Sunday, November 28, 2010

Where can we ride our bikes?

Recently I read a blog article about cycling culture in Darwin. The author of the blog, who was visiting from interstate, commented on a variety of aspects of Darwin culture that differs from that in other states. The most significant difference is the fact that we have exemptions from helmet laws requiring cyclists to wear helmets at all times. This has inspired me to try and post more on this subject in future. One of the features mentioned was what the author considdered an impressinve network of bicycle paths.

It is true Darwin does have some nice examples of shared cycle/foot paths but I don't believe we live in a cyclists Utopia. There is much wrong in Darwin when it comes to infrastructure and planning for bicycles. There also appears to be growing hostility between drivers and cyclists on our roads. 

I'm not too sure about the state of Bicycle Advocacy in Darwin at the moment, I am aware of a few bicycle clubs but there is only a small group actively involved in our bicycle advocacy network 'Bicycle NT', which must make it quite difficult to form an active or effective advocacy group that is able to influence decision makers in Government.

Lately I've noticed a few changes to some of our bicycle paths but they don't appear to be following any coordinated plan or design. I am sure bicycle path or lane planning in Darwin is an add hock opporation that doesn't refer to any standard of design and I would be very surprised if decisions have been made in cooperation with informed representatives from our cycling community.

Examples of recent works include the new path along Vanderlyn Drive which joins McMillans Rd to the Stuart Highway. Some sections of this path virtually merge the cycle path with the road when there are open fields of open space available on the other side of the path. 20kmh speed limits in areas where there are children's playgrounds and many pedestrians, bicycle paths merging onto main roads at busy intersections and the most pathetic attempt at widening Lee Point Rd after Vanderly. This particular piece of roadwork should be the case in point for bicycle advocacy in Darwin. This is a single lane road with a speed limit recently reduced from Open to 80kmh (People still treat it as if it has an open limit) The road leads to a boat ramp, a popular coastal reserve and a caravan park that houses 1,000s of tourists during the dry season. Many of theis used by fishermen with boatsspeed limit, where drA road leading twhich is relied on  the.

I am hoping to blog some of this stuff over the coming weeks, not to bring you down but just as a means of showing how things are here and maybe questioning the logic.

One of my favorite bicycle blogs 'A View from the cycle path' written by David Hembrow often discusses issues of design and planning with the objective of creating a much more bicycle friendly universe. David produces some great video documentaries.

The latest post David's blog contains a video tour along a Dutch cycle path with text added to indicate various virtues of a dedicated cycle path.
Reality-vs myth dangers of dutch cycle

Although this model would not be practable for a place like Darwin where we have a much smaller population and far greater distances it still offers some basic principals that can be applied with regard to right of way, distance from roads, merging traffic and dealing with intersections.

If we want to create a safe cycling environment in Darwin I believe planners need to give propper considderation to these basic design principals rather than consrtucting cycle paths that channel riders into hazardous situations.

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