Cycleways. Can't live with them, can't live without them, writes Philip Gomes.
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7 Apr 2015 - 11:32 PM  UPDATED 13 Apr 2015 - 3:36 PM

What to do about cycling infrastructure? I mean that in a good way of
course, cycleways and bikeways are the future of large cities around the
world so we'd better get used to them Down Under.

I started
thinking about this again with the announcement by the Sydney Lord
Mayor, Clover Moore, that the finishing touches to a separated two-lane
cycleway that takes riders from the Harbour Bridge down Kent Street into
the CBD and on to the Inner West, had been applied.

It's not
about the why but the how and the when.

When of course is now.
Its happened at an incredible pace in Melbourne, and Sydney is
accelerating hard in an attempt to catch up.

The how is a
different story and I think we're still finding our way. You can't plonk
any old piece of cycling specific infrastructure down anywhere and
expect it to be a success. You have to pick your spots and hopefully get
it right.

Sydney can be a difficult customer when it comes to
cycling but I think the Lord Mayor and cycling advocates are getting it
right in picking their spots. The Bridge to Bridge connection is one of
those.

The consensus is that cycleways are a good thing because
they ameliorate the fear so many have of cycling on roads dominated by
vehicles.

And given the European experience we know this is
true, build it and they will come.

Still, if I correctly have my
fingers on the pulse of some of the thinking out there, worries do
persist about a particular consequence of an increasing network of
cycleways.

The argument usually boils down to competing
interests, those of commuters and the needs of the training cyclist -
with a side order of motorist.

The fear among racing and training
cyclists is that they will be increasingly pushed to the margins both
physically and metaphorically as more cycling specific infrastructure is
built out.

And the more specific cycling infrastructure we
build, the more it will be expected all cyclists use it - though that
infrastructure may not meet the needs of the training cyclist - or
bunch.

Training properly, singly or in a bunch, means hitting the
roads and mixing it with the heavy iron, and in a big cities like
Sydney and Melbourne that means not using the available cycling
infrastructure.

A well trained cyclists' ability to travel solo
at speed is compromised if forced to use a cycling path. Where is the
efficiency and convenience in that?

So I'd have to say that for
the regular 'clubbie' mixing it with cars is preferable to fighting the
stream of slow movers on a bike way, as they commute to work.

Of
course the real problem isn't infrastructure or competing needs but the
lack of understanding of those needs by motorists and the non-cycling
community.

Unfortunately, to that segment of the travelling
public all cyclists look alike, and public education about tribal
differences is unlikely to change the situation much in the near future.

Other
countries seem to manage, but will 'roadies' become collateral damage
as we transition to a cycling environment that is broader and more
representative of the wider community?

Hopefully no. The greater
argument though is a compelling one, getting more people on bikes.

From
a social and environmental point of view we have no choice but to
accept cycling infrastructure into our cycling (and motoring) lives.