24 May 2020

Report from Council

MaskedManCouncil’s committee meetings were back in City Hall, happening in person this week, and the bad news for us is that meant no more online streaming. Because there are no minutes kept from committee meetings, we can only find out the topic when the report is debated in the main Council meeting a week later; and the minutes from that meeting are not published for a further 8 or 9 days (ie. 15 or 16 days after the committee presentation). Questions and items of general business raised in committee meetings do not appear on the public record at all. So, we sent an intrepid representative along to City Hall to observe the Public and Active Transport Committee Meeting on Tuesday

The most promising learning was when Chair, Cr Ryan Murphy, mentioned he was to meet with Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey later in the week to discuss opportunities to accelerate cycling and pedestrian improvements in the CBD. From this report in the Courier Mail, his words were:

“Public transport is picking up again but it’s not picking up at the pace that car traffic is picking up.

“I’m concerned that within a few months we might be in a situation where we have worse car congestion than we did before COVID because people don’t have confidence to get back on public transport.”

“We are doing a body of work… to look at what opportunities there might be to accelerate cycling and pedestrian works in the CBD.”

Could the long-awaited CBD Grid finally be getting a kick start?? We are waiting with bated breath to hear more!! Three years ago, at our first Big Push ride, this is what Thea from West End had to say about cycling in the CBD:

Recovery Response

SydneyCyclePaths

In NSW this week, Minister for Transport, Andrew Constance MP, had a message for the people of Sydney:

“If you live 15 minutes from work, don’t use public transport.”

His government committed $4million to create 10.3km of additional pop-up bike paths into the city, designed to facilitate people in those inner-city areas riding to work and staying off public transport. City of Sydney and Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore had a plan ready to go, and quickly announced plans for 6 quick “pop-up” cycleways to ensure inner city commuters have safe cycling options to ease the pressure on public transport and prevent everyone driving instead.

We want to see Brisbane taking similar action! So here’s our proposal for cycleways in Brisbane that could be built quickly to fill in missing links, and provide high-value commuter routes in the inner city:

CovidQuickResponse

Of course this is not to imply that bikeways are only needed in the inner city. The aim is to address peak congestion and help people shift away from public transport for short journeys, through projects that could be done quickly and cost-effectively. Most of these propose repurposing existing road space—especially where that is used for car-parking—to move people more efficiently.

Finally it seems the national conversation is shifting. While the RACQ are still spruiking bigger roads, this is what their more progressive counterparts in Victoria are saying:

“Now is the time to be innovative with private transport options and provide commuters with genuine choice in how they get around. Quick-build, pop-up infrastructure solutions, as championed in Vancouver, Milan and Auckland, can create a safe space for riders and pedestrians without taking months or years to design and implement.” — RACV senior planner Stuart Outhred

Well done to national lobby group We Ride Australia for pushing the conversation about #SpaceForHealth and #HealthyStreets. We just need to help our “leaders” muster the political will to act on our plan for Brisbane!

This article in the The Sydney Morning Herald noted that the challenge as our cities recover from the pandemic is to protect public transport for those people who have no other options.

“Sydney’s CBD would hit gridlock unless more than 500,000 people who previously used peak hour public transport worked from home, shifted to off-peak travel or cycled and walked.”

Oddly, the article then focuses on options for some of the three square kilometres of car parking Sydney would need if a third of commuters who habitually use public transport start driving to work, but glosses over “or cycled and walked” – which is the cheap, easy, and sustainable option!! But perhaps that’s because City of Sydney are already working on the pop-up bikelanes they announced on Monday.

On Thursday, The World Today program on ABC Radio had a good segment (it’s less than 5 minutes, and well worth a listen) about the need to get more people walking and cycling to avoid a congestion nightmare as CBD workers start to return after the coronavirus shutdown. We Ride Australia National Advocacy Director, Stephen Hodge mentioned the work Melbourne and Sydney are doing to quickly create #SpaceForHealth. But still there’s nothing on the cards for Brisbane… yet…

But on Friday, there was a great letter in the Courier Mail from Madeline of Fig Tree Pocket who said:

CyclingIntoNewNormal

“COVID-19 is set to expose the inadequacy of Brisbane’s cycle network.

As many residents are expected to return to work in coming weeks and months, confidence in public transport will waver unless social distancing is practised.

But the public health advice for 4 sq m per person would only allow six passengers to board a bus at any time.

The resulting shortfall in public transport capacity cannot be balanced purely by an increase in car trips without causing a raft of additional problems.

Those who don’t have the luxury of owning a car should not be forgotten either.

Cycling provides a great solution, but only if this, too can be done safely.

Pop-up lanes would allow Brisbane City Council to capitalise on the resurgence of cycling during the pandemic.

Bike sales and cycling have boomed across Australia but providing safe routes as more cars return to the roads is now key if people are to stay on their bikes. The council has reported and uptick in weekday and weekend cyclists during the pandemic. More cycleways would benefit not only commuters but also residents who wish to continue to exercise.

In Sydney, six new temporary cycleways spanning 10.3km will be implemented to help residents return to work, while Melbourne will see 12km of pop-up lanes.

It means residents in these cities who want to drive will experience less traffic, those who want to cycle can do so safely, and more of those who need to catch public transport will be able to do so while maintaining a safe distance from others.

It is now Brisbane’s turn to release a plan that will help our economy reboot and which could have lasting effects for a cleaner and more livable city.”

Saying “Yes” in my backyard (YIMBY) to good development outcomes that makes for better living, the YIMBYs are calling on Brisbane City Council to take the opportunity to expand our bicycle networks, fast-track walkable neighbourhood projects, and take action to reduce car dependency. They acknowledge it’s not an easy task; access to car parking continues to be top of mind for Australians. But the pattern cannot be broken until local governments stop promoting car dependency and provide alternatives.

While the community are experiencing a change of habits towards socially distant activities such as cycling, which also promotes positive mental health, it’s time to take the streets back and start breathing in the fresh air!

Commuting by Bike

On Friday, Chris spoke with Kat Feeney on ABC Brisbane Radio about cycling to work. You can listen here from 2:35:10.  If you’re thinking about doing it for the first time, there are really only a few essentials: a bike, helmet, lock, and lights if you might be coming home late. (Lights which fasten with a rubber strap are easy to carry with you just in case). If your workplace doesn’t have sophisticated end of trip facilities, don’t let that be a deal-breaker – many people who have short trips find that cycling in their everyday clothes is perfectly fine. If you need to carry “stuff”, a simple backpack is a good start. Later, adding a rack with a basket or pannier bags can make carrying things more convenient and comfortable.

What about the weather??

If you are thinking about riding to work or school but a bit worried about what to do if rain might be in the forecast for the afternoon, take it from Abi: splash on through! #BestDayEver

BicentennialCounterColdSpeaking of ‘bad’ weather, Saturday might have been Brisbane’s coldest May day for almost 100 years, but people haven’t given up their love of bikes. Brisbane residents might be famous for not dealing well with cold and windy weather, but by 6pm Saturday evening there had been almost 3,400 bike trips on the Bicentennial Bikeway and over 2,000 walkers and runners.

Sunday was sunnier, but still cold. There was a chilly breeze on the Kingsford Smith Drive bikeway and promenade, but already by around 4:30 that afternoon, more than 2,000 people had walked/run past the counter, and the bike numbers were not far behind. Brisbane people want to ride!!

Cycling to School

EBSSgate

On Monday, Queensland children of all year levels will be heading back to school. How will you be travelling? It has been good to see leadership from East Brisbane State School who advised parents this week:

“Please note that the driveway will be closed in the afternoon for the remainder of this term. We encourage families to walk to/from school wherever possible.”

Already, around half of this school’s students use active transport, but good on them for taking steps to discourage driving and enable more healthy travel.

EBSScatchment

No student in the East Brisbane State School catchment area lives further than 2.5km away, and the vast majority are within 1km. And no, that’s not because this is an inner city school—it’s actually the norm rather than the exception for primary school catchment areas in Brisbane (check out the maps if you don’t believe us). Unfortunately, what is also not unusual is that what should just be a short easy walk often requires dealing with poor-quality footpaths, significant detours to reach safe road crossings, and long waits at traffic signals which can double or triple the time the trip would otherwise take.

When given the opportunity, most kids love being able to walk or cycle to school, and are healthier, happier, brighter and more independent because of it. Brisbane needs to get better at creating environments that make active school travel safe and inviting—the new (retro) normal!

KedronHighBikeRacksRemember when the bike racks at school were full? This is actually quite a recent photo from Kedron High, where students are encouraged to ride, and many of them can do so on the fantastic Kedron Brook Bikeway. We know of one young woman who rode her bike to school every single day from year 7 to year 12. Nearby Hillbrook Anglican School at Enoggera are also encouraging their students to ride or walk where possible, as all grades return this week.

If there are safe options, kids love the freedom and convenience of getting to school under their own power. We think every child should have that opportunity!

Speaking of cycling to school, Council’s Infrastructure Chair, Cr David McLachlan confirmed in Question Time in Council this week that Brisbane City Council does not have any involvement in the works at the intersection of Gladstone Rd and TJ Doyle Memorial Drive, Dutton Park to facilitate access to the new Inner City South State Secondary College. Although these are Council controlled roads, Cr McLachlan informed the meeting that the roads are included in the Ministerial Infrastructure Designation relating to the adjacent school site. It’s interesting to know that process can be applied/extended to roads…

DuttonParkDA

DuttonParkIntersectionPlanNow that we know the design and construction is 100% the responsibility of the State Government, we look forward to their response to our petition to Parliament calling for an urgent review of the safety of what is being constructed. In particular, an explanation for why it does not comply with Department of Transport and Main Roads’ Road Safety Policy, which was endorsed in July 2018. According to that Organisational Policy, the following safety standards apply to new and upgraded road infrastructure and operations:

  • Pedestrian crossings to be provided on all approaches at signalised intersections.
  • Unsignalised left turn slip lanes should generally be avoided at intersections unless signalised with pedestrian protection.

Clearly the current design doesn’t meet those safety standards, so we hope it can be corrected promptly.

SafetyStandards

NurseryRdLocationThis week we also took a look at the plans for building work at the Nursery Road State Special School in Holland Park West, which includes a new 40-space carpark off Clough St. Nearby residents have raised concerns about the new bitumen carpark in what is currently green space, plus the impacts on koalas which have been seen in the area- see Mt Gravatt Action Group Save Clough St Green Space on Facebook for more details. But what concerned us was reading, in the assessment report (found here):

“Given the nature of the school, there is no use of active transport by students.”

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NarbethongSurely just because it’s a school catering to students with intellectual and physical disabilities doesn’t mean their families aren’t interested in all the benefits of active transport, and the kids wouldn’t love it just a much as other kids? Certainly at the Narbethong Special School in Woollongabba—which is next to the Norman Creek Bikeway—there are families who enjoy walking, cycling, and scooting to school. Perhaps it’s the nature of the infrastructure around the school, not the nature of the school itself which means there is no use of active transport by students at Nursery Road??

The report also notes that

“No dedicated staff bicycle storage facilities are provided on-site. Staff that ride to the school use the fence line to park their bikes.”

But then later says:

“The DoE and school will further investigate the need for provision of end of trip facilities such as lockers and shower, should staff demand for active transport measures increase.”

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So, there are no end of trip facilities, and the best staff can do is lock their bikes to the fence. This school is less than a kilometre from the Veloway, so would be an excellent location to ride to work. Maybe the reason staff don’t is exactly because there are no end of trip facilities.

What an incredibly disappointing attitude from the Queensland Department of Education.

Seniors benefit too!

WardsSeniors often feel threatened by changes that provide alternatives to driving, yet they actually have the most to gain from pedestrian and cycling improvements. Many older people see themselves becoming more dependent on driving as they age and lose physical ability to bike or walk longer distances. But it’s really the other way around; typically we lose our ability to drive long before we lose the ability to walk. Living in a walkable, bikeable neighbourhood can be a huge advantage for maintaining independence, and staying active and healthy.

How well could you live in your neighbourhood if you were unable to drive? If the answer is not well, then it’s time to work on making it better!

Around the suburbs

In the west, Public and Active Transport Chair, Cr Ryan Murphy, and Cr Greg Adermann (Pullenvale Ward) held a live Q&A session about the Bellbowrie Green Bridge which you can catch up on here. The benefits of this bridge would be substantial: a bus-train commute from Bellbowrie to Brisbane CBD will take approximately 40 minutes, compared with 60 minutes by bus on Moggill Road currently. A bike-train commute from Bellbowrie to the CBD will take about 50 minutes – 25 minutes/7.5km by bike to Darra Station, then 22 minutes by train, with a 5 minute wait.

Also in the west: this week in Parliament, Dr Christian Rowan MP asked a question on notice of the Minister for Transport and Mail Roads:

Can the Minister please advise on the progress of the Moggill Road Corridor Planning Study, and provide a specific timeframe for the implementation of its recommendations to prevent local cyclist fatalities?

West BUG thank Dr Rowan for his ongoing persistence and support to see improvements along the Moggill Road Corridor for cycling, where two people have lost their lives in the last 9 years. The Moggill Road Corridor Planning Study that West BUG participated in during 2018 identified some opportunities for improvements to be delivered by Brisbane City Council and TMR. We want to see a plan in place to implement them.

Around the world

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson believes that the coronavirus crisis presents the perfect opportunity to ‘get Britain on its bike’ to enable social distancing and tackle the high level of obesity that increases risks for those who catch Covid-19. Active travel (walking and cycling) is generally found to have a huge impact on obesity levels across a population, and that’s good news for a national health system—pandemic or no.