In early March I travelled on a private trip to Melbourne with the Velociteers who performed at the Melbourne Bike Fest. I took the opportunity to check out why Melbourne is considered to be one of the world’s most liveable cities.
The first thing that struck me was the number of people using bikes for transport especially young women. Melbourne suffers from similar issues to Auckland with car- centric city design, excessive speeds and road congestion. However unlike Auckland there is connected bike infrastructure that makes cycling pleasant and safe. It wasn’t perfect but there has clearly been investment in a whole variety of different approaches to encourage cycling – painted green cycle lanes, shared paths, contra-flows, traffic calming, intersection treatments and separated or “Copenhagen” lanes.
The Melbourne public bike hire scheme introduced in 2010 has also increased the visibility of cycling. Over the four days I was there I used the service for all my trips. I found it to be convenient, cheap (registration is $2.40 per day with the first half hour free ) and took me to where I wanted to go around the city centre. I was able to make the compulsory helmet requirement work by taking over my own helmet and being willing to carry it around between trips. (Not an option that suits everyone – although helmets are for sale for only $5).
However experiencing the Melbourne bikes also convinced me that in Auckland we should not make a public bike hire scheme a priority until we can offer connected and safe routes.
Other aspects of Melbourne that I appreciated were the number of water fountains as part of the street scape reducing the need for plastic bottles and the ban on smoking on the beaches.
[A version of this post featured on the Cycle Action Auckland website generating a number of comments about prioritising a bike share scheme]