Perth in Australia has ambitious plans to create a dense cycling network suitable for 8 to 80 year olds.
While many Australian cities and States are now bywords for backwards thinking when it comes to people on bicycles Perth is taking a radically different approach. What amounts to a Dutch-style bicycling masterplan has just been produced by the State government, and it appears to be seriously ambitious.
The “Perth 3.5m (2050) Transport Plan” was launched yesterday by Colin Barnett, the Premier of Western Australia, and his Transport Minister Dean Nalder.
The plan is “probably the strongest political support we have ever seen from a State Government state about the desirability of long term planning for bikes,” said Stephen Hodge, director of Australia’s industry-funded Cycling Promotion Fund.
Such masterplans can inform thinking for many years. The famous Dutch Bicycle Master Plan of 1999 was used to consolidate and boost the growing cycling infrastructure and promotions in the Netherlands.
The Perth plan might have an unDutch cover – a photograph of Lycra-clad MAMILs cycling to work – but inside there are some key messages, some of which I include below. Interestingly, the plan talks about “fine-grained cycle networks” as well as featuring visualisations of what could be a world-class cycling bridge. Will the plan be implemented? That remains to be seen – the plan is strong on details, but does not reveal where the money to pay for it all is coming from.
“With its warm Mediterranean climate, flat topography and outstanding natural beauty, the Perth metropolitan region certainly has the right ingredients to become one of the world’s great cycling cities. Cities with high levels of cycling enjoy various economic, environmental and social benefits. Not only can cycling play a pivotal role in reducing road congestion and improving air quality, it can also help facilitate new forms of industry (such as cycle-tourism) and encourage people to live more healthy and active lifestyles. Key to increasing cycling’s mode share is providing routes that are not only safe and direct, but also offer an advantage over private vehicle usage in terms of convenience and travel times.”
“A series of interconnected local routes, strategic routes, Principal Shared Paths (PSPs) and Recreational Shared Paths (RSPs) have been identified with the aim of providing high quality, ubiquitous links between Perth’s various universities, schools, train stations, activity centres and tourist destinations. It is critical that such infrastructure provides a level of safety that makes it attractive to cyclists of all ages and experience levels, not just Lycra-clad fitness enthusiasts and CBD-commuters.”
“A key objective of the Western Australian Planning Commission’s Perth and Peel @ 3.5 Million planning framework is to increase Perth’s sub-regional employment self-sufficiency … It is expected that better integrating land use and transport around activity centres will minimise the need for people to commute long distances to school or work – ultimately relieving pressure on the transport network … Planning and development has resulted in five PSP routes that lead to the outskirts of the CBD but few dedicated cycle paths through or within the city. DoT and respondents to our survey identified the CBD as a significant safety risk for cyclists as they must cycle on the road. The minimal infrastructure and high vehicle and pedestrian traffic make the environment unsafe and inconvenient for cycling … Local cycling routes to connect with the PSP network, community facilities and employment centres have historically not been well planned, and vary in design and construction. The result is an inconsistent and unconnected local cycle network which lacks integration into the broader transport system.”
“The GPS mapping tool, Strava Labs, was employed to better understand which parts of Perth’s cycling network are most heavily utilised. The following trends/generalisations were noted: Separated and/or protected cycling facilities receive significantly higher patronage compared to unprotected cycle lanes or sealed shoulders.”
“Up until recently, cycling has relied solely on human power. This has limited the distance and type of terrain most people are happy to make on bicycle. The emergence of electric bicycles (e-bikes) and the harmonisation of e-bike power ratios across Australia in 2015 is a game changer that will result in significant increases in cycling for transport and recreation in the future years. The average person would view the achievable maximum cycling distance for a standard bike being in the region of 10km to 15km. With e-bikes an average power assisted speed of 25km/h is easily achievable, which extends the maximum achievable riding distance to around 25km. With this distance in mind, an e-bike priced at $2,000 to $4,000 becomes a real option to replace the second car for many people, with the bike essentially paying for itself within one year when taking in the car purchase and running costs … Highlighting the potential for e-bikes in Perth are the results of a trial run by the RAC in late 2015. The trial involved 40 employees from 4 workplaces being provided with an e-bike for a 10 week period. Before the trial, 83% of the participants owned a bike, but less than half used it at least once a week. Before the trial, 61% of participants travelled to work by car, but during the trial this was reduced to 32%, with 55% of commuting trips being made solely by e-bike.”
“Although the proposed network will officially consist of Principal Shared Paths (PSPs), Recreational Shared Paths (RSPs), strategic routes and local routes, it is recognised that all roads (excluding controlled access highways) will continue to play a critical role in Perth and Peel’s cycling network.”
“The “8 to 80 rule” should be applied when identifying the alignment and built form of local routes (i.e. the route should be safe enough for use by an 8 year old or an 80 year old) … The evolution of Perth’s cycling network has generally followed a “lowest hanging fruit” philosophy. Separated bike paths of considerable length have been constructed parallel to many of Perth’s freeways and railway lines, as well as at a range of river and beachfront locations. Although this has been useful for people commuting to and from the CBD, or for the recreational purposes, many trips that people make on a daily basis remain difficult by bike. As Perth’s population grows, it is imperative that activity centres such as shopping centres, universities and industrial areas become serviced by safe, direct and legible cycling facilities.”
“In order for Perth to realise its potential as great cycling city, significant investment is required to make the CBD’s streets both safe and attractive for cyclists. Despite having a number of excellent shared paths leading to and from the city’s fringes, the Perth CBD’s roads are not considered safe by most cyclists as they are typically shared with relatively high volumes of motorised vehicles … Over time, the inner core of the Perth CBD will evolve to one that is less reliant on car-based transport. With a reduced number of high volume private and public car parks, and business changing to ones that are more reliant on walking and cycling, customers will assist in facilitating more cycle-friendly streets and a more vibrant city centre.”