Cycling funding gap Down Under

$17.5m a year for Sydney cycle paths, '20 cents a head' in Victoria

Angry cyclists in Victoria, south-east Australia, are demanding more funding for cycle routes. They say they are "shocked and disappointed" by the state government's "tiny financial commitment" – particularly when compared with the huge amount being spent in next-door Sydney.

In its Victorian Transport Plan, the state government said it would inject AU$100 million into cycling over the next 12 years. Local campaign group Bicycle Victoria said this was too small, amounting to just "20 cents a head extra". 

Chief executive Harry Barber called on his members to start a letter-writing campaign to Australian premier John Brumby to demand more money. The national Cycling Promotion Fund also had harsh words about the level of funding, with policy advisor Elliot Fishman saying: "The money set aside for cycling in the Victorian Transport Plan would buy about one grade-separated rail crossing."

Victoria's transport plan does commit AU$5million to a public cycle hire scheme which will see 50 bike stations set up in the state capital Melbourne, with 600 bikes available in inner city areas by 2010. 

However, the state's cycling provision pales into insignificance when compared with the amount of money earmarked for works in Sydney, the capital of neighbouring New South Wales, over the next four years – AU$70 million, or AU$17.5m a year.

Construction of more than half of the area’s planned separated cycleways could begin early in the new year. However, more cash is needed to complete an ambitious scheme to increase cycling by 500 percent, and central government is being asked to contribute AU$295 million to help a collaboration of 15 inner city councils build a cycleway network.

The 55km of separated cycleways outlined in the city’s 2007 Cycling Strategy are part of a 200km network for the greater urban area. This is no pipe dream though – construction is already underway on the first separated cycleway and the city has identified up to 35km of streets where cycleways could be built, separated from pedestrians and motor traffic. 

It is anticipated the works could take only a few weeks on each street, with construction of a cycle path between parked cars and the footpath. The paths would be separated from the parked cars with a small barrier. Major works to intersections could be carried out at a later date.

However, Sydney is far from a Mecca for cyclists at present. After a recent visit, UK transport guru Christian Wolmar said cycling facilities there were way behind major European capitals such as London. In particular, he cited potentially fatal storm drains at the edge of fast moving traffic – and general hostility to planning for cycling from highway engineers.

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