Make cycle tracks part of Hobart’s traffic solution

This article first appeared as an opinion piece in The Mercury, Monday 22 January 2018.

The debate happening about Hobart’s transport future is long overdue.

Even though population is increasing steadily we are experiencing big spikes in visitor numbers throughout summer and during the popular Dark MOFO.

But it’s disappointing that the transport vision for Hobart has been limited to whether we get light rail or widen a road.

If we want tourism to keep thriving and attract more people to live in Hobart we need to futureproof the city and that doesn’t mean building more roads.

Cities around the world are recognizing that designing transport systems is about moving the maximum numbers of people in the limited spaces we have available.

It’s also about incorporating physical activity into our transport choices to ensure we all get our 30 minutes of exercise a day to ward off preventable illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Building overpasses or widening roads will simply encourage more people to drive, it won’t solve traffic congestion.

Greater Hobart lacks transport choices for many people, which is why many people feel forced to drive a car.

If you are lucky enough to live within a few kilometres of the city centre you can walk. Although there’s plenty of room for improvement in the width and quality of our footpaths.

If you live further out, you can catch a bus, but it’s usually only worthwhile if you are near a popular route where you don’t have to wait long. Even then, some of our bus routes suffer from being caught in traffic.

That’s pretty good considering the only major change to infrastructure was the Sandy Bay Rd bicycle lane.

Imagine how many more people would choose to ride if once they got to the city there were clearly marked bike lanes on the road, or even better, separated and protected lanes.

The biggest deterrent is safety. Many people say they want to ride but not if they have to battle cars for space.

Hobartians are generally respectful of others using the road, whether you are driving a car, riding a bicycle, on a motorbike or walking.

However, we could all do with a little more space to reduce the number of crashes and even improve traffic flow.

Integrated and attractive bicycle infrastructure must be a key part of any transport plan for Hobart’s future.

If we are going to get light rail, then there should be secure bike parking at all the stations.

Ferries should have enough space for bicycles, providing an easy alternative to riding over the Tasman Bridge.

Bicycles could be an option for tourists off cruise ships with limited time in port. If we had a clear, connected network of bike lanes and paths, tourists could hire a bike or use a bike share to see more than just Salamanca Place and the waterfront.

The Botanical Gardens, Queens Domain, Cascades Female Factory, and Mt Nelson signal station are all a short ride away.

And for those people who think riding a bicycle is only for the young and fit, take a look at electric bicycles. They still help you exercise but cut out the effort needed to climb Hobart’s hills.

Only when we make it easier for more people to ride bikes can we truly reap the rewards of moving and connecting more happy and healthy people, at less public cost.

Written by Alison Hetherington, Public Affairs Advisor, Bicycle Network.