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Favouring local transport
Russell Degnan

Long time readers of this blog -- if any -- will have noted that I'm generally opposed to transport infrastructure that doesn't improve the structural integrity of the cities transport network; such as a freeway or railway line to the outer suburbs that means people 95% of people still drive everywhere, but they can get to the CBD in 30 minutes. It is nice therefore, to see that Melbourne City Council agrees with me.

A plan that favours cyclists and pedestrians is not before time. This is, after all, a council that has had a connection with one of the world's most reknowned advocates of urban design favouring 'people' for over a decade. But things are never simple in politics. Take the RACV for example, who knowing it wouldn't be wise to advocate the wholesale removal of footpaths and the running down of pedestrians with lorries, gave us this:

RACV public policy general manager Ken Ogden said that while he supported improving public transport, he was concerned the strategy was "anti-car".

"It's a pity they have chosen to go down this 'roads versus public transport' path, rather than looking for a truly integrated solution," he said.

Don't believe this tripe for a second. Fast public transport, and more importantly, safe and convenient cycling and pedestrian paths come at the expense of cars. You can have streets with a mix -- see the work of David Engwicht for instance -- but it won't be a fast moving street, and therefore comes at the expense of a driver's natural instinct: to get where they want to go as quickly as possible.

However, the CBD is a different beast to the suburbs, and so it is worth considering what is and isn't possible when considering an article such as this one by John Grant. He recognises the major problem as follows:

But it is harder to make the changes we need than it sounds. We have to make it possible for people to walk more, with better-planned suburbs, well-maintained footpaths, appropriate speed limits, safe road crossings, responsive traffic lights, seats, signs, more "local" shops - all of those important things that often get forgotten when the focus is on getting vehicles to their destinations.

Better planned suburbs is the biggest hurdle. Suburbs don't move much. In fact, short of a fairly major re-location program, places don't move at all once they are laid out. You can still see the Roman road patterns in Bologna and Verona, and you can still see the medieval streets in London and even Paris (the king of relocation programs). Melbourne's suburbs are good and bad. Some, certainly will never be walkable, although I think they are cycle-able, given sufficient incentives.

And it is incentives that are all wrong. Regardless of how locals would like their local streets and shopping centres to be, the major roads -- that serve to cut off walking and cycling paths, and in strip-shopping centres, reduce the footpaths to narrow byways -- into them are controlled by VicRoads, a body devoted to the movement of cars. Similarly, major shopping centres don't care about walkers. They want to cast the broadest net across the metropolis, so it suits them to be a little island in a well-connected road network.

It is equally unrealistic to expect a lot of 'local' shops to spring up in suburbs. Residents hate commerce, they kick up a stink like you've never seen when it threatens to encroach on their quiet back-streets.

But walking and cycling is the key. The great difference between Europe and Australia is not public transport usage, as often claimed, but that they walk and cycle at rates ten times ours. And they do that because those methods are favoured above cars in all ways and in all places. Melbourne won't walk or cycle until it is easier to walk or cycle to the shops, or to public transport that will take them there, than it is to drive. And that means that local communities need to take road space for those methods, at the expense of outsiders that drive to them.

I suspect however, that doing that means changing the structure of transport funding and control that currently exists. Melbourne CC can do it because they are symbolically important, because they are in the middle of the city, and because they have public transport to burn. I'd be much more impressed if Yarra or Darebin produced a similar plan, and acted on it.

Planning 2nd February, 2006 19:47:22   [#] 


Here is my comment, Russ
Click here.
Aaron  4th February, 2006 12:34:59  

Nice Aaron

Russ  5th February, 2006 11:45:44  

Smogden still pushing his petrol powered barrow
Many advocacy groups are created to help people cope with some kind of disadvantage. The RACV is an advocacy group, and owning a car is the disability.

One doesn’t join the RACV and THEN buy a car. The car invariably comes first. Kids buy cars because the media (and often their parents) tell them it will provide mobility.

But when they realise that compared to what they have been led to believe, driving around is actually a stressful and costly issue, they join the RACV so that it can act as an advocate.

So when Ken Ogden (or Smogden as he is becoming known) claims to represent Melburnians, he is really only representing those that have already been drawn into the trap of thinking that the car will give them cheap and convenient transport. Of course Ken wants lots and lots of toll free roads. He knows that this would increase the number of cars on the roads, which would increase frustration, which would in turn increase his income base. After all, what other group apart from car drivers would pay his salary? Certainly not bike riders...
G Brunya  7th February, 2006 13:38:17  


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