The pitfalls of the bicycle in Sydney

In a timely follow up to last week’s post ‘The benefits of the bicycle’, John Pucher, a US academic from Rutgers University in New Jersey, says that Sydney is one of the world’s most hostile cities for cycling. Prior to publishing a paper in the Journal of Transport Geography, Dr Pucher claims that Sydney motorists exhibit a high level of aggression and hostility towards cyclists on the road.

The paper compares cycling in Sydney and Melbourne and find that twice as many trips are made by bicycle in Melbourne as Sydney, with the rate of trips in Melbourne growing at three times that of Sydney. Dr Pucher says that “Melbourne’s flatter terrain and lower rainfall alone do not explain why in hilly San Francisco the percentage of trips by bike has grown to 2.5 per cent, 3½ times Sydney’s rate of 0.7 per cent.”

“More significant than topography is reducing aggression among motorists. Making cyclists, especially female cyclists, feel safer, is a job Melbourne has done much better than Sydney. Dr Pucher says women are a litmus test for cycling safety as many will ride only if they feel safe. Twenty-five per cent of commuting cyclists in Melbourne are women, but only 17 per cent in Sydney. In Denmark the figure is 45 per cent and in the Netherlands 55 per cent.”

It is not all bad news, however, with the City of Sydney spending $76 million on a 20 kilometre network of bike lanes. But it sounds as though Sydney, and even the rest of Australia has a long way to go to catch up to the rest of the world.

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