Checking in on the Bicycle Backlash
The closing paragraph of a recent editorial in The Australian makes a blunt point: “For too long, authorities have bowed to the demands of selfish cyclists and their lobby groups.” A blog post by Alan Davies argues most strongly, however, in response to the penultimate line of the editorial: “Truth is, our cities are dominated by cars because they are sprawling.” Davies does not accept the argument that “nothing can be done to redress the conflict between drivers and cyclists because it’s a structural issue.”
First of all, Davies points out that the editorial’s claims of the ubiquity of sprawling conditions doesn’t even apply to the “dooring” incident that prompted the editorial. “The dooring incident cited by The Australian didn’t happen in the car-oriented suburbs but in Melbourne’s CBD, on the corner of Collins and Swanston.” There, despite the editorial’s wishful thinking, cars aren’t even the dominant mode of transportation: “cars don’t dominate the CBD; they’re a minor mode. For example, the great majority of work trips to and from the CBDs of Sydney and Melbourne (around 70-80%) are made by public transport, not cars.”
In the end, Davies’s point is that more work can be done to increase the safety of all modes: “Conflict between cyclists and pedestrians is an issue that needs to be addressed. But so does conflict between cars and cyclists. The hands of policy-makers aren’t tied by supposedly intractable structural forces like sprawl; they can and should make cycling safer…”
For the record, not all editorials in Australia have been so overtly anti-bicycle. A separate editorial in The Sydney Morning Herald calls for a “cycle of co-operation” laying the onus at the feet of both policy makers and bikers to make take steps to make the streets safer.