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"We have wasted ratepayers' money": council hits re-set on cycling

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The city council will seek to reset the Adelaide cycling debate with a Town Hall summit as it laments having “wasted ratepayers’ money” on repeated cycling infrastructure “failures”.

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Lord Mayor Martin Haese will host a cycling summit next month, hoping to avoid repeating the council’s “chequered history” of building, then demolishing separated bikeways.

Bike SA, the RAA, residents groups, inner city councils, business representatives and the State Government will be invited to the summit to discuss design principles for the north-south and east-west separated city bikeways, to be constructed courtesy of the $12 million funding deal with the State Government announced in July.

But the council has already settled on the principle that, whatever the new design, Frome Street will accommodate two peak-hour driving lanes in both directions, and a thinner, separated bike lane – meaning the current concrete barriers separating cyclists along the southern end of Frome Street will have to be ripped up.

“It’s a process of cleansing and closure,” central ward councillor Houssam Abiad told his colleagues at last night’s council meeting, warning they would have to prepare themselves emotionally for the demolition of Frome Street bikeway, and hope to do better next time.

“We have wasted ratepayers’ money,” Abiad said.

“A redesign means the removal of the bike path – be prepared, emotionally, to let go.”

He said that following the consecutive debacles of Sturt Street bikeway – which was built but then demolished in 2010 – and Frome Street bikeway, “I’m hoping, third time lucky, we’ll get this right”.

“There’s been two huge failures to date,” north ward councillor Susan Clearihan agreed.

“Let’s take the time to get it right.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Megan Hender told the meeting she hoped a redesigned Frome Street bikeway would act as a template that the State Government would see fit to roll out “Adelaide-wide”.

The council resolved to instruct its staff to begin design work on the new bikeway last night.

The completed designs are due to be presented to the council in the month following the summit – November – with construction intended to begin in “early 2017”.

The council also resolved to spend $50,000 on a feasibility study for an extended Adelaide bike share scheme – despite expert advice the city’s “immature” cycling infrastructure had to be improved before a full-scale, point-to-point bike share scheme can be launched successfully.

A council-commissioned Institute of Sensible Transport report, presented to the council last week, warned mandatory helmet laws, a cultural preference for cars as a mode of transport and Adelaide’s under-developed cycling infrastructure would each act as barriers to a successful scheme.

We are trying to jam the square peg of Adelaide into the round hole of Copenhagen.

The report also suggested an ideal scheme for Adelaide would cost up to $21 million – several times the $1 million budget the scheme was afforded under the co-funding deal with the State Government.

Its author told last week’s committee meeting Adelaide’s cycling network should be improved before expanding the bike share scheme.

North ward councillor Phil Martin said the council was ignoring expert advice by pushing ahead with the feasibility study.

“Council ignored all of that advice and did it anyway,” he said.

“I don’t want to be part of this faulty decision-making process.”

South ward councillor Alex Antic said: “We are trying to jam the square peg of Adelaide into the round hole of Copenhagen” by persisting with the scheme.

Area councillor Anne Moran warned that the council risked a bike share scheme for Adelaide falling into “disrepute” if it pushed ahead with it too quickly.

Deputy Lord Mayor Megan Hender endorsed commissioning the feasibility study, but conceded “this is potentially a project that we might not be able to do”.

She said that it was worth pushing ahead with the study nonetheless.

“We really should be the cycling capital of Australia,” she said.

Fellow south ward councillor Priscilla Corbell said pushing ahead with the scheme was “a no-brainer” because new cycling infrastructure was soon to be built in Adelaide and “the two go hand-in-hand”.

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