Two wheels good, four wheels bad

I’ve been thinking bike-positive thoughts of late, and thinking about ways to motivate people to walk/cycle/public transport their way around. It’s a challenge, particularly since my city (Canberra) is highly optimised for car transport. The roads are more direct, wider, better lit and better maintained than the bicycle paths. I can drive 13 kilometres in 17 minutes (average speed: 45.9 km/h) to get to work, whereas the same trip on cycle paths is 18 kilometres in 45 minutes (average speed: 24 km/h). So I need to spend an extra hour each day to commute back and forth by bike.

How can we start to change that equation? Conventionally, only economic incentives have been proposed to help reduce private car use – but people have repeatedly shown that economic incentives are ineffective. We should instead be thinking of using the currency which really matters: time.

Prioritise cycle routes over roads for cars: If the cycle paths were as direct as roads (or I could safely ride on the roads), I’d save almost half an hour (13km @ 24km/hr = 32.5 minutes each way).

Slow cars down: one way to make it safer for cars to coexist with bikes on the road would be to limit their speed, say, 40km/h, saving weight (smaller, less powerful engines), fuel, pollution, and noise. This would reduce the incentive to drive, help the environment, and make the roads safer for everyone. And before you think this is politically impossible, consider that we already have quite arbitrary speed limits already.