Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Scandal of the Victoria Bicycle Strategy (2009)

This article and this in The Age newspaper reveal that neither the present (Liberal) government in Victoria, Australia or the past (Labor) have acted on the state's  Cycling Strategy, produced in 2009. The Strategy has now been evaluated by the Auditor General of Victoria, Dr Des Pearson, in Aug 2011 and he found little progress has been made on the key recommendations and actions over the last 2.5 years.

The particular issue of interest to readers is that little effort has been made since 2009 to address the complexities of road  infrastructure - eg where councils and VicRoads have to be consulted, or where significant spending would be needed across councils and state bodies. This would be the case with terrible Canning Street/Princes Hill  crossing discussed in this blog, and with the ever-increasing waits that we have to endure at more and more traffic lights - as around Carlton. The relevant section is this one -
3.6 Addressing stakeholder issuesThe Department and VicRoads have not:

  • addressed conflicts and delays where cyclists cross road intersections and where cyclists and pedestrians use shared paths

  • provided updated guidance on the construction, maintenance, auditing and retrofitting of shared bicycle paths

  • acted to improve policy and program coordination across government
    adequately addressed the concerns of councils regarding how maintenance will be funded.

  • I am pleased that the truth is out - it was long suspected. The purpose of this blog was to show that cyclists in Melbourne have a very hard time on the roads, partly because of bad infrastructure, and that grand plans laid out in strategy documents result in very little concrete action. The current state government is worse than the last at fixing crap cycle lanes in Melbourne. The work has not been funded, there is very little data collected on cycling, and priorities for the major transport agencies clearly lie elsewhere. Here is a letter I sent to The Age, which was not printed.

    Letter to The Age , sent Thursday, August 18, 2011
    In “No way to spin it, the wheels are off” (18 Aug) we learn from an Auditor General’s report that the 2009 Victorian Cycling Strategy has been all but discarded by the present State government. This embarrassing news comes as Melbourne fêtes Cadel Evans, and Melbourne has been declared the world’s second “bicycle city” by the Union Cycliste Internationale.

    If the Baillieu government was happy to embrace the award, then it actually needs to follow through on its own Cycling Strategy, as should our local governments who also produce such strategy documents. This means 1) spending real money on actually building missing links and addressing dangers in the cycle network 2) listening to regular cyclists when designing bike infrastructure, rather than relying on non-cycling transport planners 3) sorting out the complex governance of our roads - between Vic Roads, local councils, and private landowners such that facilities actually get built. Fourthly, as the article says, there has so far been no significant action to make “car travel less attractive” through congestion charging and similar measures in the inner city, as in London and other cities. Addressing these four points could result in creating a genuine ‘bicycle city’.
    However several letters were published in response to the article, and an editorial was printed on Saturday 20 Aug 2011 blaming government failures. Also Alan Davies has an extended commentary on his blog. We will wait to see if there is any reaction from the government, but do not hold your breath. They are still basking in the glow of Cadel Evans winning the Tour, and the 'Bike City' designation for Melboune. The difficulty for me is that my letters and protests about crapness of bike infrastructure have probably been ignored, as have thousands of others I suspect. 
    The fact that cycling in inner Melbourne and the central business district has grown by about 50% during the last four years, as the Auditor's report says, and surely this must be worth something. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be worth actual investment, as opposed to lines in a Strategy document.
    The struggle continues.

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