A great new book about cycling in WA has come out this week by Debra Mayrhofer. It is a very interesting look at cycling and its subcultures in the West with lots stories from many differnt people. I wrote a short piece for it too which I have pasted below. The book is avaialable at Dymocks and I have also donated a copy to the Freo library
The global resurgence of the bicycle
In my travels through major western cities around the globe over the past few years it is hard not to get a strong sense that the tide is turning and bicycles are making a major and timely comeback. Cycling was pushed to the margins in the late 20th century by the dominance of the automobile but now a combination of higher fuel prices, climate change concerns and the need to create more healthy and liveable cities means that people are turning back to cycling once again as a primary way travelling around their cities. As result this also means we are seeing major changes to infrastructure in our cities to make cycling safer and more appealing to more people.
I’ve just returned this evening from a day-long ride around and through New York City. Despite New York’s legendarily chaotic traffic, cycling was an extremely pleasurable way to see New York. This was in large part because of the ambitious “road diet” that NYC has been over the last few years in which lanes of traffic of major avenues and small streets alike have been handed over for public space and bike lanes. Instead of being forced off the road by yellow taxis, New York cyclists now get a dedicated lane all to themselves. Road diets, cycling lanes and other infrastructure improvements has made cycling in NYC much safer, more relaxing and no doubt quicker in peak hour than driving your car. As a result bikes are everywhere in NYC.
The Big Apple is not alone. Paris has, in addition to its extensive Velib bike share scheme (20,000 rental bikes available at approximately 1,400 stations located around the city!), also has put in place over 370 km of cycling lanes that has transformed the city into a cyclist paradise. Many roads are two ways for bikes but only one-way for cars. Following Paris’s huge investment, London has recently introduced a similar system with about 6000 blue and grey bikes and a new investment in bike lanes and racks.
It seems bikes are the new black no matter colour they are. This revolution in which cycling is being given a new found focus is happening throughout Europe and North America. I haven’t even mentioned the progress we’ve seen in recent years in Barcelona. Lyon, Copenhagen and Montreal along with many others I haven’t space to list. What is clear, however, is that we are seeing a global resurgence in the popularity of cycling and it is a resurgence that is rapidly expanding and gathering pace as the infrastructure to assist it also gets put into place.
Australia is also starting to catch up with this sustainable global trend. Melbourne has recently got up and running the first bike-share scheme in Australia. This is appropriate because it is without a doubt the city with the best cycling infrastructure in the country with over 100km of bike lanes and a great bike culture. Sydney and Brisbane are also looking at cycling with a renewed interest.
In my home town of Fremantle, the City Council recently improved a tenfold increase in funding for bike infrastructure including implementing a new bike plan that will include a huge increase in the number of bike lanes as well as end of trip facilities such as lockers and secure bike storage for workers in Fremantle. This is in addition to the Council funding a free bike hire scheme until we can persuade the state to help us fund a fully fledged bike-share scheme. Fremantle is blessed by already having a great bike culture and being a compact City. With the addition of some good bike infrastructure I have no doubt that we can more double the number of cyclists in the City.
As the Mayor of Fremantle, when elected I decided to auction off my mayoral car-parking bay and donate the money to charity not because I wanted to make a huge personal sacrifice but because I really would rather ride to work than drive and having the best parking bay in Fremantle (which can be short of parking) empty every day was absurd.
For me riding is a great start to the day in which you engage a little with the elements before parking right at the door to your office. For me it is quicker than driving. But nor only is it pleasurable but it means your transport “burns fat not oil”, produces no CO2, has no fuel bills, and doesn’t add to traffic congestion. Cycling really is an idea whose time has come – once again. This time I strongly believe it is here to stay.