I am pleased that there are signs of progress but I am also underwhelmed with the content. Most of the proposals are obvious. Did it really take sixteen years to produce this? There are a few too many references to doing more "reviews" and things like a "strategic and operational development plan".
Another worrying aspect is that there is no money allocated yet to do the work. The plan shows an intention to increase the spending on the Principal Shared Paths from $0.91 million to $10.91 million per year and the overall spending is planned to be about $16.7 million per year. At first this seems like a lot of money but it represents only 1.39% of the Western Australian budget for roads.
I will be thankful if all of the proposals are implemented but I think we need to have higher expectations. If we are to achieve the goal of doubling the number of people cycling in Australia by 2016 as described in the Australian Government's National Cycling Strategy we need to move faster and have more money and resources directed to bicycle infrastructure.
Here is an idea. The modal share for bicycles is 1.6% (2009 figure) and if our aim is to double this to 3.2% then we should have 3.2% of the road budget allocated to bicycles. This is a small percentage, not much to ask for really.
The current Western Australian state budget for roads is $1.2 billion per annum which would mean $38.4 million per annum for bicycles. With this amount we could actually get things moving.
Another idea. Given that we all know the obvious health benefits associated with cycling, perhaps we could divert a tiny amount from the Western Australian health budget.
Call it preventative medicine. We should not dare to ask for much, we all know that the hospitals are struggling. How about just a quarter of one percent?
The Western Australian health budget this year is $6,217,600,000 that would give bicycles another $15.5 million.
In a recent post by Max at Cycling in Auckland I discovered that the Auckland train system will soon be electrified and those poor folks have had to put up with the old diesel trains that Perth got rid of years ago.
The Perth metropolitan trains system was electrified in 1991 and seems to have been improving continually ever since. The frequency has improved to the point where I don’t bother to look at timetables. I travel at all times of the day and rarely wait more than ten minutes.
One major advance has been the Smartrider electronic ticketing system. It has been in operation for about five years and uses a credit-card size smart card. Once you have loaded some credit onto the card you simply “tag-on” and “tag-off” as you enter and leave a train (or bus) and the fare is deducted from your card. It is very easy to use. I never have to think about having the correct change or what a particular journey is going to cost. There doesn't appear to be anything particularly special about the Perth system. I think similar systems are in use around the world. Singapore's MRT comes to mind.
Transperth allow bicycles on the trains without extra cost. There are restrictions at peak times going towards the city centre in the morning (7.00am to 9.00am) and travelling away from the city in the afternoon (4.30pm to 6.30pm). This is understandable because at these times the carriages are so full that it can be difficult to get to the door even without a bike.
Max asked for some examples of the bicycle carrying areas.
In each carriage there is a section designed for wheelchairs, bicycles and prams located next to the doors. From the outside of the train you can find the area by looking for the signs on the window. The idea is that you stand next to your bike and hold onto it while the train is moving so it doesn't roll around. The owner of this red bike disappeared down the carriage to get a seat but luckily it stayed in place.
I have noticed there are different sizes of holding area. The smaller one with the red bike shows that there is some obstruction of the door unless the bike is held at an angle within the bay.
This bay on another train has a bigger section cut away from the seating area and works better because the bike can be kept away from the door easily.