Cycling in Brisbane, it’s quite the adventure. Don’t take my word for it, take a look at this research paper to cycling injuries in Australia. Of course you are required by law to wear your helmet. Safety first, right?! Instead of making a helmet obligatory, how about getting some bike lanes, like, everywhere (Feb 2015)! And while we’re at it, let’s change the rules and regulations as well, since “Achieving high levels of safe cycling begins with acknowledging that cycling is a legitimate form of transport” (Sept 2011). And then we don’t mean “higher fines for dodgy cyclists“. NSW, I’m talking to you (Jan, 2106).
But Australia says it wants to change. The national bicycling council aims to double the number of cyclists between 2011 and 2016, inspiring all with this H.G. Wells quote: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” But double a few is still only a few cyclists. In 2001 nearly 20% of the Danes cycled to work, while only 1.2 % of the Aussies were so inclined. The report does mention a lot of good points, but unfortunately doesn’t touch the topic of regulations. Which is a pity, especially since this comes from a national council. The update from 2013 shows promising progress and good intentions, but the financial numbers show that investing in safe cycling is no priority. Australia invested $4.83 per capita on Cycling Infrastructure in 2012-13. This is only 0.61% of the total transport expenditure. And that while bold spending makes all the difference and most Australians want the government to spend more on biking and walking facilities, according to this report.
In my research for this post, I found a lot of information online. However, the average Joe will only consume information that is brought to him. Like Pedal Brisbane, an exhibition and event celebrating and promoting cycling in Brisbane through photography, film, talks and initiatives associated with cycling in a fun, positive way (promo, Facebook). It started in 2013, I visited it 2014 and in 2015 they teamed up with APPC to become Bicycle Fringe Festival, together with the Bicycles Welcome Here Festival, presenting Brisbane as a bicycle friendly city. Instead of creating more bicycle lanes or other such novel ideas, they made another promo – don’t bother watching this, unless you like to hear random people saying “Bicycles welcome here” for a couple of minutes. Really people, that’s not helping. Festivals like these give me the impression that Australia is not taking this seriously, but maybe I’m underestimating the bad rep cycling has with most Aussies?
There are other initiatives, like Space for cycling in Brisbane, which contacts individual council members to get bicycle lanes higher priority on the local political agenda. This leads to friendly posts in my Facebook timeline, and I hope it will lead to actual change as well.
Clearly I don’t have the answers, but I’d hope Australia can learn from other countries, like The Netherlands and Denmark in the 70’s. In the meantime I will at least contribute by reporting pot holes with Brisbane City Council. I’ve reported on the crack that brought me down and got a response that they’ve received my report. We’ll see…
And I will cycle to work of course!
Edit: with the upcoming elections, the group Space4CyclingBrisbane has made this excellent video.