[messengers] A Slower City Cycle.

Date: 28 Jun 2010 10:31:17 +0200
From: Michael Dodd <mikeydodds@xxxxxxxxx>

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

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.