Russell Degnan

In case you didn't notice. The last few weeks I have unfortunately had to drop blogging off my list of daily activities. Which is not to say I didn't want to.

The reason was the final completion of my honours thesis, the title of which was:
Subsuming Spaces: Path Dependent Cities and the Construction of Inner Melbourne Cycling Policy.

Naturally, just as I was about finished I picked up a fever and a terrible ulcer (and an extension), meaning the last few weeks were both longer and more painful than I'd have preferred. But it is not so bad. I will paste the thrilling conclusion into the comments. If anyone wants to read the not entirely thrilling substance feel free to email.

Cricket has also started. It was the primary reason I got sick, standing out in the cold umpiring the inevitable collapse of my team-mates. Nevertheless, I already have more wickets than last season, despite a rash of opposition forfeits, and no pre-season.

More importantly, this weekend has a couple of contests worth watching, on which I would have blogged, had previous commitments not imposed themselves. Corrective posts will follow shortly. In the meantime, I can't resist commenting over at TonyT's and PollBludger. Go read them if you don't already.

Passing Fancy 22nd November, 2006 23:33:15   [#] 


Thesis Conclusions
Moving Beyond Rhetoric in Cycling Policy

The problems of urban transportation have never, and probably will never, diminish. The need to travel goes hand in hand with the adverse effects of having large numbers of people travelling - notably pollution and congestion. Cycling presents itself as a way to substantially reduce congestion and pollution, while providing significant positive externalities: health, fitness and an improvement of the public realm. As a post-industrial city, with one of the most successful cycling policies, Copenhagen, provides a benchmark for the practical, rather than merely theoretical, benefits of cycling.

Although any comparison is difficult, it has been shown that the differences in cycling mode share between Copenhagen and inner Melbourne cannot be accounted for by differences in urban form and urban structure. Instead, it was found that the most significant difference between these two cities lay in areas transport policy makers have significant control over. Those areas were: the management of traffic, including car parking and the priority given to different road users, the attitudes of residents to cycling vis-a-vis other transport modes; and the perceived and actual level of safety for riders.

Within Melbourne, the policy context has shifted three times. Before the 1970s cycling had no perceived role in transport policy. Following the oil crises, a shift was made to passively include cycling within transport engineering practice and transport policy documents, without an active pursuit of anything more than a minimal level of cycling infrastructure. In recent years, there has been a third shift, towards a reasonably consistent consideration of cycling within both policy documents and infrastructure provision. However, cycling has never been considered a serious transport mode in inner Melbourne. Policy documents have focused exclusively on the benefits of cycling, at the expense of practical considerations for achieving a substantial mode shift.

After interviewing a number of policy makers, advocates and commentators, five reasons were found for why cycling has not been taken seriously in inner Melbourne:

A predict and provide approach to transport planning that, given the low number of cyclists in Melbourne, predicted that few cyclists would need to be provided for.

Political expediency in the allocation of road space to different users, that didn't disrupt the needs of existing road users; particularly those travelling to the city from the outer suburbs.

A normative policy approach that presented cycling as a good thing to have, without setting targets for achieving it, nor defining its potential role within the transport system.

A lack of quantitative data that understates the number of cyclists that need to be provided for, and makes the production of cost-benefit analyses for the justification of infrastructure impossible.

And the perception of cyclists in the broader community that acts as a barrier to potential cyclists who believe cycling is not an acceptable travel mode for them.

Each of these reasons have embedded themselves within the public discourse on transport policy, creating a path dependency that displaces cycling as a potential solution to transport problems.

By examining the emergence of pro-cycling policies in northern European cities, it was found that the historical nature of their urban form contributed to the partial rejection of the Transport Planning Model in favour of a sustainable Land-Use Transport Model. By contrast, Melbourne roads, which have long been the domain of automobile traffic to the exclusion of other users, were amenable to a form of the modernist street, which provided positive reinforcement for the dominant transport ideas. Similarly, the small number of cyclists in inner Melbourne could be provided for without challenging the dominant frames. This accommodation, in turn, was shown to underlie the rationale for not taking cycling seriously in Melbourne.

This analysis suggests that the dominant frames have become so heavily embedded in the urban form, and persistent traditions that - barring a crisis - a direct challenge to the existing paradigm is unlikely to be successful. The comparison with Copenhagen suggests that cycling could obtain a significant mode share within inner Melbourne. Transport planners and cycling proponents should focus on adapting to, and building on top of, the existing framework for transport policy. This can be done, by building a stronger empirical base for advocacy, and by the modification of the existing street culture away from automobile predominance through better urban design and public education.
Russ  23rd November, 2006 13:51:33  

I would like to read it please Russell. ripppon at
Andrew  23rd November, 2006 14:15:19  

I wouldn't mind a copy of the full piece, either, if you're comfortable with it. No rush, as I suspect my brain may take several weeks to get back to normal (in as much as it ever reaches that state) after the end of the term.

At some point, I wouldn't mind having a discussion about some of the theorists you use - one of the complex issues in dealing with modern social contexts is the dramatic level of very rapid transformation that does periodically occur - which can pose some interesting challenges for some of the theoretical frameworks you've used. But probably too soon for meta theory...
N. Pepperell  23rd November, 2006 20:47:55