Media Statement Re: Clr Simon Menzies’ call to ban cyclists on Military and Spit Roads

A map of Bicycle routesRecently, Bicycle NSW was approached by the Mosman Daily to give a statement in response to Clr Simon Menzies’ call to Mosman Council to ban cyclists from Military Road and Spit Road corridor during peak hour for reasons of cyclist safety and improved traffic flow. We were advised that “He believes this is reasonable because an alternate purpose-built cycle route is available to use and he said it’s currently under-utilised” which we understand to refer to the Beauty Point Route.

Today’s Mosman Daily Article only includes a small portion of our response to the questions we were asked. We consulted with our affiliated Bicycle User Group, Bike North, as well as regular local commuter, John Hawkins. Their feedback, combined with our experience formed the below responses to the journalist’s questions which we supplied on 23 January 2017. We share them here in the interest of demonstrating the further intricacies of the local area that have not been considered by Clr Menzies and the resulting article.

We note that Mosman Council actively advocates for and promotes cycling on it’s website.

Laws defining where bike are and are not allowed are already too confusing for both road users and enforcement agencies, as demonstrated by the recent fines issued to cyclists not using a bicycle path/ cycleway in the CBD.

What is Bicycle NSW’s response to Cr Simon Menzies’ idea?

Bicycle NSW is the peak advocacy body for cycling in NSW and has advocated for cyclists rights for over 40 years. We cannot support Clr Menzies’ proposal to ban cyclists from the Military Road and Spit Road corridor as such action would further discourage people from choosing bike riding as a viable transport option. People on bikes are not the problem, nor the cause of heavy traffic through the area, but rather the high volume of single occupant vehicles are the very cause of the traffic Clr Menzies is complaining about.

Cycling already experiences significant barriers including lack of infrastructure, space on roads and negative press, however removing bikes from the roads will serve only to make bike riding disappear altogether from the public eye in that area. If Mosman Council allows one ban, what’s to stop an avalanche of ban requests and further confusion between where bikes are and are not allowed?

Bans are not the solution to the problem, nor will they help increase bike riding participation. Instead, investment in cycling infrastructure and better education to all drivers, cyclists and pedestrians on how to share the roads and paths will result in a better experience for all road users.

The more people we can get riding bikes, the more room on public transport there will be.  The more room on public transport, the more car drivers can instead choose to take the bus or ride a bike to their destination, thereby reducing the traffic congestion for those who must drive their car to their final destination.

Investment in cycling infrastructure, is an investment for all road users – pedestrians, drivers and cyclists.

How popular with cyclists is the alternate purpose-built cycle route which Cr Menzies mentions? (I.e., the Beauty Point route)

Bicycle NSW always appreciates when any Government installs purpose built cycling infrastructure and encourages more local government areas to help deliver connected networks of cycleways and safe bike routes. However in the case of the Beauty Point route, the practicalities of the route are not suitable for all riders. Bicycle NSW consulted with it’s members and local affiliated Bicycle User Group, Bike North, about the area and found that the alternate route is more suited to recreational riders rather than daily commuters.

Just like drivers, cyclists will choose the route that offers the best trip experience. While the off road bicycle path at Pearl Bay offers a completely off road riding location, it is not connected to the greater cycling routes throughout the area.

The topography of the surrounding area and connecting on road marked bicycle routes are hilly with very steep gradients of 10-15% which can be too challenging for riders. Strava is a popular online cycling application that records riders times and routes. When looking at the Strava heatmaps for the area, it’s evident the routes are not suitable, nor appealing to even the most dedicated riders.

Shared paths more often than not cross multiple driveways causing cyclists to ride with caution at every intersection and driveway – the equivalent of not getting out of 2nd gear when driving a car. The addition of pedestrians using a shared path with devices and headphones, or walking their dogs adds an further level of disruption to their commute.

The route is also indirect and does not offer an obvious solution to the more direct route and riding in traffic.

Why would cyclists use the Military/Spit road corridor during peak hour instead of the Beauty Point route?

The Military and Spit Road corridor is faster, flatter and more direct for bike commuters.

Not all cyclists are out to ride a challenging and hilly route every time they ride, some just want to get to work in the safest and most direct way, just like every other commuter. Bike riders are allowed to ride in Bus Lanes and often do so along this corridor, avoiding the worst of the traffic. All reports from our members show that the NSW Government Bus Drivers along that route are both professional and respectful of cyclists sharing the lane so that bike riders can avoid the worst of the traffic gridlock.

The existing alternate routes lack integration with broader bike routes, lack maintenance to keep the route clear of debris and damage that could cause significant injury to a bike riders, some follow alongside areas of parked cars increasing the likelihood of potential car doorings, and many are dangerous during peak hour when drivers are searching for rat runs and rushing to beat the traffic to their destination.  

Realistically, most bike commuters using Military and Spit Roads likely do so because they find the alternate routes are too dangerous.

 

What advice do you have for cyclists using the Military/Spit road corridor during peak hour?

As always cyclists and motorists should share the road and be considerate of the needs of all road users.

Bicycle riders are legally allowed to use the road and Bicycle NSW encourages riders to do so using the road rules and safe riding techniques, including:

Taking the lane – when a cyclist rides to the side of a lane, drivers often try to ‘squeeze’ by in the same lane which puts the bike rider in danger of collision or being swiped. The Minimum Passing Distance legislation passed in March 2016 requires motorised vehicles to overtake people on bikes with a minimum 1m gap when in a 60km or lower speed zone. Bike riders often ride on the left out of perceived ‘courtesy’ to drivers, however Bicycle NSW encourages riders to make themselves visible by taking the lane – sitting in the centre of the lane, or roughly the equivalent of where a ‘driver’ would be positioned. This allows the bike rider better vision of upcoming obstacles, narrowing of roads and issues with traffic. This also makes the rider more visible to drivers who are required to overtake bicycle like they would other motorised vehicles.

Be predictable – Bicycle NSW encourages riders to use obvious hand signals when maneuvering in traffic, making eye contact with drivers whenever possible before changing lanes and making their movements clear and bold so that other road users know the rider’s intentions and how to drive appropriately around them. Bicycle NSW also asks drivers to keep an eye out for riders and look for hand signals that act as indicators and give bike riders plenty of stopping distance, like you would a large truck. Many cyclists have excellent bikes with great brakes, but a car’s stopping distance is very different to that of a bicycle, so just give a bit of extra space for riders to stop.

 

Work together – wherever possible, if a number of riders are passing through an area, keep an eye out for each other, and if possible (and experienced), ride two abreast making it faster for other vehicles to overtake safely.

Is there anything else you could add?

Bicycle NSW encourages Mosman Council to consider investing in upgrades and installation of more and improved infrastructure in the area, especially along the alternate  proposed cycle routes on Parrawi Road where access is a significant barrier to bike riders using this route instead of Military and Spit roads.

Mosman Council is encouraged to carry out further education campaigns for all road users on how best to share the road in areas of high congestion with a goal to encourage more drivers to choose alternate transport options to help reduce the levels of traffic through the area. Not every driver can replace their commute entirely, however choosing to ride a portion and perhaps using public transport for the rest of the journey is a great way to reduce stress and travel time.

Bicycle NSW and Bike North encourage bike riders who are concerned about riding on Military and Spit roads to try out alternative bike routes along Parriwi Road and through Beauty Point for less stressful commutes and to experience whether the steep gradients are suitable for their daily commute.

Bicycle NSW and Bike North can consult with Clr Menzies and Mosman Council on better cycling route options, improvements that can be made to bike access and infrastructure and how we can work together to increase cycling participation and reduce traffic strain on local areas. Bicycle NSW invites Clr Mezies on a bike ride tour of the area to help better identify positive action for local Active Transport and alternate options for the area.