Forum about active transport and walkability in Geelong

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What’s happening with regard to public transport, cycling infrastructure and walking activities in the Geelong region? A forum with the title ‘Active Transport: Past, Present & Future’ was held on 22 April 2015 at Beav’s Bar in Geelong to provide answers to this question.

In the 72st Sustainable Hour on 13 May 2015, we broadcast and podcast highlights from the event’s three key note speakers:
• Councillor Andy Richards, City of Greater Geelong: Active transport policy and funding
Paul Westcott, Public Transport Users Association Geelong: Public transport
Ash Patten, President, BikeSafe Geelong: Cycling infrastructure and safety


Listen to The Sustainable Hour no. 72:

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Active transport makes liveable cities

The Active Transport forum was organised by Geelong Sustainability as part of a series of monthly forums in Geelong over the topic of the ten One Planet Living principles, one of which is sustainable transport.

Active sustainable transport is about much more than encouraging people to use public transport. It’s about reducing carbon emissions in all modes of transport, offering more diverse transport options and putting people first in urban design so that we create more liveable cities, more resilient neighbourhoods, more connected communities and citizens who are healthier and happier.

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Councillor Andy Richards, City of Greater Geelong

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Paul Westcott, Public Transport Users Association Geelong

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Ash Patten, Bike Safe




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Pedestrians and cyclists: second-class citizens

Commentary | By Mik Aidt

In the 72nd Sustainable Hour, Councillor Andy Richards explains that the sport cyclists – the racers in lycra zooming up and down the highways between towns during weekends – have a strong and successful lobby group called BikeSafe, but that the pedestrians – those people who like to use their legs and walk to get from Point A to B within their city – currently have no one to speak for them in Geelong.

“Cycling is the new golf,” I have heard Australians say, and that is how cycling is typically seen in Australia: as a sport. A leasure time activity. Similar to golf.

But really, cycling is so much more than a sport activity. Used as a means of transport – a way to quickly get from A to B – there are so many reasons why commuting on a bicycle makes common sense in a city. Within a range of two to five kilometres, cycling to work, school, meetings and shopping is simply more practical, faster, healthier and cheaper than taking the car. And for those who don’t have a drivers licence, cycling makes even more sense.

Australian road infrastructure, however, is designed in such a way that it is as if owning a car was mandatory. Anyone who attempts to live without using a car will have to put up with being treated as a second-class citizen – a person whose life is less worthy – not only by the car-drivers who reign the roads, but even more so by the municipality engineers and council decision makers who draw those white lines on the roads and who design those discriminatory red light crossings and roundabouts.

In particular one group of citizens is being disregarded and discriminated by council officials and councillors: The kids in the age from around 8 to 18. For some reason, it is generally accepted in Australia that they don’t have a right to be able to move independently and safely from point A to point B in their city. They are depending on their parents to transport them by car.


Death trap
Take the roundabout on Yarra Street in Geelong, right next to a school with over 500 people – students, parents and teachers – who arrive there every morning in peak hour traffic – to enter South Geelong Primary School. Not a single white line has Council bothered to paint in that roundabout to protect the kids who need to cross the roads – some white stripes which could tell the drivers that this is a place where pedestrians have right of way – simply because it is a safety concern. That roundabout, as it is, is a publicly funded death trap.

And it is like that all over. The city of Geelong has so few zebra crossings that you’d think Council didn’t even know this invention exists. But then you realise, they actually do. Because at the public hospital – one single place in town – they have for some reason found it relevant to paint a zebra crossing to protect the hospital patients who need to cross the road. ONE zebra crossing in a whole city? How absurd is that!? Why not in every crossing?


Road maintenance without improvements
How sad and ridiculous it is to witness that whenever roads are being repaired at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars – road maintenance budget in Geelong is around $12 million per year – then those same silly white lines are being drawn on top of the brand-new, black asphalt, which means: the same infrastructural mistakes are being continued and repeated over and over again, as if the road planners of the traffic departments are completely blind to the need for improvements for cyclists and pedestrians.

Wouldn’t cost Council a penny to create regulation to ensure that no new road is ever being constructed and no old road is ever being repaired without changing the white lines to improve the conditions for cyclists and pedestrians.


Local residents must get involved
Having said all this, one recent development shows that with time there is maybe still hope that things are already beginning to change: The Brougham Street road maintenance was combined with (somewhat) better line painting recently.

Can we expect to see more of this? As we see more residents get involved in the decision-making, yes, it looks that way.

This week, for instance, Tony Grgurevic, president of Bicycle Users Geelong, met with Geelong councillor Andy Richards to talk about bike infrastructure that will improve rider safety and encourage more people to ride. Bicycle Users Geelong speaks for the cycling commuters in Geelong, but still needs many thousands more members in order to have a stronger voice in Council’s transport policy-making.

Similarly, mobilisation of local residents to form or grow a local branch of the “walking health promotion charity” Victoria Walks or a similar body, is needed now to ensure that the rights and needs of pedestrians begins to get attention and consideration by decision makers at all levels.

To get a new process prioritised inside City of Greater Geelong, it will take pressure and new ideas from citizens groups. Commuter cyclists and pedestrians need to organise themselves and take a close look at Council’s asphalting schedule for the coming financial year, to have conversations, meetings and to organise road safety forums with Council’s engineers and councillors.



Continue reading:

» Call for more cyclists in the streets

» The real value of cycling

» More articles about cycling on this website

BUG-front

» www.bicycleusersgeelong.org.au

» www.victoriawalks.org.au

» Victoria Walks’ youtube channel

Victoria Walks Community Service Announcment from 2010.





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GEELONG:

‘City in a Park’ vision

Geelong Council welcomes feedback about its new plan for greening Central Geelong
‘A City in a Park’ is a vision for how the ‘Greening Geelong’ initiative of the Central Geelong Action Plan can be implemented by improving streets and key public spaces in the city centre. It includes the creation of 2.3 hectares of public parkland or pedestrian space which improves the physical environment for people, birds and animals. By creating a ‘City in a Park’, Council expects to see benefits such as safer streets for pedestrians and cyclists.

» City in a Park – release of plan for greening Central Geelong

» Council welcomes feedback about the project. Email your comments to: revitalisation@geelongcity.vic.gov.au.





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CANADA:

Blueprint for biking advocacy

The Vancouver-based cycling advocacy group Hub is a great example of how community groups can work with local government to make cities more resilient.

Hub started out with a modest goal: making city streets safer for bicyclists. Over the years, they’ve expanded their purview to include bike education, consulting, and working with city government to promote greener forms of transportation in Vancouver and beyond.

With the increased focus on biking as an alternative to the usual commute, now is the perfect time to learn how this grassroots organisation became a powerful ally in its city’s efforts to reshape the future of urban transit.

» Read the article on www.100resilientcities.org/HubCycling

» Visit www.cyclinghub.tv






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