland 6.1% , Iowa City 5.5%, Seattle 4.1%, Detroit 3.3%, Boston 2%.
Even the car centric cities of Austin (Texas) 1.6%, Pittsburg 1.6%, and Chicago 1.3% beat Brisbane for bicycle trips 2. Anchorage (Alaska) where temperatures fall to 15 degrees below zero and it is dark for a month every year has a higher cycling mode share at 1.5% and San Francisco with its famous hills has more trips by bicycle at 3.8%.
Brisbane should have a higher bicycle mode share than 1.2%. Considering our fine weather and mild climate we should be doing better than steamy Darwin (3%) and cold Canberra (2.8%) (2). People are aware of the health, environmental and monetary benefits of riding a bicycle. Considering 50% of car trips in South East Queensland are less than 5 km (3) and bicycles are competitive with cars up to a distance of approximately five kilometres (4) these trips should be amenable to substitution by bicycle.
Why aren’t people using bicycles more for transport? The Heart Foundation survey asked this question and found people do not use bicycles more for transport for the following reasons: unsafe road conditions; speed or volume of motor traffic; safety; lack of bicycle lanes or trails (1).
Put simply, regardless of the health, environmental, money saving benefits and the pure enjoyment of riding a bicycle, people won’t use a bicycle for transport if they think they will be killed doing it.
Why don’t we have roads which are safe and inviting for people to cycle on? This question has already been answered by the Enrique Penalosa, Mayor of Bogota. Mayor Penasola was responsible for numerous and radical improvements to the city of Bogota and its citizens including building hundreds of kilometres of sidewalks, bicycle paths, pedestrian streets, greenways, and parks which helped transform the city’s attitude from one of hopelessness to one of pride, developing a model for urban improvement based on the equal access of all people to transportation, education, and public spaces. Mayor Penasola famously answered this question with the comment: “It’s not an engineering problem, we know how to build good bike infrastructure. It’s not a money problem, we spend billions of dollars on roads. It’s a political problem”.
A political problem needs a political solution. Harold Dwight Lasswell (1902 –1978), American political scientist and professor of law at Yale University gave the following definition of politics: “Politics is who gets what, when and how”.
In Australia we have a democratic political system. Australian High Court Judge Justice Kirby once said: “Democracy means more than a ceremonial visit of electors to the ballot box each triennium”. What Justice Kirby meant was that a healthy democracy requires citizens to take an active role in the affairs of the community and be prepared to make those concerns felt and heard, and to exert an influence on the political system.
Our democratic political system allows us rights and freedoms including: freedom of speech and freedom of the press; the ability to march and protest; the ability to take court action; the ability to strike; the ability to take direct action and the ability to lobby government. It is this last one, ability to lobby government, which the Space for Cycling Campaign intends to use to address the political problem of why don’t we have roads which are safe and inviting for people to cycle on?
The Space for Cycling Brisbane Campaign is a community run campaign targeting local government and candidates in the lead up to the 2016 Brisbane Local Government elections. http://space4cyclingbne.com The campaign has six ‘asks’ of politicians and candidates for the Brisbane local government elections:
1. Safer routes to schools
2. Local streets not through streets
3. Protected space on main roads
4. A connected and direct network
5. 30km/h for neighbourhood streets
6. Bicycle friendly suburban centres
The aim of this campaign is to make cycling an election issue in 2016, and to ensure councillors who get elected work towards ensuring safe and convenient connections for people who want to get around by bicycle.
Space for Cycling BNE has already visited and contacted candidates and sitting members for quite a few of the wards including the Lord Mayoral candidates with some success. We know that two of the major political parties are currently writing cycling policies as a result of our campaign.
Good facilities for cycling are important to many people but they also have other more pressing concerns in their lives. Approaching your local candidate about cycling issues may not be your highest priority. That is where the Space for Cycling Brisbane Campaign comes in. You can sign up on the Space for Cycling Brisbane webpage and Space for Cycling BNE will approach your local councillor and candidates for you. Space for Cycling BNE’s website and collaborative map allows you to record any problems or issues with cycling in your area and Space for Cycling Brisbane will raise these issues too.
In a more bike friendly Brisbane, people who do not see themselves as ‘cyclists’ might consider riding if there were bike paths or protected bike lanes, or if traffic was slowed (to a 30km/h speed limit) in high-demand areas and children could safely ride and walk to school.
If you and your family would like to get around by bike and you would like safe, direct and convenient access by bicycle to shops, schools and work on facilities suitable for people of all ages, then please sign up to support our campaign: #Space4CyclingBNE, at http://space4cyclingbne.com
1. National Heart Foundation of Australia and Cycling Promotion Fund, 2012, Riding a bike for transport: 2011 survey findings. Heart Foundation and Cycling Promotion Fund, Melbourne. Available from: https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/active-living/active-travel/Pages/Cycling-surveys.aspx
2. City Clock Magazine, 2014. Cycling Mode Share Data for 700 Cities. City Clock Magazine. Available from: http://www.cityclock.org/urban-cycling-mode-share/#.VjViz7crLIX
3. Queensland Government Transport and Main Roads (2010). Connecting SEQ 2031- An Integrated Regional Transport Plan for South East Queensland. Available from: http://www.ppt.asn.au/pubdocs/connecting_seq2031+(1).pdf
4. Dekoster, J. and U. Schollaert, (1999). Cycling: the way ahead for towns and cities. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/archives/cycling/cycling_en.pdf