High-density cycling

By Janette Corcoran – Apartment living expert

The City of Melbourne’s Transport Strategy discussion paper is open for comment – but how might a bike-filled future suit our vertical villages?

We are reminded that “When people choose to ride, they reduce emissions, noise, congestion and free up public transport capacity.” Added to this are the mental and physical health benefits that come from cycling – and with the right infrastructure, it can also be great fun!

In terms of our vertical lifestyle, our proximity marks us as prime candidates for the uptake of cycling.  By swapping those short car trips for even shorter bikes trips, we can arrive more quickly at our destination – though possibly less directly as we weave in and out of those congested car lanes. 

However, disappointingly, this document is less a discussion paper than advocacy for cycling and the infrastructure needed for its increased adoption.

Missing is a deeper consideration of the current status of cycling as a form of transport in our city – and in particular, how it is regarded by different groups. Only through understanding these different perspectives can cycling move from its current status as an ad hoc means of travel to a legitimate and mainstream form of transport in Melbourne. 

What has this to do with vertical villages? 

Answer – our viewpoints.

We, of the vertical villages, typically live in areas that are also major work and, therefore, transit destinations. Docklands, for instance, greets 65 000 workers daily.  This means that quite different mindsets are concurrently operating in our precincts. For example, there is the mindset of the strolling tourist (unfamiliar with their surrounds), the mindset of local residents (walking along their footpaths with children and elders), the office worker mindset (dashing in search of caffeine) and let’s also include the mindset of pets and their walkers (notable for their unexpected reactions).  

Now add a transiting cyclist en route either to work or home. Their mindset is more focused upon safe and efficient passage. This means that shared areas with variable speed limits, such as the 8km zones on South Wharf, are often treated as unhelpful suggestions, while cutting through New Quay Promenade brings the promise of a few saved minutes as well as less stop-starts.  

Calls for greater mutual consideration and “sharing of space” miss the point.
If cycling is to be adopted as a legitimate mode of transport, then it must be so recognised and treated by all parties – by the cyclists themselves, by the regulators (and enforcers), by other transport users and by designers. This requires holistic thinking.

Take the issue of bike parking. 

The discussion paper identifies the need for more bike spaces to keep pace with the uptake of cycling and suggests underground parking and more parking in buildings.
However, taking a leaf out of the car hand book, might there also be scope for more mainstream and centralised facilities – a bike hub?  This is the approach taken in Tilburg in the Netherlands, where a bike parking facility is being built as an integrated part of their new transport hub (and by current reports, it will outshine their new bus station!). This bike hub offers space for over 7000 bikes, is equipped with a service room for minor repairs and will be guarded – and, also, free for the first 24 hours. 

In offering this type of facility, cyclists can park their vehicles in a secure central location and then complete their journey on foot or tram. In so doing, the plethora of bikes adorning the front of our streets is reduced. Admittedly, this goes against our current trend towards free-range cycling (ie. a rider can go wherever their bike can). But a central cycling hub at, for instance, Southern Cross, could cater for impending cycling traffic due to exit the Western Distributor daily – worth a thought! As might the conversion to bike hubs of other multi-storey carparks located on the CBD fringe.  

Turning our heads homewards, once again the car spaces of our vertical villages are candidates for change. Over the last few months, this column has mentioned several ideas for the future use of our car spaces and this month will not disappoint. While newer builds have dedicated and easily accessible bike rooms, storing the growing number of residents’ bikes is proving challenging for older buildings, which is further compounded by out-of-date building regulations which do not permit bike storage in car spaces. 

There are, however, an ever-growing range of innovations designed to help the space-poor, such as the “Hide-a-Ride”. The offering here is for a bike rack that allows easy sideways mounting of your bike and its secure storage on your ceiling (including your car park). 

But to end, there is one emerging issue for our regulators to consider regarding our bike-filled future. This is, as bikes become more entrenched as a mainstream mode of transport, and their commercial use also grows – might, too, the need for these vehicles to be identifiable? 

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