While other cities around the country and world are creating more shared spaces for people to walk and ride, Adelaide has surprisingly gone in the opposite direction and is rolling out the red carpet for cars.
“Driver’s month” has been supported by Adelaide City Council as a way to encourage more people to drive back into the CBD to support local businesses.
Councillor Jessy Khera said the measures were desperately needed to support businesses, and that it wasn’t an anti-bike or anti-bus agenda.
Inner-city businesses are struggling with more and more people choosing or being forced to work from home, but having a car week that ignores the environmental and health issues associated with cars seems short-sighted at best.
In perfectly-timed contrast, Bicycle Network’s Park it for the Planet campaign culminated yesterday with thousands of people swapping car trips for bike rides and saving more than five tonnes of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
It also helped people get daily exercise and helped local businesses, with many leaving the car at home for their trip to the shops.
Meanwhile new research coming out of Europe—where cities are rolling out thousands of kilometres of new bike lanes to support COVID-19 recovery—estimates that new infrastructure and habits could generate $3 billion per year in health benefits.
These long-term benefits can be hard to prioritise amidst a global pandemic, but further research suggests Adelaide’s belief that they can drive out of economic crisis is also misguided.
Numerous studies around the world have shown that creating streetscapes that promote pedestrians and bikes actually increases economic benefits to retailers, with a 2008 study from Melbourne showing bike riders generating 3.6 times more expenditure than drivers.
Knowing this, local bike advocates like Bicycle Institute chairwomen Katie Gilfillan are urging the council to hold several car-free days to see how trade compared to the proposed driver’s month.
Gilfillan also touched on a massive oversight in the council’s plans: that their bid to attract more people may deter a large portion of people from coming into the city.
Speaking on behalf of cyclist, she said, “they don't want to go to a polluted, noisy, car-infested city because that's not what a city is about — a city is about fun, festive people-orientated activities."
This is why other states, like NSW for example, are tackling pandemic recovery by investing millions in temporarily transforming city spaces to welcome pedestrians and bike riders, not deter them.