Date: 28 Jun 2010 10:31:17 +0200
From: Michael Dodd <mikeydodds@xxxxxxxxx>
http://www.smh.com.au/opinion/editorial/tanner-not-just-labors-loss-20100627-zbvn.html A slower city cycle The City of Sydney wants to encourage cycling by setting a 40km/h limit on all local roads in three inner-city suburbs. The idea has produced a predictable explosion of argument and dissent. In fact the proposal would disrupt no one, and should be supported by drivers and cyclists alike. If anything, it does not go far enough: a 30km/h limit would better suit many local roads close to the city. The reaction from motorists has been typically fearful: that cyclists are taking over, that no consideration should be given to them because they do not pay registration, that cyclists should not use roads at all, that reducing maximum speeds to cycling pace will hold up motorists in slow-moving traffic. A moment's thought dispels all of these. Cyclists have certainly been gaining the attention of road and traffic planners of late: it is a cheap and healthy way to make short trips. Cycling infrastructure costs little. Given Sydney drivers' marked reluctance to carry passengers, each bicycle removes one car from the road. Those who choose to drive should welcome that trend and what it means for traffic. As for registering cyclists to ensure they pay their share of the damage they cause to the road network, it is a money-losing proposition. A 15 kilogram bicycle carrying an 85 kilogram rider does nothing like the damage that the same person driving a sedan 100 times as heavy will do. Proportionate registration charges would cost more to administer than they would raise in revenue. Drivers have no cause to feel aggrieved. Taxpayers subsidise them, too. NSW vehicle charges raise $2.38 billion a year; the roads budget is twice that. The council's proposal follows the development of several heavily engineered bicycle lanes in the city - along Kent, King and Bourke streets. As a strategy, segregating bicycles from cars can be justified at points where bicycle traffic is heaviest, or cars dominate through speed and numbers. Usually, though, it is better and cheaper if cars and bicycles use the same roads. But for safety, this should be done on equal terms. In discussing road management, it would help if the dialogue between drivers, riders and their various advocates became more co-operative and less defensive and acrimonious. Lastly, motorists' fears of being slowed to a snail's pace are unfounded. The limits are proposed for Newtown, Camperdown and Darlington - older suburbs built before cars, where narrow streets already act as a brake. Speeds above even 30km/h can be hazardous there. That does not make the limit unnecessary: it will help some drivers learn that the car's unquestioned dominance is ending, and that all must share the road.