Comments

I have posted up a few of what I consider my better comments here. Feel free to peruse, plagiarise, or any other “p” word you can think of.

One thing that always astounds me is the similarity of the bike-haters’ comments that arise in the U.S., the U.K, and Australia / New Zealand. The terms, the misinformation, the logic fails and the stupidity and aggression are identical. Why is this?

The following comments would apply equally to all the above countries, just adjust the terms to local language.

Why ride?

Why do cyclists do it? There’s an answer for every individual, and here’s mine:

I ride and drive in more or less equal amounts. I spend quite a bit of time on the roads and at crossings for my work, mostly around peak hour. So I believe I have a pretty good grasp of what is going on out there In addition I do a lot of research about urban design and transport issues. My observations and philosophy is backed up by data wherever possible.

Why do I ride a bike, and why is it my preferred form of transport?

There is nothing to beat riding in to work on a freezing icy still morning. The sun is rising in a blaze of colour, and my cheeks are burning with cold. I can smell the scent of the trees and plants, and hear the bird waking up. Each season has its pleasures and problems, but you get to experience them all immediately.

On the way in, I often get to have a little chat with my fellow commuters – it’s nice and friendly.

When I arrive at work I am refreshed, aerated and energised. I work much more efficiently all day after a bike commute than a car commute.

I get exercise, and as an old bloke, and somewhat overweight, that is incredibly important. I reduce pollution. It’s cheap. It’s faster than the car, and I have free parking wherever I want to stop. I reduce car congestion. It’s fun.

There’s a million good reasons to ride to work. The only reason I drive on some days is sometimes the bike is just not practical for every single thing I have to do. I am pragmatic about things. I use the most appropriate form of transport for my circumstances.

My preference is always for cycling.

We are at the point of no return in our urban design.

The question is no longer “how many cars can we move down this street?”

The question is “how many PEOPLE can we move down this street?”

Failure to answer this question correctly will result in decades to come of waste, congestion, anger and fruitless noise.

Fifty to a hundred years ago our streets were devoid of cars and full of people, and people on bicycles. Now they are full of cars. It’s not working very well, is it?

How did we get here, after a century of car dominance? Why is it that we are seeing a change in global support for bike infrastructure? At its core is the realization that we really can’t build our way out of congestion. The solution to moving PEOPLE around is public transport and cycling. The private car with it’s one person taking up 20 metres of road space is no longer an option for mass transit.

We are not going to get where we need to go by triple decking our roads, and we won’t create healthier cities and we won’t create safer neighbourhoods with car focused strategies. And our streets have taken on a much deeper importance given the global challenges of population growth and climate change. More than half the world lives in cities and in the next 40 years the UN estimates that number will reach 70%. So the choices that we make today about how we prioritise our streets affects millions of people for generations to come.

It’s clear we are not going to be driving our way into the 21st Century as we did last century. Already The number of lane miles travelled is trending down. Younger people want more transportation options – car share, bike share, and Uber.

In building streets to expedite the movement of cars we have missed all the other options and ways a street is used. Streets are a city’s most valuable resource. The streets have been re-designed AGAINST people And FOR cars. And somehow all this dysfunction has become accepted part of the streetscape and we have become actually used to a street out of balance.

Time to change.

 Almost all of the time drivers and cyclists get along just fine. 

There are a few very aggressive drivers who are, in effect, bullies who try to intimidate cyclists because they see them as smaller and weaker. You will see plenty of comments along those lines here today – get a licence, get off the road, get off the footpath, just go away, etc.

There is no justification for such anger and aggression, it is inexcusable behaviour. And it is almost always justified by uniformed and incorrect views about road rules and who “pays” for the roads. (We ALL do).

There will be some who resent cyclists “holding up traffic” – they don’t. Cyclists reduce congestion by taking up very little road space and very little parking space. There will be some who accuse cyclists of not having a licence, regardless of the fact that almost every adult cyclist does in fact hold a current drivers licence. They will complain that cyclists do not pay rego. Well rego applies to MOTOR vehicles.

And here’s the most important – almost every adult cyclists is also a motorist. The converse is not true, and if more of the “motorists” would get on a bike for a bit they would quickly understand how unfounded their complaints are.

Almost every adult cyclist is also a motorist; so whilst “cyclists” can see both sides of the transport picture, “motorists” are less able to.

The whole cyclists vs motorist is in any case a false dichotomy and is always presented as a win lose situation.

The fact is that as you increase bicycle lanes, improve laws such as described above, develop better education programs for all road users; more people ride, leaving more space for cars in their remaining lanes.

Given that a person in a car takes up 10 – 20 square metres of space compared to a cyclist’s 2 sq mtr, this is a very effective method of reducing congestion. You can park 10 bikes in the space of one car.

Then there are the health benefits. Obesity and diabetes are shaping up as the major health issue of the decade. Bike commuting is one small part of the solution to that epidemic.

Economic benefits. It is estimated that congestion costs Melbourne 4 billion dollars a year and Sydney 4 billion. Adelaide would be comparable. Cycling significantly reduces congestion, and cycling facilities are very cheap, about 1% of the cost of roadworks.

Bike lanes are not a win for bikes and a lose for cars, they are a win for everyone, pedestrians and public transport users too. Freeing up access to footpath space solves at least on a temporary basis, one of the major problems for cyclists and that is the nasty habit of bike lanes disappearing just at the exact time they are needed most, and the bike lanes that deposit cyclists directly into conflict with cars usually at the worst possible time.

To be an effective and well used mode of transport, cyclists need a full grid of large long commuting routes, connected bu smaller feed routes and a capillary network on local streets feeding them. That’s a long term project, but the use of footpaths can meet some of those needs.

During blitzes specifically on cyclists and pedestrians taken in high useage areas and times,for example Canning St which runs 95% bicycles or Royal Parade at 30%, it is significantly motorists who consistently return the highest number of rules broken:

30/5/2014 During Operation PEDRO, held across several parts of Sydney, Parramatta and Liverpool, police issued more than 160 cautions and 560 infringements during a cyclist and pedestrian safety operation.

Police cautioned 169 people and issued 346 pedestrian infringements, 27 bicycle infringements, 12 “choke intersection” infringements, 24 mobile phone infringements, five seat belt infringements, one charge for aggravated burnout, 65 other infringements and 87 random breath tests.

So in a blitz targeting “vulnerable road users” in high pedestrian and cyclist zones, the LEAST number of infringements BY FAR were committed by cyclists, 27 (5%); and the MOST were committed by pedestrians 346 (62%), and motorists 107 (19%).

14/5/2014 Operation AMULET ran on ran on the busy arterial and popular cycling route, Beach Road, over three recent weekends and was aimed at promoting the safety of cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians. Car and truck drivers were responsible for 669 (76%) of those offences, while 147 bicycle offences (17%), 62 motorcycle offences and seven pedestrian offences were recorded. This blitz is conducted at times of the day when bicycle numbers far outweigh those of motor traffic.

21/2/2012 Victoria Police’s Operation HALO recorded 3943 offences this month, with motorists making up the bulk of the penalties issued (2,839) or 72%.

The campaign focusses on the danger of road trauma involving motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, and has around 100 police officers working across the Melbourne, Port Phillip, Yarra, Boroondara and Stonnington areas in peak commuter times at high-collision locations.

368 pedestrian offences, including 337 disobey traffic light or sign.

427 bicycle offences (11%), including 29 riding on the footpath and 139 disobeying traffic lights or signs.

309 motorcycle offences, including 131 riding in bicycle lanes, 22 disobeying traffic lights or signs and eight failing to indicate.

2839 car/truck offences, including 353 disobeying traffic lights or signs, 939 using mobile phone, 42 driving in bicycle lanes, 17 changing lanes or turning when unsafe, 17 failing to give way.

Just for fun, let’s tally the motorist vs cyclist infringement percentages out of the three blitzes above.

Motorists:       67% infringements.

Cyclists:        11% infringements.

Now which group is it really who has no respect for the law?

Here’s a partial list of organisations who have no interest in licencing or registering cyclists.

The Police. Not interested.

Ministers for Transport, Ministers for Police, Federal and State – opposed. (except for Duncan Gay NSW)

“The government also supports the committee’s recommendation not to introduce registration for bicycles as the fee would likely deter people from cycling.” – Transport and Main Roads Minister Scott Emerson, 28/5/2014

RACQ , NRMA, RAA, RACV – opposed.

Municipal Association of Victoria – opposed

Department of Transport and Main Roads QLD – opposed.

S.A. Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan: “the Government is not in favour of registering bicycles’’ Advertiser 17/11/2014

(previous) Premier of Victoria Denis Napthine: “Well, this has been raised a number of times and it’s been examined. The administrative costs would be really difficult, particularly with children, particularly with a whole range of different bikes. So, it’s been examined and was seen as not being cost-effective, so we don’t have any plans to introduce registration for cyclists or bicycles”. 3AW (Neil Mitchell) 15/5/2014

The recent  Report No. 39 – Inquiry into Cycling Issues
Transport, Housing and Local
Government Committee
November 2013
(n.b. if you are interested in the latest thinking on cycling as transport, you should be reading this it is excellent).

With many submissions from across the transport industry and regulatory bodies – Opposed.

Every other country in the world – opposed or not interested, except Switzerland, who had it for a while and then gave it up. Oh yes and it’s not a new issue, either:

No Registration of Bicycles
Government action will not be taken to have push bicycles compulsory registered as a means of identification to assist police inquiries. Registration of bicycles, which had been debated by Parliament, is regarded as impracticable.
– The Argus May 28 1946

Rego for cyclists will never happen.

Let’s have a little look at this “arrogant cyclist” meme. I’ll start with a definition, as often people use words without really knowing their true meanings. This can cause confusion in discussion – “at cross purposes”.

Arrogance: making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolently proudshowing an offensive attitude of superiority.

Arrogance is one of many human traits – humility, compassion, greed, etc. This is often specifically applied to cyclists who wear lycra, bit is also used generically to include all cyclists, and you see such comments here and in any comment section on cycling issues.

Sporting cyclists wear lycra because it is cool and does not hold moisture. It is the most practical fabric for the activity, in the same way that there are specific fabrics that suit other activities or inactivates. I wear lycra shorts sometimes, but I prefer a cotton top. (Cycling tops are not usually lycra BTW, they are made from a range of synthetic materials).

One of the reasons that there is a preponderance of “lycra-clad cyclists” is a direct result of Mandatory Helmet Laws that have made cycling seem like a dangerous activity. It is not. But that has significantly reduced the number of “normal” or better, “utility” cyclists. I believe the balance is slowly being restored over time.

So the “arrogant” cyclist. Why is this meme so persistent? Why would engaging in a particular activity, or wearing of a particular fabric give rise to a preponderance of this particular human trait? Surely it would be more reasonable to assume that the rate of arrogant individuals in the group “cyclists” would be similar to the rate of arrogant individuals in the group “motorists” or for that matter the group “society in general”. Conversely why would arrogant individuals be particularly attracted to cycling as a sport or transport mode as opposed to a motor vehicle?

It’s nonsense of course. There’s no such thing as an arrogant cyclist, and there’s no such thing as an arrogant motorist; there are arrogant individuals, and they are to be found in any walk of life.

What we do see in many comments here is outgroup homogeneity confirmation bias. That is, “motorists” (and remember, most cyclists are also motorists) see “cyclists” as an outsider group, not like them, different. And when one of the different group does something “wrong” then the whole outside group is held to exhibit that wrong behaviour.

Motorists declare cyclists arrogant if the cyclist dares to take up road space. It’s predicated on the belief that roads are for motor vehicles only, and therefore somebody not in a motor vehicle must be arrogant to assume that they have a right to go where they don’t belong.

Many times as I sit on my bike in a group of cyclists waiting at a red light I wonder if the drivers are thinking to themselves “look at all those cyclists stopped at the red. They must be the exception”.

And perhaps it is because a group of cyclists using the roads as they are legally entitled to, but wear “different clothing” and are not in the group “motorists” that the tag “arrogant” is applied.

Perhaps it is because motorists believe they have the exclusive right to use a public space to the exclusion of all others that they resent cyclists exercising their legal rights to the space.

Now THAT would be arrogance, under the definition.

Fortunately for everyone, almost all motorists and cyclists seem to be able to manage sharing the roads safely almost all of the time. We could define that behaviour as “co-operative“. It appears the problems arise mostly in the media rather than on the roads. Nonetheless we can all work together to make sure everyone gets where they are going safely.

Benefits of cycling in a nutshell.

These benefits are fairly well known, but written down together it’s an astonishing case. A city or country where lots of people cycle is (much) healthier, and happier and more social, less isolated, less polluted, significantly safer, and more welcoming to human beings, notably the old and young. We should be building hundreds of miles of safe, segregated bike lanes right now. It is only common sense.

Bikes are cheap

Cars are convenient for individuals who need to travel long distances quickly, carrying tools etc. and moving disabled people. They fail utterly as a mode of mass transport.

For regular trips under 10 kilometres – approximately 50% of most inner-city travel – the bicycle is far and away the best tool for the job.

The NSW government’s December 2013 cycling strategy, Sydney’s Cycling Future, states that “riding a bike can be quicker than a car for trips up to 5 kilometres and faster than public transport for trips up to 8 kilometres”.In commuter races in Sydney and Melbourne, the bicycle has outpaced the car over much greater distances than that.

But even if the car had crossed the finish line first, its average speed would have been slower. That’s because a holistic analysis of “speed” takes into account not just the minutes spent travelling, but also the minutes spent working to earn the money to own and operate the vehicle itself. Rego, petrol, parking, tolls, infringement fines – all these have a “time cost” in terms of the hours we need to work to pay for them.

UNSW Canberra, has used this holistic analysis to calculate the “effective speed” of a car in Australian cities including all the time costs. It turns out that in a city like Sydney, all costs considered, a driver of a small, efficient car who earns an average wage crawls through traffic at 12.7 kilometres an hour. Your typical commuting cyclist can beat that without breaking a sweat.

According to NRMA figures, the Mitsubishi Mirage, has operating costs of $4851 a year. If you earn $35 an hour, each year you’re working 18 and a half days just to pay for your mode of transportation.

With a yearly cost of well under $500, a decent commuting bicycle enables a fuller city lifestyle simply by freeing up time to enjoy yourself. It turns out that the secret to securing the rich, leisurely social life depicted in car ads is to not own a car.

Ivan Illich discusses this in his brilliniant 1973 essay “Energy and Equity”

“The model American male devotes more than 1,600 hours a year to his car. He sits in it while it goes and while it stands idling. He parks it and searches for it. He earns the money to put down on it and to meet the monthly instalments. He works to pay for gasoline, tolls, insurance, taxes, and tickets. He spends four of his sixteen waking hours on the road or gathering his resources for it. And this figure does not take into account the time consumed by other activities dictated by transport: time spent in hospitals, time spent in traffic courts, and garages; time spent watching automobile commercials or attending consumer education meetings to improve the quality of the next buy. The model American puts in 1,600 hours to get 7,500 miles: less than 5 miles per hour…

The habitual passenger cannot grasp the folly of traffic based overwhelmingly on transport. His inherited perceptions of space and time and of personal s pace have been industrially deformed. He has lost the power to conceive of himself outside the passenger role. Addicted to being carried along, he has lost control over the physical, social, and psychic powers that reside in man’s feet. The passenger has come to identify territory with the untouchable landscape through which he is rushed. He has become impotent to establish his domain, mark it with his imprint, and assert his sovereignty over it. He has lost confidence in his power to admit others into his presence and to share space consciously with them. He can no longer face the remote by himself.

Left on his own, he feels immobile…”

***

Bikes are faster than cars because…

Rego, petrol, parking, tolls, infringement fines – all these have a “time cost” in terms of the hours we need to work to pay for them.

UNSW Canberra, has used this holistic analysis to calculate the “effective speed” of a car in Australian cities including all the time costs. It turns out that in a city like Sydney, all costs considered, a driver of a small, efficient car who earns an average wage crawls through traffic at 12.7 kilometres an hour. Your typical commuting cyclist can beat that without breaking a sweat, for a total time cost of $500 give or take a few dollars.

Rather than resent cyclists, maybe you ought to consider becoming one.

Firstly, I have never used the “we have a carand already pay rego” argument. I think it is a very poor argument, and there are plenty of better ones against bike rego.

Honestly I do not see that many cyclists going through red lights. I see almost all the time groups of cyclists waiting patiently at the lights, just like almost all motorists. Yes the occasional one. There are also certain sets of lights where it is actually safer for cyclists to go through than to wait. You would have to experience it yourself, there’s no point trying to explain it here in words. But on occasion I do see cyclists doing the wrong thing in a dangerous way too. Just for your own interest, try looking for cyclists doing the right thing and motorists doing the wrong thing for a week or so. See if your viewpoint changes. And get into the habit of looking in your rear view mirro when you go through an amber light (legally one hopes). If there is a car behind you, they have run a red light. Happens all the time.

There i no evidence that registration changes poor road behaviour, as evidenced by the huge numbers going through red light and speeding cameras every day. The difference is that when cars do it, other peoples lives are placed in danger. When bikes do it it is only the rider in danger – another good argument for why cyclists are more law-abiding than motorists – they have skin in the game.

Cyclists are regularly and easily identified by the police by the police and the results of blitzes on cyclists.

Cars are registered because they are big heavy dangerous fast motorised things that kill people on a regular basis. Bikes are not registered because they are small, light, safe, human powered things that do not kill people on a regular basis. We register motor boats, but not yachts. We register guns but not knives.

As for respect coming at a cost – that is really the nub of the argument. You are required by law to respect all other road users. There is no “fee-for-respect” payment system. What you are talking about here is envy and the resentment it generates. Rather than be resentful, I recommend you get a bike and enjoy free travel yourself.

In any case registration for bike will never ever happen. No country in the world registers bicycles, and I have gone into some detail in earlier posts about why it will not happen in Australia.

Cycling is one of the safest activities we do on a regular basis. Much safer than taking a shower, renovating a house, playing sport, in fact cycling is even safer than walking on a footpath. Based on last year’s road deaths in Victoria, a pedestrian has a 4.5 times more likelihood of being killed by a motor vehicle than a cyclist.

And it is incredibly much safer than driving in a car, which kills 1200 people every year, and injures hundreds of thousands more. And, as we tragically see every summer, cycling is also much safer than fishing off rock ledges. Cities with increasing numbers of cyclists such as Portland OR record a marked decrease in car/cyclist crashes, because drivers are looking out for vulnerable road users more.

Cities with established high numbers of cyclists do not record any significant death or injury too as a result – quite the opposite.

Cities like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, New York, L.A., Portland, Philadelphia, Chicago, Memphis, Austin, Boulder, San Francisco, Vancouver, Dublin, Seoul, Seville, even Bogota Columbia and Sao Paolo Brazil, are all transforming their cities away from motor vehicle dominated and into safe human and cyclist oriented spaces. Munich, Zurich, Strasbourg, Hamburg, Tokyo, Helsinki, Stockholm, Malmo, Paris, Nantes, Vienna, Berlin,  Geneva, Groningberg, Barcelona, Quebec and Montreal all have high proportions of cycling. All quite safe.

I think it’s time we buried some of these persistent cycling myths. A rider disobeying the law is *not* giving other riders a bad name, just as much as a driver or pedestrian doing the same thing is not besmirching the reputation of their fellow travelers. Also, the suggestion that riders “need to behave before we can earn respect on the road” is absolutely ridiculous, not to mention insulting.

For the past two and half decades I thought I was just trying to get from an A to B like any other road user, but apparently I’ve been participating in a mass probationary exercise in which drivers can determine whether or not 100% compliance has been reached, in which case they won’t feel the need to intentionally harass and bully me. Seriously, there needs to be a psychological study on the self-flagellating mindset of Australian cyclists. It’s just bizarre. Rant over.

There is plenty of road space. We do not need more. The problem is that there are too many single occupant vehicles taking up too much space on the roads. We should be thinking about moving people, not cars.

But it only takes a reduction in 10 – 20% of car numbers to significantly improve traffic flow on the system we have. You see that during school holidays. A 30% reduction in cars – achieved by funding a viable public transport and active transport system is technically easy, and much less expensive than continuing down the same pointless roads program.

However, even doubling the road space will not prevent massive gridlock. Each person driving on the road takes up 20 – 200 square metres of space, depending on speed and road type. That is inefficient! So double the people does not double the road space needed, it requires 20 times the road space we already have.

We KNOW that freeways do not fix congestion. We KNOW that freeways increase congestion – we see it EVERY SINGLE DAY in Sydney, in Melbourne, and all the other capitals. Perth is making the exception by running rail and bike paths alongside its freeways.

We KNOW that public transport reduces congestion.

Given that the growth is mainly in areas with very poor public transport, most of these people will drive to work and probably be forced into expensive and inefficient 2 car families.

However trains and trams offer transport at about 1 – 2 square metres per person.

Bicycles take up about 2 square metres per person.

One car takes up between 10 and 40 square metres of space to park, if you include swing room, buffer zones, and driveways.

Public transport takes up no parking space.

It is simple fact that there will not be room for more cars, nor roads to drive them on, nor space to park them.

Freeways return a loss of about 50 cents in the dollar, and fail in their defined purpose to move lots of people.

Public transport also loses money, but succeeds in moving people very well.

Bike infrastructure is cheap and works well in its goals of short to medium transport options.

The logic is inescapable; why are we even contemplating building these pointless roads?

The only solution to a modern city’s growing transport problem is rail, tram, bus and bicycle. And we need to start that planning and building now. Already our Public Transport system has been held back for the last 50 years by large roads projects.

By failing to address this problem in an intelligent way, we build ourselves into the same structural problems from which cities like Los Angeles are now trying to extricate themselves. And that archetypal car city is now building Metro rail, improving its bus services and making bike commuting safer as fast as it can.

Health benefits from cycling

Walkable and Cyclable cities are healthier cites. Most trips made by car are in fact less than 5 kilomtres – too far to walk, but very easy to cycle. There is no mode of transport that is more fuel and energy efficient than a bicycle.

Some quick and easy things to do to improve cycling in the city:

Convert or re-appropriate car lanes to bike lanes as done in Vancouver.

Repeal mandatory helmet laws.

Introduce strict liability on motorists for crashing into pedestrians and cyclists as in the Netherlands.

The solutions are easy – they are merely technical. The problem is having the political will to make the common sense changes required. We should be basing our funding based on performance – dollar for dollar, cars are the most expensive and least efficient means of moving people around the city.

Until we stop spending 90 – 95% of the transport budget on servicing the needs of the private motor car and shifting that spending to reflect and support as well as to promote the real growth areas of transport – public transport, cycling and walking, we will continue to get worsening health outcomes. And the cost of obesity, cardio-vascular disease, diabetes and other activity related illness is skyrocketing.

We know people will respond to infrastructure. We know that the main reason people do not ride bicycles is because they are afraid of being hit by a car. How have we allowed this form of transport to so dominate our lives, our public spaces and our health?

 There “is no war” on the roads between cars and cyclists. Most road users get along fine most of the time.

There are few ignorant and aggressive types of people who make the roads dangerous for all of us. Perhaps a psychology screening for aggression ought to be part of the driving licence application.

I work hard to dispel the myths – the most common and dangerous being “bikes don’t pay rego therefore have no right to be on the roads”. There are plenty more. Bikes hold up traffic for example. All of the major holdups on the roads are due to car crashes and breakdowns – it’s not cyclists holding up traffic – it’s cars.

I work hard to clarify the road rules because so many “motorists” commenting in these pages seem to be either ignorant of the laws or worse, have them wrong.

Most of all I work hard trying to get across the point that we have, over the last 60 years or so spent our transport budget almost exclusively to service the needs of the motor vehicle. The consequence of that has been a transport monoculture that is incredibly expensive both collectively and individually, and incredibly inefficient.

This has been very much to the detriment of other transport options – rail, tram, bus, and active options such as walking and cycling. And it is costing us a FORTUNE  in congestion, lost hours, and injuries and un-necessary deaths.

We should halt all spending on road widening, freeways, etc. We should, for at least the next 20 years, spend the entire transport budget on public transport and cycling infrastructure. This would be much more successful in reducing congestion, and we know that building more roads only increases congestion – it’s not a theory – we see it every day right here, right now.

I work hard towards these goals for very selfish reasons. I am quite often driving my car on the roads for work and for personal reasons. I want less congestion so I can drive around more easily. I ride my bike also for work and for social reasons, and i want safe efficient connected and contiguous bike paths that take me on a direct line to where I want to go, and avoid the worst of the hills as well.

And I want the laws changed. 1 metre passing. Repeal helmet laws. Idaho stop on red light. Riding on footpaths. And possible the most important – strict liability laws as they have in the Netherlands that place the onus on the heavier vehicle in any crash.

Why is the myth of “rego pays for roads therefore cyclists should pay” so persistent and prevalent?

After all, it has been debunked a million million times in these columns and by the Police Chief Commissioner and by many politicians and legislators. This debunking has zero effect. Therefore we are not getting at the reason for the belief.

And it is this: sheer green-eyed envy that someone might be getting something for free when I have to pay. I believe that commenters who claim “rego pays for roads” and “accountability” know very well that it is not true. Rego does not pay for roads. Taxes and rates pay for roads.

It is a cover for the fact that they have chosen, or are locked into, or been duped into, using the single most expensive (individually and collectively) form of transport ever invented.

The points that motor vehicles must be registered and human powered not registered are irrelevant here.

Motorists take the easy option for travel. They are warm and cossetted in their metal boxes and they do not have to expend any effort. And for those privileges they pay dearly. We all do.

Seeing someone who does not require such coddling, prepared to travel by the effort of their own legs, heart, and lungs, and to do it virtually for free, is threatening to motorists. It questions their lifestyle and privilege. This creates resentment. And they want to stop it, and the best way to do that is to “make them pay”.

So it doesn’t matter that cycling reduces congestion, pollution and obesity. Nor that more cyclists on the roads is less competition for drivers looking for a carpark.

It is not a rational belief based on any kind of fact. It is simple: “they” are getting something for free, and I am not”. Therefore they MUST pay.

***

Of course if you are getting bored with the whole process, there is always the opportunity to do a little shitstirring.

Congestion is good. It means that the roads are being used to capacity, instead of empty wasted space. Congestion is also self-limiting. You do not need to build more roads to “fix” it, it fixes itself, because once a road is fully loaded, people find other ways to get around, or to do their business.

When a road is not congested, that is basically wasted space. Why supply all this space if it is not to be used all the time?

In NSW, the Government’s own traffic modelling indicates that Sydney’s congestion will not disappear once all the Westconnex tollways are built. No city in the world has succeeded in reducing congestion by building more roads.
Why is this? Because road congestion itself helps to limit traffic demand. It encourages many of us to live closer to work, to use public transport, and to avoid peak times. This ensures that demand and supply are in equilibrium, and traffic continues to flow at a rate that is acceptable enough to those who do drive to stop them adapting their transport choices.
When the supply of road space is increased by schemes such as WestConnex or EWL, the initial reduction in travel times encourages some of us to move further from work and switch from public transport to driving. Demand increases until congestion starts to limit it again.

We end up back where we started, with an equilibrium between supply and demand. Except that the government is billions worse off, we have to pay more tolls, more of us get sick and die from air pollution, and communities are destroyed. The latent demand for road space in dense urban areas is so large that we can never build enough roads to accommodate it, and it is futile to even try.
If the major parties have a compulsion to build roads, they should build them in regional and outer-suburban areas where they’re needed. Not in the centre of a big city that already has plenty. Not where the task of moving a rapidly growing population around would be done much more efficiently and cheaply with good quality public transport, than with destructive and polluting tollways that we can’t afford.

And if they really want to reduce congestion, they should get us to pay for the delay we cause others whenever we drive on crowded roads, as Londoners and Singaporeans do.

This particular comment always generates lots of feedback along the lines of
“How would you like to drive 2 hours each way to work every day”?
“You arrogant inner city greenies have no idea of the problems people face in the real world.” And so on.

They don’t like it when you hand a little back. And if you really want to have fun, and your commenting situation has the feature of showing who has “liked” a particular comment; it’s even more fun to “like” all their complaints, especially the most indignant ones.

***

So there you are. Make of it what you will.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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