After the failed, ill-considered and expensive experiment in Frome Street, we have recently been presented with the latest plan to do the impossible: to retro-fit Adelaide city with bicycle freeways that are safe for riders, car users and pedestrians.
Of course if we were back in the days of Col. Light with a blank canvass upon which we could sketch out our ideal city, it would be easy to allow for every form of transport in a way that was sensible and safe.
But the fact is that we are not. We live in a city that is fast outgrowing its capacity to handle the volume of automobile traffic that enters and leaves it each day. We can’t magically widen the thoroughfares or reduce the impact of collisions between cars and bicycles.
With the number of deaths and serious injuries to cyclists in Australia continuing to rise, we have to be realistic about introducing more bicycles onto already crowded city streets. The fact is that cars and bicycles are like oil and water, they do not mix.
So what is the solution? It is not to search around for some convoluted route that might see cyclists do laps of the city before being able to reach their destination without being the victims or the cause of more traffic accidents. The answer is clearly to keep bicycles out of the city.
Before the shouts of outrage rise, this is not to deny citizens the use of their cycles to get to and from work in the city. What then is the solution?
Cyclists want to be able to avoid public transport and shun the motor car. They want to be able to use their bicycles to travel to and from their workplaces in the city. The city needs them to be able to get to work and contribute to the commerce of the State. Fine. It’s the people we need not the bicycles, so how can we achieve that? For the answer we go back to Col. Light and then to Hong Kong.
We have been blessed with a city that is bound by parklands at each extremity, a few minutes travel from the CBD. They would allow for the provision of perfect, environmentally sensitive bicycle terminals to which our cyclists could ride.
Waiting for them there would be what Hong Kong calls PLB’s or public light buses. Small people carriers that would operate on a continuous loop from each terminal picking up riders and dropping them off at designated stops in the CBD.
These small buses could be within the CBD within 5-10 minutes and provide either free transport to the riders or charge them a small fee (perhaps in lieu of a vehicle registration fee). They would operate throughout extended business hours and return the riders back to the bicycles at the end of the day. The service could be provided by the State government or the Adelaide City Council, a combination of both or opened for tender to the private sector.
Whatever the cost of running three or four small buses would be, it would pale into insignificance when compared with the millions already wasted and the millions more which is proposed to be spent, bicycles would be off busy city streets, riders could get to and from work and employment opportunities would be created.