Is it better to have a cycling strategy or a transport strategy?

The last Newcastle Cycling Strategy and Action Plan released by the City of Newcastle was in March 2012. It set as its targets:
“in accordance with the NSW BikePlan target, increase mode share to cycling to 5% for trips less than 10km, by 2016 … in accordance with the NSW BikePlan target, double the mode share to cycling for the journey to work of Newcastle LGA residents between 2006 and 2016.” (Page vii)
These targets have not been met as there has been no significant increase in cycling in the past 6 years, according to bike counts carried out. Data collected from the Australian Bureau of Statistics is quoted in the Strategy:
“The use of bikes as a mode of transport for all trips is very low, at approximately 1.6% of trips for the Newcastle LGA and 1% for the Newcastle SSD” (page 4)

(Note that on page 6 of the introduction, it is stated that 16% of cyclists are women)

It is also noted that:
“Cycling in New South Wales: What the data tells us (Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia Pty Limited, 2008) indicates that Newcastle at 2.04% has a higher than average rate of cycling than the rest of NSW for the journey to work. Bicycle-only trips accounted for less than 0.8% of NSW journey to work trips on census day in August 2006 (p. 19). LGAs with the highest level of cycling to work in NSW are in inner Sydney and Newcastle (Parsons Brinckerhoff Australia Pty Limited, 2008, p. 20).”(page 9)

While this comparison with Sydney may have been favourable in 2008, that is no longer the case. In Sydney in 2014, a survey showed that 17% of people rode last week. Slightly over half (56%) of those trips were for transport and 59% for recreation (obviously and predictably there is an overlap in these two forms of cycling). This means that approximately 9% of people in Sydney rode for transport at that time in 2014. This increase is not surprising given that Sydney has invested large amounts of money into building an impressive, by Australian standards, cycleways network in its inner suburban areas. Newcastle’s 2% cycling participation does not compare.

The Newcastle Strategy is lengthy with many statistical tables, projected and current works and research underpinning its objectives. It is 145 pages in length including appendices with not a great deal of images and those images are photos of current infrastructure or diagrams of potential infrastructure. It provides detailed information on cycling events and tourism, parking, education, maintenance and hazard reporting and infrastructure standards, among other things. It is noted that the encouragement of council staff to cycle to work is a priority, but also states on page 45 that:
“Council undertook a trial of use of bicycles for corporate business. Two bikes were made available to all interested staff for use on local journeys. Some difficulties were noted with the scheme and it is not currently operating.”
The current document that appears to have replaced this Strategy is Connecting Newcastle – Our Urban Renewal Vision. It is a mere 32 pages and is substantially computer generated images, maps and diagrams. Cycling is just one part of the vision for inner Newcastle transport.

Which one of these documents is better?
This is immaterial, what really matters is the ability to deliver actual cycleways and an increase in cycling participation. Now the 2012 Newcastle Cycling Strategy has expired without achieving its stated aims. Meanwhile, in Sydney, under the driving force of a very determined mayor who has had to face considerable obstacles, cycling has grown substantially.
There has been substantial progress  made in Newcastle in terms of infrastructure improvements and additions, but nowhere near the same overall network development as seen in Sydney.

Newcastle Council has broadened its objectives, now viewing cycling as a part of a bigger picture. Let’s hope that the outcomes are going to be better.

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7 Responses to Is it better to have a cycling strategy or a transport strategy?

  1. Urban Strategist Brent Toderian is quoted as saying “the best transport plan is a land use plan”. When we think of transport, we need to think beyond mobility. Good city planning does not prioritise unfettered mobility, and particularly automobility. Good city planning priorities accessibility. That is, enabling us to live and work closer to services and places of interest without having to move great distances. In doing so, this expands the range of options to get to these services, that is, it becomes practical to reach services on foot, by bike, public transport, car, taxi, etc. What is therefore needed is an “integrated land use and transport plan”, for the former determines the latter.

    • A specific cycling strategy could sit below an integrated transport and land use plan with more detail, if need be, so long as the objectives of both planning documents align.

      • Vicki says:

        It is impossible to look at cycling on its own when designing a whole of city transport system and it’s good this is being addressed. I also think that the situation in Newcastle with rail vs light rail has muddied the waters there and slowed any sort of progress in an area where bike lanes are sorely needed.

  2. David says:

    At the moment, the strategy is a little bit, “If we build it, they will come!”.

    I’m more than happy for them to continue to build it, I’m loving some of they cycling infrastructure that is popping up and not only am I cycling more than I was 5 years ago, I’m much happier at the prospect of taking my kids out and about on 2 wheels.

    BUT: There are still a number of barriers to entry in cycling, access to a safe and functional bike, willingness to wear a helmet, opportunities to get out and have a go.

    Instead of a ride to work day, and a ride to school day and assorted other events, there should be a bike week, starting with a Saturday event with access to help from bike mechanics, helmet adjustment/fitting, sale of safety equipment, security marking. Follow that with some planned rides and some group commutes through the week.

    I don’t think a cycling strategy should be seen solely as a part of a transport strategy because reducing road congestion is only one benefit to the community of increased cycle uptake. However, all major road projects ought to have a provision for cycling. Why build a new road without including cycle infrastructure!

    • Vicki says:

      There is a bike week and council hosts a Sunday morning breakfast for it with bike mechanics to look at your bike. But it only seems to attract existing cyclists. There is also some sort of planning to include bike lanes on new roads but I don’t know if it’s mandatory and the planners don’t seem to like spending a bit extra to include them, unfortunately.

    • Vicki says:

      I also think that getting people to adopt cycling for transport is much more complex than getting them to wear helmets safely etc. The best thing is for them to see people cycling safely along on separated bike lanes.

      • David says:

        Agreed that it’s much more complex than any one piece of the puzzle. What I’m driving at is trying to address as many parts of the puzzle at one time as possible. Seeing other people cycling isn’t enough to make people think “that could be me”.

        I’m suggesting that we find a way to encourage people to give it a go for a few days at the same time as removing as many obstacles as possible.

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