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Six Steps To Make Australia A World Leader In Bike-Friendly Cities

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have encouraged a dramatic take-up of cycling. Bicycle imports to Australia increased 46 per cent between FY19 and FY21[2], while e-bike imports were estimated to have increased by 800 per cent over the past five years[3]. To keep pace with the rise in cyclists, e-bikes and e-scooters, and to meet Australia’s net zero targets, a leading urban designer is urging governments to greatly improve cycling infrastructure in urban areas.

Andrew Brodie is a Senior Urban Designer at award-winning urban planning and design practice Hatch RobertsDay (robertsday.com.au). He says the rise of e-mobility and cycling during the pandemic is putting immense stress on cycle paths, main streets and city centres. “Australia’s lack of safe and accessible bicycle infrastructure means cyclists are often forced to share routes with pedestrians or cars.

Councils have favoured quick-fix solutions, like painted-on cycle lanes with little rider protection from cars. Bicycle networks are often not thoroughly planned out, with lanes ending abruptly at unsafe intersections. The risk of accidents must be managed and places an urgent need to invest in safe cycling infrastructure and the design of Complete Streets.

“In urban design, more prominence is being put on Complete Streets, which balances the needs of bikes, pedestrians, public transport, delivery vehicles and cars, while also creating attractive destinations. Our recent Complete Streets projects represent a relatively low-cost, high-value carbon reduction investment.”

While the health and environmental benefits of cycling are well documented, Andrew points out that there is also evidence of economic uplift resulting from increased ridership.

He says, “Some of the most endeared cities around the world, such as Paris and Barcelona, are re-inventing themselves as people-first places, prioritising pedestrians and bikes over cars. Paris recently announced $386 million in funding to add 186 km of protected bike lanes and triple the amount of bike parking in the city.”

In Australia, the cycling industry injected $6.3 billion into the Australian economy in 2020[4], with approximately one third of Australian adults spending on cycling related goods and services[5], according to a new report. The report also highlighted that millions more would be contributed to the economy with improved cycling infrastructure, which would encourage Australians to ride more[6].

Andrew reveals six steps to improve Australia’s cycling infrastructure to make it a world leader in bike-friendly cities.

1.     Prioritise bikes and pedestrians over cars. For too long, cars have been the prioritised mode of transport in Australia. To ensure safer infrastructure that prioritises low-carbon mobility, a 180-degree shift in mindset is needed in the design, management and education around the movement network at all levels of decision making. This ranges from the structure and powers of state agencies, down to the lots of little measures that add up to make a big difference. 

2.     Address safety. Safety is the biggest barrier causing cycling hesitancy. In fact, an estimated 69 per cent of Australian cycling consumers would be encouraged to ride more if there was an increased feeling of safety while riding with motor traffic[7]. The simple litmus test for any new cycling infrastructure needs to be: is it safe enough for both a 7-year-old child and their 70-year-old grandparent?

3.     Close gaps in the cycle network. Cash-strapped councils are often unable to deliver cycle network improvements and paths often end abruptly or do not provide routes from home to key destinations, such as shops, schools, universities, and public transport. These dangerous gaps in the network stop people from making the commute from home to work, school, or the shops. When cycle paths are easy to navigate and well-connected cycling numbers will increase. Governments need to consider the greater cycling network and how different LGAs intersect, as well as accommodate for a mix of users, including routes for leisure and recreation, exercise, and as a mode of transport.

4.     Create protected bike lanes. Painted-on bike lanes are the most basic level of infrastructure for government, and they often lack protection from fast moving cars. Protected cycle lanes that are separated by physical barriers like parked cars, a curb or landscaping offer a buffer from busy roads. Evidence suggests they also make roads safe for cars, too. 

5.     Use speed to dictate how modes of transport mix. Often cyclists, and particularly e-bikes and e-scooters, are forced to compete for space with pedestrians on already busy pathways. In Australia, e-bike motors are capped at 250 watts and the power cuts out when they hit 25 km/hr. At such a speed, they need to be separated from pedestrians for safety reasons and accommodated on cycle paths, protected bike lanes and on street where traffic is slow moving. When a cyclist is hit at 45 km/h or more, they have a 50 per cent chance or less of surviving. But this increases to a 90 per cent chance of survival, if they are struck at 30 km/h.

6.     Design for Complete Streets. Through thoughtful design, Complete Streets provide safe and accessible mobility for all modes of transport and ability levels, while also beautifying public spaces with greenery and making them more vibrant and appealing. Hatch RobertsDay’s Complete Streets projects in Sydney’s Bondi Junction and Bankstown and Perth’s Town of Vic Park offer myriad benefits. More active transport helps to reduce obesity and improve the mental health of residents, it increases safety for bicyclists and pedestrians, reduces carbon emissions, and can stimulate economic growth by creating attractive places with more street activity. 


[1] We Ride Australia, 2021, ‘The Australian Cycling Economy’: https://www.weride.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Australian-Cycling-Economy_October-2021-Updated.pdf

[2] Bicycle Industries Australia, Bicycle Import Data 2021 in We Ride Australia, 2021, ‘The Australian Cycling Economy’: https://www.weride.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Australian-Cycling-Economy_October-2021-Updated.pdf

[3] Bicycle Industries Australia, 2021 in State of New South Wales (NSW Treasury), 2021, ‘NSW Productivity Commission Research and Discussion Paper: Regulating Emerging Technologies’: https://www.productivity.nsw.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-11/nsw-productivity-commission-regulating-emerging-technologies-research-and-discussion-paper.pdf

[4] We Ride Australia, 2021, ‘The Australian Cycling Economy’: https://www.weride.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Australian-Cycling-Economy_October-2021-Updated.pdf

 We Ride Australia, 2021, ‘The Australian Cycling Economy’: https://www.weride.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Australian-Cycling-Economy_October-2021-Updated.pdf

[6] We Ride Australia, 2021, ‘The Australian Cycling Economy’: https://www.weride.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Australian-Cycling-Economy_October-2021-Updated.pdf

[7] We Ride Australia, 2021, ‘The Australian Cycling Economy’: https://www.weride.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/The-Australian-Cycling-Economy_October-2021-Updated.pdf

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