Monday, March 29, 2010

Cycling infrastructure & its attendant philosophy

Voila! le "Bike Pod", a rather weird bicycle tardis

This 'bike pod' was located in the car park just off Swanston Street where I deposited my humble vintage bicycle (sniff! - parting is such sweet sorrow!)

"...I cycle therefore I shower"

...a quick "Cycling-Pit-Stop" provided by Glen & his mate at their new cycling enterprise along the Yarra River Trail

Cycling in Melbourne is popular, and almost totally helmet compliant (unlike Sydney!) The infrastructure is well established, and motorists appear to 'watch-out' for cyclists. Sharing the road with the trams is comfortable once you've appreciated the yellow-line factor and that you must always cross tram-tracks with wide angles!

For sure, the cycling culture is well and truly entrenched...but it's not an inclusive one, and was evidently hi-jacked by the 'Sport of Cycling' long ago.

As a result the actual separate cycle-ways are a 'bun-fight' and surprisingly intimidating. They look like they have been designed:

(a) as exclusive outdoor velodromes, admittedly somewhat linear minus the steeply banked tracks & bends, and

(b) purely for elite cyclists

Speed is definitely of the essence (as is lycra), and this makes sharing the pathway with other pathway users tense. Bell ringing abounds, and hopping on & off your bicycle to take photos along the way is discouraged.

I much preferred the cycling experience on the city streets, where there were plenty of magical Melbourne moments to 'smell the roses' and take in the surroundings...and it's this part of the cycling story that is so exciting in Sydney!!!

Cycling is rejuvenating in Sydney through a heady mix of 'grass-roots' and 'political' will. Consequently the wishes of a very diverse group of stakeholders are being taken into account, and this element promises to deliver an inclusive and vibrant cycling culture. We know we're all entitled to share the road 'dressed-however' and 'riding-whatever', so perhaps our intitial cycling weakness in terms of infrastructure will turn out to be a strength as we rebuild our car-congested city into one that accommodates all cyclists of 'all tastes, ages & stages' with infrastructure for all cyclists of 'all tastes, ages & stages'.

Oh! and back to Melbourne, all 'merit' points earned for 'fabulous cycling infrastructure' are completely deleted for hosting 'hideous 2010 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix' - when is the global community going to ban this destructive event? - we can only weep for Albert Park, unprotected by tokenism in the face of dollars and G-forces.


  1. Sue, thanks for sharing your adventure in Melbourne with us, I LOVE this city and think it has HUGE potential as a cycling city. Indeed, it is already a much more people-friendly city than Sydney (my Better Half, Sydney born and bred, would disagree and thinks the best thing about Melbourne is that it makes you appreciate Sydney more haha)

    Showers are great and all, but let's hope that the focus from the city planners is as much about making the cycling environment pleasant as it is about the post-cycling amenities. We need lots of lovely cycle lanes, great signage and all the rest before most people would even consider cycling and therefore even need a shower.... oh, and banning those pesky helmet laws would help too ;O)

    Thanks for the postcards from Melbourne from a very wet and dreary London!

  2. hey mark - banning our 'pesky' helmet laws makes so much sense & would definitely help in terms of cycling road safety but it would appear that most politicians and other powers that think they be are too gutless to set such a 'dangerous precedent'