Cycling on Australian Roads – Report by Sjors van Duren from Holland

Sjors van Duren Australia Velocity

Next to Denmark and its capital Copenhagen, Holland is the other international poster-child for best-practice cycling infrastructure and participation. In Holland, 27% of all trips are made by bike. While the local culture and history is favorable for cycling in these countries, they still demonstrate the possibilities for modern transport solutions in our left-in-the-dark New World countries.

Holland is generous in sharing its experience of cycling infrastructure and integration and supported a study tour of Australian ‘influentials’ in September who visited cities and regions in The Netherlands, including the Arnhem-Nijmegen City Region in the east of the country, bordering Germany. This is also the home of Sjors van Duren, a project manager involved in many of the cycling infrastructure projects for the region. He is also part of the Dutch Cycling Embassy, a collection of experts who facilitate knowledge transfer.

Rijnwaalopad Cycle Route
The dedicated cycling route connects Arnhem and Nijmegen and has its own branding

Cycling Wayfinding System
Lighting and wayfinding system for the Rijnwaalpad route is consistent with the branding

I met Sjors in Adelaide in May during the Velo-City Global conference in Adelaide. Sjors presented on the ‘futuristic’ cycle infrastructure projects from his region and commented on the role of cycling in society, “I think that having a sense of place helps building communities and social cohesion” says Sjors. “Cycling does fit very well within those goals. This in contradiction to approaching cycling as ‘just’ a mode of transportation.”

 

The Australian Road Report

Curious about his impression of Australian cycling infrastructure, I followed up with Sjors once he returned home to understand where Australia is going right… and wrong. Sjors travelled 5,500km through Australia, visiting cities and regional areas in South Australia, New South Wales, and Queenland during his visit and he shares with us his observations of Australian roads.

 

Roundabouts provide very convenient ‘desire lines’ for cars going straight ahead
You don’t have to slow down as a car driver. (Dangerous). Roundabouts in the Netherlands are designed so that ANY car has to slow down passing the roundabout, reducing speeds and reducing the impact of crashes. Additionally, it provides more opportunities for NMT (Non Motorized Transport) to cross the roundabout. In the center of Byron Bay I noticed that pedestrian were asked to cross in groups. It is a very dense and very pedestrian-heavy environment, but still, priority for cars.

 

Speed limits are very high in urban environments
60km/h feels very fast, even in a car, let alone when walking or cycling through urban environment. Same goes for 40km/h on small side streets.

Dutch Urban Cycling Street
Contrast: Urban Dutsch street lending itself to low speed travel, the red tarmac means cyclist have priority

 

Recent urban planning projects discourage the utilitarian use of bicycles
Large suburban shopping malls are being developed. Best (or worst) example of this is the new shopping centre in Emerald; it has made the former Main Street feel ‘dead’. It is out of the city, with no (Cycling) facilities to go there.

 

Poorly connectability of highways
Recent construction of highways in urban environments which were poorly attached to the existing network, thereby providing limited improvements in travel times. An example are the road tunnels in Brisbane & Sydney.

Intercity Cycle Transport Route
Contrast: New Rijnwaalpaad Arnhem-Nijmegen cycle route integrates different mods of transport

 

Brisbane cycling infrastrure – The good and the bad
I loved the cycle way alongside the Brisbane river. One of the best examples of cycling infrastructure I’ve seen in the world! But that same cycle way isn’t connected to a coherent cycling network, which prevents non-lycra people from utilitarian cycling to/from the city. The units which were built in Queensland to prevent cars from entering cycle paths (yellow steel bars which curve towards each other) are very dangerous and encourage head-on collisions.

 

Converting Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s super-highways
The road lay-out in Brisbane was very, very spatious! There is a lot of room available to do a ‘road diet’ and implement separated cycling lanes. Many roads with a speed limit of 60km/h look like they’re designed for 8okm/h or higher (which encourages speeding). Applying a road diet increases traffic safety, for cars and bikes, and decreases the barrier function of a (main) road. It might even create space to provide (green) public spaces.

Cycling Infrastructure Investment
Contrast: Cycle transport is a worthwhile inventment

 

Foster public spaces in Australia
I noticed that when cycling from the Adelaide CBD towards the ocean, the public space in Australia is very well kept. This is a main advantage and difference from the US., and very important for the (perceived) feeling of safety for cyclists.

 

If you have visited and ridden in Europe, there are still cars. Motor vehicles play an import transportation role, but when cycling is a convenient option, along with public transport or other mobility solutions, it reduces congestion and makes cities and regions more livable. Intelligent cycling infrastructure is not the burden that politicians, decision makers, tabloids, and shock-jocks think it is.

BNA wishes to thank Sjors van Duren for his time and insight.

 

Credits: Image 1 altelier LEK, Images 4 – 5 courtesy of Sjors van Duren



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About The Author

Christopher Jones is a recreational cyclist and runs a professional design business, Signale. As the driving force behind Bicycles.net.au he has one of each 'types' of bicycles.

3 responses to “Cycling on Australian Roads – Report by Sjors van Duren from Holland”

  1. Bruce says:

    Interesting report thanks, good to see a different perspective on the good and bad in Australia

  2. Sandman says:

    Hi,
    Over here in Perth Western Australia we have absolutely brilliant sections of two-way bike paths, let down in some areas ie: for no good reason they terminate into oblivion, (their logical extension just continues into vacant land alongside railway tracks). This makes it up to the cyclists to navigate their way through traffic and continue their journey on main roads clever? NOT!
    There are also parts where trees have pushed up concrete drain covers 5-6inches above the level surface making these a death trap for the unsuspecting cyclist.
    Approach local councils with these concerns and they just say “It’s not up to them, it’s Government department’s responsibility” clever? NOT!
    Councils over here seriously need to pull their heads out of their proverbial!

  3. Perry says:

    Australia is a long, long way from prioritising and integrating cycling suitably as a part of its network of transport infrastructure. The main reason being that cycling is still not recognised as an important part of the solution, with ‘car culture’ dominating since WWII.

    Fantastic to hear the European perspective from someone who can see cycling as an essential part of the solution!