Friday, August 19, 2011

Audit of Victorian Cycling Strategy

The Auditor General of Victoria has released a report on the 2009 Victorian Cycling Strategy. The report recognises the importance of the strategy for raising the profile and supporting cycling. Far from condemning the Strategy it is very supportive of it and recommends greater effort, not reduced effort to promote cycling as the news reports appear to imply. It does however raise some issues that are worth taking note of. In the words of the Auditor General:

The strategy was developed in haste without sufficient understanding of either current cycling journeys or what was required to ‘mainstream’ cycling as a form of transport. There was an overemphasis on physical infrastructure solutions, to the relative neglect of other measures essential to achieving the strategy’s goal, such as promoting cycling, educating potential cyclists and reducing the incentives to use cars.

In addition, agencies were not well prepared to implement the strategy or evaluate its success, and this contributed to the unsatisfactory progress in addressing its limitations.

I hesitate to comment on the AG's report or the Cycling Strategy as I have not studied the AG report and am not familiar with the rollout of the Cycling Strategy, but three things stand out for me:
  1. insufficient understanding of current cycling journeys - we have an excellent understanding and many data and analysis resources for understanding existing and predicting future vehicle trips. We are developing a similar capability for public transport. Cycling and walking are lagging behind significantly.
  2. reducing incentives to use cars - a political hot potato but probably one of the most powerful tools in behaviour change. TransLink recently released their passenger survey. The main reason for drivers taking public transport was that it was too expensive to park at work or that public transport was the cheapest option.
  3. not well prepared to ... evaluate its success - this is partly related to the first point. Without sufficient base-line data it is impossible to understand success.
Behaviour change does not happen overnight and the growth in cycling will take more than just two years of effort - Europe's high levels of cycling come from over 40 years of sustained policy, planning and infrastructure investment supporting sustainable transport. The findings of the report are however worthwhile noting for anyone putting together a cycling strategy.

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