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Haese's strategy to avert uphill bikeways battle

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Lord Mayor Martin Haese is hoping to learn from Sydney’s vitriolic bikeways debate to avert political failure as his council prepares to implement the biggest cycling infrastructure project in the history of Adelaide.

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Haese hosted a Town Hall summit yesterday, where stakeholders from across South Australia gathered to hear expert opinion on how Adelaide should design its city cycling infrastructure, and how politicians should frame a debate to promote acceptance of separated bikeways among the community.

In terms of cycling infrastructure, Adelaide is several years behind the City of Sydney, which endured a caustic debate when it first began installing separated bikeways in 2010, but has since constructed a separated bikeway network stretching more than 12 kilometres within Sydney’s CBD.

City of Sydney manager of cycling strategy Fiona Campbell, who presented at the Town Hall summit yesterday, told InDaily persistence and direct community consultation was key to rolling out cycling infrastructure successfully and countering misinformation.

“The first couple of cycleways we built were the hardest, and had the strongest community responses,” she said.

“It’s always the people who are opposed who have the motivation to have their say about it.

“We did market research to find out … what the whole community thought. We were surprised that the silent majority were so supportive.”

She said market research commissioned by Sydney’s city council at the time showed that, despite loud opposition to its early separated bikeway projects, more than 70 per cent of residents supported separated cycling infrastructure, and an overwhelming majority would not get on their bikes without it.

She said the council invested heavily in door-knocking residents during the period, and that though the politics of the cycleways was initially difficult, it became easier.

“Because the project was so successful [there is now] a lot more support.”

Haese is hoping to create a similar consensus among residential, business, developer, motorist and cycling groups before works begin on the north-south and east-west separated cycling corridors – co-funded by the State Government – to be installed through Adelaide’s CBD early next year.

“The howls of protest about a lack of consultation [before Frome Street bikeway was installed] keep coming back,” Haese told InDaily this morning.

“I’m not going to let history repeat itself.”

He said he was persuaded by Campbell’s presentation yesterday that street greening and beautification was the key to getting business groups and property owners on board with separated bikeways – and the council had to wear out shoe leather door-knocking residents to secure their endorsement.

“If you want small business to respond … you have got to beautify the street at the same time [as constructing a bikeway and] so that you get the community to respond [saying] ‘wow, that’s fantastic’.

“If you do it well, it translates to an increase in property values.”

“I want to get the endorsement of the RAA, the residential groups, the property groups … businesses [and] developers.”

Haese, a career businessman who was new to public office when he was elected Lord Mayor in 2014, said he was also taken by a presentation from urban strategic communications consultant Mark Ames, from Strategic Cities.

Haese said he noted Ames’ advice about framing a message: “Are we ‘closing a space to traffic’ or are we ‘opening a space for people’?”

“It’s very important how you communicate this stuff,” Haese added.

Adelaide City Council staff are due to present costed designs for the north-south bikeway – to replace and lengthen the Frome Street bikeway all the way to the River Torrens – next month.

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