Public transport is already regarded as ‘a friend’ of cycle transport. Not only does improved public transport reduce the number of vehicles on the roads, the two travel modes can be nicely connected. A commute to work can involve a ride to the train station or bus interchange. While the Corona Virus has led to a surge in cycling, experts suggest that public transport usage rates need to be reduced to prevent a resurgence of COVID-19. However this can also backfire on cycling safety.
The Institute for Sensible Transport along with We Ride Australia have released modelling showing that eighty-four per cent of all trips in peak on public transport will no longer be possible in order to allow for the required physical separation.
In Sydney, 600,000 peak hour trips on public transport would need to drop to 94,000 trips and in Melbourne they would need to drop from 382,000 to just 58,000. The modelling for these two cities shows the following results.
• 213,000 passengers would need to avoid public transport during peak hours
• 206,000 would need to continue to work from home,
• An additional 82,000 people would need to travel an average of 5km to work by bicycle.
• 137,000 passengers would need to avoid travel during peak hour
• 131,000 would need to continue to work from home,
• More than 54,000 people would need to travel an average of 5km to work by bicycle.
Houston Australia we have a problem…
It is likely that some work-places will continue to accommodate flexible work-at-home arrangements however for cautious commuters who typically use public transport, the commuting alternative for many will be single-occupant cars. As a result, traffic congestion is predicted to increase which subsequently increases risks for bike riders and pedestrians.
Dr Ben Beck from the School of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at Monash University said,
“If a significant volume of trips usually taken by public transport are replaced by car-based travel, this will have substantial, and potentially irreversible, negative consequences on the health of our people and the health of our cities.
“It is essential, and not optional, that we rapidly invest in infrastructure to support healthy and safe walking and cycling. Walking and cycling have huge benefits for our physical health, our mental health and the environment,” Dr Beck said.
We Ride Australia’s Stephen Hodge said that the modelling “supports the investment needed for pop-up bike lanes and extra space for pedestrian traffic, so these choices are easier and safer for all who wish to walk or ride to work,
“The alternative to getting this right are very concerning for us all, with gridlocked roads and unsafe conditions hampering governments efforts to get us all back to work safely” Hodge said.
Some Australian councils such as the City of Sydney have proceeded to fast-track the implementation of bike lanes. This has also been prompted by an increase in bike trips in April and May 2020 by 50%. The City of Melbourne has seen a massive increase in cycling and announced 12 kilometres of pop-up cycling lanes and Lord mayor Sally Capp suggests that if they are successful, they could become permanent.
Despite the surge in cycle transport across Australia and relaxing of the restrictions, most levels of government throughout Australia remain slow to react in the implementation of temporary bike lanes and fast-tracking safe bike travel.