Copenhagen is bicycle city – there are now more bikes than cars! In 1970, there were about 350,000 cars and 100,000 bikes. Today, there are 265,700 bike riders compared to 253,600 car drivers, right in the heart of the city.
Although London has far more people than Sydney, 64,000 cars entered the city in 2014 during morning rush hour, compared to 86,000 in 2004. The number of bikes more than doubled from 14,000 to 36,000 in that decade – two cars for every bike. By 2019, there will be more people on bikes than in cars.
So why are there so few cyclists on Sydney’s roads?
First, the government stopped constructing CBD bike lanes and then, in March 2016, increased fines for cyclists. In September 2016, the government scrapped its target of doubling the number of trips made in Sydney by bicycle.
Certain offences – not wearing a helmet, not stopping at red lights – now incur huge fines, some nearly six times more than before. Cyclists have paid $1.3m in fines since March 2016. Only 15 fines, worth $5,000, have been given to motorists for breaking the one-metre passing law in that time.
From 1 March 2017 cyclists were going to have to carry a drivers licence or photo ID while riding (with a fine of over $100). This is now cancelled, but cyclists are urged to carry some form of ID.
The NSW government claims there has been no drop-off in the number of cyclists. Conversely, the City of Sydney – a supporter of cycling – has noticed a slight decline in cycling rates between 2014 and 2016. However, rates of cycling have increased where there are new, separated bike lanes.
Winner of the Tour de France, Cadel Evans, claimed he would never ride a bike in Sydney or Taipei, Taiwan. He cited narrow streets, volume of vehicles, little cycling infrastructure – and distinct lack of respect for cyclists in Sydney.
If Sydney is seen as unfriendly to cyclists, this could damage its reputation as a welcoming destination for tourists, especially those who like to get around on bicycles.
Quite apart from tourism, health or congestion benefits, it is cheaper to invest in cycling infrastructure. In Copenhagen, the sum spent in 12 years on bicycle investments was only half what it cost to create one vehicle bypass north of the city.
In our blog, Sharing the road is not easy for cars and bikes, we said governments have to tread a line between looking after cyclists, who are obviously more vulnerable to accidents, and vehicle drivers, who also need to move safely on the roads.
The balance in Sydney currently seems to favour motor vehicles. Luckily, cyclists do not have to pay for CTP insurance. Get your greenslip here.