Adrian moved to Melbourne in 2008 and has been using cycling to get around in the past five years. As he lives in the inner suburbs, he got rid of his car and has not bought another one, finding cycling a good way of getting around. His presentation centred on finding the best routes to get around by bicycle.
On his blog, he tracks how much money he has saved by getting around by bike (and public transport, sometimes) rather than car, as well as other aspects of the experience, such as his enjoyment rating, safety and health.
Over time, he has found ways to “optimise routes” and tracks how much time he saved, taking into account all the time you would spend servicing, registering, etc. a car. He has also tracked accidents and injuries, to show that cycling does not have to be as dangerous as people might think. He found that, over time, he was involved in accidents less and less, as he became more experienced at cycling.
When he began cycling for transport, Adrian initially used the TravelSmart maps, which he found difficult to use. He then used Google Maps, especially the feature that shows cycling routes and infrastructure. There are also other sources, such as www.bigyak.net.au/trails/biketrails, which provide good information on bike lanes and off-road trails.
There was some discussion about the fact that most of Melbourne’s off-road routes are shared paths, rather than cycling paths, with several participants having opinions on whether or not shared paths are adequate in the context of higher cycling rates, and sharing knowledge about interesting instances across the city, such as where shared paths diverge to separated pedestrian and cycling paths for a section and then merge again. A number of opinions were expressed on whether routes should have a “commuter” function for cyclists or whether a focus should be on creating a comfortable shared enivronment that meets the needs of pedestrians. One participant was a staff member at a council and was able to share information about the infrastructure they manage and what types of work they are undertaking.
As Adrian kept refining his understanding of cycling routes, he began to find gaps in the information available to people looking to find information on routes. For example, Open Street Map has the potential to be very useful, but sometimes conveys information in a way that is difficult to use. A participant that was familiar with Open Street Maps made the point that it is just a database and the way it displays information can be customised to be more useful and easier to understand.
Adrian also looked at how you could cycle through busy areas such as the CBD, and the fact that, while there were a lot of ideas about how conditions could be improved e.g. having Collins Street as a main route for cyclists, but little indication of how this could be achieved or how long it would take. Adrian made the point that there are many aspirational plans of what cycling infrastructure should or will (at some point) be provided, but there is the difficulty of travelling in current conditions.
There was quite a bit of discussion about how plans such as VicRoads’ Principal Bicycle Network are devised and whether these meet cyclist needs. Some participants were able to share specialist areas of knowledge and interest, such as the fact that there is inadequate planning in separating freight/truck and cycling routes.
Adrian described how he would mentally compose a map that grew over time as he travelled to new destinations and had to find new routes. He would start using Google Maps to explore options and then ride them to find favourites. These favourites, such as the separated path along St Georges Road, would then be part of a repertoire of familiar routes in a mental map that could be use when planning new routes. A participant suggested that mapping services could be used to create a “subjective cycling map” layer that crowdsourced the knowledge and experience of people like Adrian to provide a more meaningful map of routes than nominated routes mapped out in Google Maps’ cycling map layer.