Bike City gets a flat

UCI Worlds bunch en route to Geelong 2010

Riding in Melbourne is pretty good – good roads, some shared paths, great mountain biking, a bayside training route, mountains within reach and a mild climate. Cadel Evans’ brief visit home after winning the 2011 Tour de France drew the biggest crowd ever seen in Federation Square and new Premier Ted Baillieu delivered a speech so good that you’d reckon his writer rides.

But we also have some of the most aggressive drivers known to man and a road network designed without much thought for cyclists. So things are good but they could be better.

Three days before Cadel’s win, tourism and events minister Louise Asher announced a four-year Cycle Tourism Action Plan with the news that we were apparently in a spin that Melbourne has become a (breathe) UCI Bike City. The second, after Copenhagen. Unbridled joy; Pat McQuaid loves us.

So what makes a UCI Bike City? As far as I can make out, it’s hosting UCI events well (tick) and having good cycling infrastructure (tick, well it’s better than Sydney’s). Here’s what the UCI said when announcing the first Bike City –  Copenhagen – in 2007:

Cities that wish to obtain this label submit their application to the UCI to organise several events on the UCI international calendar such as World Cups, World Championships and other UCI series.

The awarding of the label is decided based on criteria such as the international standing of the city and its active commitment to develop cycling (e.g.: organisation of cycling events, network of cycle tracks and other quality facilities).

The label enables these selected cities to organise major events and also to have a high level of media coverage. They will in fact receive major media coverage given to UCI international events and also, on a wider scale, regular publicity as a bike city (above all as a tourist attraction).

So you run big events, build good infrastructure, apply, get to stage big gigs and bask in the exposure. Sounds a bit like F1. If that’s what it takes to get cycling on the radar, great. But here’s the rub. Ms Asher went on to say that being Australia’s ‘cycling capital’ would promote and increase participation and ‘enthusiasm for cycling at every level’ across Victoria. Enthusiasm by everyone, except her colleagues perhaps. Because 10 months later, her government’s Budget virtually rubbed out funding for cycling infrastructure – the stuff of Bike City applications. It might also pull the rug from under a cyclist safety awareness program promised in March.  

The paltry $20 million allocated to cycling facilities was gone. Bicycle Network Victoria wasn’t impressed. And this as the city grinds to a halt amid congestion and under-funded public transport. Commuters have already voted with their pedals: city cycling has boomed 300 per cent in six years, with 7500 bikes a day entering the CBD during the morning peak. Some routes are bursting.  The Age found that four cycling projects will be funded in 2012-2013 to the tune of $8 million – that’s for the whole state. And it looks a little sad against the City of Melbourne’s draft bike budget of $5 million for the inner city alone. Nice one Doyley!

 Lucky we became Bike City last year.

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