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Yarwood weighs in on bikeway backdown

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Former lord mayor Stephen Yarwood has criticised Adelaide City Council after it voted last night to redesign Frome Street bikeway, against the recommendations of its own independent report.

Deputy Lord Mayor Houssam Abiad’s motion to redesign the street with two driving lanes in each direction during peak times was passed by the council’s Economic and Community Development committee by seven votes to five.

The motion includes “the retention of the separated bike lanes”. However, council staff said the redesign would likely involve removing the concrete kerbs which separate bike riders from the driving lane and replacing them with flexible bollards, at a cost of between $350,000 and $520,000.

An independent report on the bikeway, commissioned by the council last year and released last week, found that returning the street to two driving lanes at peak times would have a “negligible” impact on congestion, which was mainly affected by intersections rather than by mid-block capacity, and would be a poor use of public funds.

The Frome Street bikeway was implemented under the administration of former lord mayor Stephen Yarwood. Contacted by InDaily for comment this morning, he said he was disappointed that “members would ignore their own $90,000 independent expert report” by voting to redesign the bikeway.

“When we start not believing data provided by experts because we’ve walked down the street a couple of times, we’re not providing leadership,” he said.

“Data collected by an expert who’s been paid to do their job will always trump anecdotal evidence.”

Last night, Abiad argued that the council was losing the debate on Frome Street bikeway, and that “if we get this template right, this is a win for bike riders and for commuters”.

However, Yarwood said: “It’s important to bring as many people along on this journey as possible, but the haters will always hate.

“People will always think that because they live in the city, they’re an expert on cities.

“Any additional capacity they create by providing an additional lane will only get filled up in a matter of months,  if not weeks, because vehicle behaviour is like water. It will fill the cracks until it’s full, and then, only then, will alternative transport actually be viable.

“Council may as well look at three, four, five  additional lanes moving north-south through the city, but that’s only going to fill up within two to three years and then they’ll be back exactly where they started, and having exactly the same conversation about providing more alternative transport to move more people more efficiently.

“There is a public high school going in on this street, and any sane person would think it would be a good idea to spend money providing a safe bicycle route for those children over providing another lane that will only be filled up within 12 months because that’s how traffic works.”

The report on Frome Street bikeway, compiled by Huss Studios and CDM Research, found there had been a 23 per cent increase in cyclists and a 20 per cent drop in traffic on the road since the installation of the separated bikeway.

However, Abiad, Area Councillor Anne Moran and South Ward Councillor Alex Antic said yesterday that they disagreed with some of the report’s findings because of feedback from residents and businesses, and their own personal experiences of Frome Street.

As well as designing two peak-hour driving lanes each way for Frome Street, last night’s motion instructs council staff to plan, design and cost improvements to landscaping in the area, the replacement to bike racks at Ifould Street and an awareness campaign about using the road safely, as well as extending a green bike lane surface through intersections and reshaping some traffic islands.

The motion was supported by Abiad, Lord Mayor Martin Haese and councillors Natasha Malani, Alex Antic, Anne Moran, Phillip Martin and Sandy Wilkinson. Against were councillors Robert Simms, Prescilla Corbell, Megan Hender, Susan Clearihan and David Slama. It will now go before a full meeting council meeting next week.

Yarwood declined to comment on his reported concession during the council elections that Frome Street bikeway was “over-engineered”.

Photo: Nat Rogers/InDaily

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