Queensland Cycling Strategy 2011-2012

In September, the Queensland Government released its cycling strategy for the next two years.  The strategy sets out what the Queensland Government will be doing to promote cycling for this period.

This post is going to be on my thoughts and general musing around the cycle strategy and as such, isn’t really in a narrative format.  More dot pointy and some times ranty.  You have been warned!

Quick Outline:

The strategy is based around 4 priority areas with a major project each:

  1. Building connected cycle networks – completing cycle network links, creating/completing cycle networks within 5kms of centres (schools, unis, public transport, shops)
  2. Growing cycling culture – bicycle education delivery to kids and adults
  3. Creating cycle friendly communities – programs to increase cycling through infrastructure and encouragement
  4. Developing a cycling economy – constructions of trails for walking, horse riding, cycling

What I found interesting:

Disappointingly, the stats provided for cycling participation (as a commute to work) paint a pretty bleak picture.  In all major centres except Brisbane CBD, cycling participation has dropped between the census in 1996 and the census in 2006.  In some centres, quite significantly.  No effort is made to try and explain this drop but significant text is spent on explaining how much investment has been made in to the outlier result (Brisbane CBD).  The reasoning is sound for this explanation (built more cycling infrastructure and people will use it) but I would have liked some insight in to why this drop in other centres has occurred.  Cycling to work has decreased by 13% state wide (not population adjusted so despite a 35% population growth) from 1991 to 2006.

Most regional centres trump SEQ for participation rates but they are also experiencing the fastest declines in participation.

Interesting stats about major centres/towns and the proposed upgrades as part of the strategy.  Gives stats about terrain profiles, weather, growth, distance most people live from major centre.

What I liked:

Focus on cycling as transport rather than fitness/recreation.  This needs attention in the greater community.  Promotion of cycling as an convenient, safe and attractive transportation option for many trips.

Build it and they will come.  Getting key locations linked with connected bikeways rather than waiting for “demand” for those bikeways.

Targets!  To double cycling’s share (percentage) of trips by 2021 and triple by 2031.

Focusing on female participation in cycling.  Currently, only females only account for 19% of work cycle commute journeys.  Monitoring female participation rates as a health and accessibility indicator of the cycling environment.  That is good but they actually never outline even one action item that would address this issue.

Not too SEQ focused.  Yeah, there is a lot of stuff about SEQ in there but let’s face it, most of the people live down there.  But there is a goodly amount around what is being done in other major centres to improve cycling both actual achievements and what is going to be done in the future.  Although, most of the photos are from SEQ :-P.

What I don’t like:

Stats provided don’t have enough labels or information provided around what the stats mean.  Infographics/graphs aren’t explained or try to offer reasons why that outcome occurred.  Not enough context is provided to make own conclusions.

The constant fear-mongering about the obesity crisis/epidemic.  The word “obesity”, “obese” or “overweight” is mentioned 60 times.  Really?  This is more times than the number of pages of information.  “Heart”, “heart attack”, “diabetes”, “cancer”, “stoke”, “blood pressure”, “cholesterol”, “osteoporosis” (i.e. actual health conditions) are never mentioned.  “Stress” is mentioned once as a consideration for travel choice.

For those who don’t know me, I’m a strong follower of health at every size.  That being weight is not an indicator of health, fat does not equal unhealthy and that BMI is bunk on an individual application.  I’m not going to go through a 101 on this or be drawn in to any arguments on it.  If you want to find out more, you’re on the internet and I assume you can use Google.

So, I’m pretty pissed off that strategy is using this tactic as a sell for cycling.  I’m happy to associate cycling with improved health.  But I don’t want cycling sold as a cure for the “obesity epidemic” / weight loss tool / shed those extra kilograms.  Yuck.  I think this whole health aspect would have been better sold as an improvement in health outcomes for heart disease, diabetes, stress – all actual diseases/ailments in which research has shown exercise has shown to be an improvement factor.  Yes, yes, yes, health is mentioned a million times but the focus seems to be on fat rather than activity for disease prevention/improvement.

Cycling and public transport.  Now, personally, I think multi mode transport is fantastic but all evidence I’ve seen from councils and public transport providers in Queensland has been pretty anti-cycling.  So, seeing this included is a bit of a joke.  A whole lot of work is going to need to get done in this space to provision even the most basic of options here.  Most buses and trains have no facility for bicycle storage.  If you are able to get your bike on to the transport mode, the times you are allowed to do so are limited or the provision of the facility is made to feel like you are a big inconvenience for other passengers.  Councils have trialled bike racks on buses but set up their trials to fail and then complained when cyclists couldn’t use their impossible systems.

No new policies, initiatives or action items on cycling awareness and promotion to motorists.

WTF!  I did not know this but it makes me angry:

Queensland and Victoria are the only states that allow motor vehicles to park in bicycle lanes.

No wonder all those photos I have been sending to the police never seem to do anything.  I surely hope the action items on the Queensland Road Rules Review correct this obvious mistake.

What I think could be different:

The focus on mountain biking as the main draw for cycle tourism and the signature project.  I know mountain bike events have had great success but I think it’s limiting demographic.  Maybe it’s just my general disinterest around mountain biking talking.  Admittedly, it does talk about cycle touring and other cycle tourism products in the action items, not in the descriptive text.

Focus on educating the cyclist.  Really, I don’t think cyclist or would be cyclist are deterred from cycling due to lack of their own skill or lack of information.  Providing education and training for those who want it is important but I don’t think it will make significant difference in cycling participation.  As per their stats, people don’t participate in cycling because it is deemed “too far, too uncomfortable and too unsafe”.  People need some carrot and stick and providing a course or a few pamphlets about cycling isn’t going to change behaviours.  Cycling needs to be incentivised.

Priority area 3 (cycle friendly communities) is a cope out.  It’s really just a combination of P1 and P2.  P3 is really about building communities to be cyclable and walkable and to encourage their use.  Isn’t that what was promoted in P1 and P2?

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