Advocate for bike lanes on city roads

Many cities around the world are increasingly exploring the idea of ​​introducing dedicated cycle lanes on urban roads to reduce traffic congestion, improve air quality and encourage well-being. However, despite the rise of cycling for daily commuting in recent years, any project to implement a new cycle path is invariably opposed.

Arguing for the need for cycle lanes, landscape architect and urban designer, Dr Mike Harris of the UNSW School of the Built Environment says their benefits are undisputed.

“When you look at what cycling infrastructure does for cities, whether it’s for congestion, climate or people’s well-being, it’s clear that it’s hugely beneficial in so many ways,” says Dr. Harris, who accuses the opposition to bike lanes of having misconceptions about their impact. on motorists.

Relieves traffic jams

“Cycling actually reduces congestion. You can move more people with bicycles than with cars in less space.

A study by the Greater London Authority shows that cycle lanes move five times more people per hour than car-only lanes. Locally, data from the NSW Road and Marine Services indicates that Sydney City cycle lanes carry more people during morning rush hour than adjacent car lanes of the same width.

“A lot of our streets are already dedicated to cars,” says Dr Harris. “Separated cycle lanes, in particular, reduce traffic congestion for those who need to use cars. So if the goal is to reduce traffic congestion for cars in cities, then we need more bike lanes, not less.

“No one is suggesting that everyone should cycle all the time. It’s about removing some of the general population who want to get out of car lanes. That, in turn, gives space back to those who need to use their car,” he says.

“Everyone is talking about improving traffic during school holidays. We could achieve this permanently with a network of separate cycle paths.

Positive impact on the environment

Commenting on the impact of cycle lanes on the environment, Dr Harris says replacing car journeys with cycle journeys is also more effective at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, improving air quality and reduce urban heat.

Better for local businesses

Cycle lanes can also boost local businesses with a study from the University of Melbourne revealing how parking bikes generated more revenue for businesses per hour than parking cars.

“Research shows that cyclists tend to spend more money locally,” says Dr Harris. “They buy things more frequently because they can easily stop and walk into a store in a heartbeat.”

“Cycling infrastructure is self-financing. Every kilometer someone drives in a car costs the economy. But every kilometer cycled is an economic benefit for the community.

Road safety

Bike lanes also improve road safety. “As the rate of cycling increases, traffic accidents decrease per capita, as more and more people become aware that cyclists share the road. Having separate cycle lanes also improves safety for cyclists and those numbers. »

However, the lack of safe cycle paths also hampers the adoption of cycling as a mode of transport. Therefore, having strong cycling networks is essential to achieving a meaningful shift to cycling in the long term.

“At least half of the population say they would like to cycle for at least some of their trips. However, they will only do this if there is a dedicated infrastructure,” says Dr Harris.

Funding for cycling infrastructure

Opponents of bikeways often wonder how new infrastructure will be funded.

“Funding for road infrastructure comes from general revenue, so everyone pays whether you use it or not, including cyclists. It would be like asking pedestrians to pay a special fee for trails,” says Dr Harris.

A recent study by Dr Harris suggests that politics, rather than a lack of evidence, appears to be a major challenge to implementing more cycling infrastructure.

He says it is always essential to consult and work on implementing such projects with locals, referring to recent decisions by the City of Melbourne to halt cycle lane development as counterproductive in the long term. .

“Cities that now have cycling as a leading mode of transport have had to very consciously plan and deliver a cycling network over a few decades. Now the benefits are clear: quieter, healthier and safer cities.”

Ultimately, says Dr. Harris, if we want people to return to city centers after COVID, public spaces and the quality of streets need to improve. And that means putting people first.

“Certainly better cycling infrastructure is key to this renaissance.”

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