Cycling infrastructure was in the news this week. On Monday, The Advertiser reported that Adelaide City Council would consider a report calling for the gradual removal of hundreds of on-street parking spaces in the CBD to make room for a separated bikeway.
The $5.5 million bikeway was originally planned to travel along Flinders and Franklin streets but a significant backlash from local business owners and some members of the council prompted a re-think. After a period of debate the council determined the most likely replacement route would be along Pirie and Waymouth Street.
The route would take the bikeway past the headquarters of The Advertiser, which sits near the corner of King William and Waymouth Streets.
The Advertiser quoted Deputy Lord Mayor Alex Hyde as being opposed to the project, and noted that the council could possibly lose $750,000 a year in parking revenue from the removed spaces.
“Adelaide is a driving city, most people drive, we cannot be disadvantaging the majority of people to service only a few” Mr Hyde is reported to have said.
Over on The Advertiser’s Facebook page hundreds of commenters expressed frustration and dismay at the prospect of reduced parking and road accessibility in the Adelaide CBD. Many called for cyclists to be forced to pay registration and to foot the bill for the cost of new infrastructure. Other commenters expressed anger that Adelaide’s retailers would suffer due to customers not being able to find parking near shops and services.
By Wednesday, The Advertiser was reporting that the Waymouth street route was a “dud” and looked “set to be dumped” as council yet again failed to agree on what to do, and city planners argued publicly that the original route along Flinders and Franklin was still the “best option”.
“I get the sense that support for that option (Pirie and Waymouth) is evaporating…” Councillor Robert Simms said.
The news hit The ‘Tiser’s Facebook site with the headline: ‘Back-pedalling: Drive to revive old CBD bikeway plan’.
Responding to criticism that it was being sensationalist, The Advertiser stated that their reporting was “a fair and accurate reflection of the debate in the council workshop.”
In Victoria, the Geelong Advertiser reported that the City of Greater Geelong could be stripped of a national design award after council made the decision to spend $2 million “ripping up” sections of a separated bike lane to reintroduce turning lanes and increase parking spaces on Malop Street.
The “Green Spine” project was awarded the 2019 Australian Institute of Landscape Architecture National Award for Civic Landscape for its creation of a water-sensitive public space that mixed retail and outdoor dining areas with well managed plantings, a separated bike path and paths for walking.
But Geelong councillors saw it differently. Councillor Ron Nelson argued that the project had created “chaos”, saying that traffic along Ryrie Street was a “nightmare” and that it had increased congestion across the CBD. Councillor Eddy Kontelj said that community members were “telling me very, very loudly that Malop St is still by and large not working—or at least not meeting community’s expectations”.
On Wednesday, the Victorian State Government announced that it would freeze funding for development in Geelong’s CBD in a bid to stop the proposed work from taking place.
“If anyone could possibly think, for an $8 million investment you’re then going to spend $2 million ripping part of it up is a good decision, then I think they’ve completely lost the plot” State Labor MP Lisa Neville was reported as saying.
Mayor Stephanie Asher responded by stating “I would prefer that Lisa Neville actually contacted me rather than having a conversation in the media, that would be helpful.”
The Geelong Advertiser polled its readers on Wednesday and Thursday revealing a range of views about the problems of congestion in the city, lack of parking, accessibility and cycling. Some called the bike lane dangerous while others were concerned about further disruption to commerce in the CBD area. Overall however, the paper concluded that “60 per cent of readers did not agree with the council decision to rip up part of the Green Spine”.
It’s worth noting that the headquarters of the Geelong Advertiser are currently in the Market Square building off Little Malop Street, just around the corner from the Green Spine.
In other news, Bicycling Australia reported on Tuesday that lobby group Freestyle Cyclists would be holding a series of rides in capital cities on the 14th of March to protest mandatory helmet laws in Australia. The group is calling for participants to gather in Canberra, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Hobart and Adelaide to ride in support of cycling “as a healthy and sustainable form of transport”.
This isn’t the first time that Freestyle Cyclists have organised protest rides, with the group holding similar rides in multiple capital cities last year.
Commenters on Facebook responded to the announcement with mixed sentiments. While some agreed that helmets were a significant disincentive to cycling in Australia, others were adamant that repealing the law was not worth the risk posed by accident related head injuries.