It’s only been a month and a half since elected members voted to ditch the long-touted east-west bikeway and hand back $3 million in State Government funding, but one councillor came to Town Hall on Tuesday night with a revived and slightly modified pitch.
Adelaide City councillors chuck a U-turn and support new cycling infrastructure push
At an Adelaide City Council meeting this week, Team Adelaide councillor Franz Knoll asked elected members to support his “Cycling Infrastructure Strategic Action Plan”.
This plan requires administration to identify a cycling network within the city and Parklands to make cycling transport “easier” and “safer” while encouraging visitation to the city.
The plan also requests administration specify appropriate “treatments” or infrastructure for the proposed route.
“Let’s face it, we have had a very difficult discussion about cycling in the city with the east-west [bikeway],” Councillor Knoll told the chamber.
“There was difficulty with that, and here is now our ability to start it again, but do it in a way that we can set out a plan, an action plan, and start to put in place real improvements for cyclists, and working with a range of stakeholders that they can see the real benefit of.”
March’s east-west bikeway debacle hinged on elected members approving the construction of a route that travelled down Franklin Street, Gawler Place and Wakefield Street, as per the State Government’s stated timeline.
If they didn’t approve the route, they risked of losing $3 million of State Government funding.
Eight councillors – including Councillor Knoll – voted down the recommendation, citing a litany of reasons, such as pedestrian safety, a loss of 179 carparks, and not enough time spent consulting ratepayers. This is despite a public consultation revealing only 29 per cent of respondents did not support the design.
On Tuesday, Councillor Alexander Hyde said he supported the new motion from Knoll, but does not support the “mass destruction of on-street car parking”.
“I just wonder if [the plan] would give certain advocates within the administration the ability to remove cars on the road in preference for bikes,” he said.
“I know it’s not the intent of [Councillor Knoll, but] sometimes things get picked up by the administration and they want to go in one particular direction until they can be tackled back to the ground by the council chamber.”
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Read more about cured meat expert and city councillor Franz Knoll here.
Councillor Helen Donovan – a vocal proponent of the failed bikeway – supported the new plan but expressed hesitation about delivery.
“The problem I have with this of course is not the essence of the motion but that we’ve had so many motions and strategies prepared previously, and when it actually comes down to the tough decisions we have failed, and that is reasonably indicated by the millions of dollars given back to the State Government,” she said.
She also added the “advocates” within the administration Hyde referred to were in fact “transport planners” who have “tertiary qualifications in what they do and have many years of experience delivering these plans.”
Councillor Hyde shouted in retort: “they’re all cyclists”.
Councillor Greg Mackie and Councillor Phil Martin also supported the motion; however, Councillor Martin was critical, suggesting the plan would not deliver on its purported infrastructure.
“Having a report is a good idea [and] having a blueprint is a good idea, but in the end you still have to build a bikeway,” he said.
Councillor Anne Moran voted down the idea, saying the council already spent a “substantial amount” of money – $31,700 to be exact – on consultation for the failed cycleway, and this was a smokescreen for Team Adelaide to appear it’s “[going] to the election with something on bikes.”
Deputy Lord Mayor Mary Couros supported the push, telling Town Hall she believes through more iterative investigation, building and consultation, it will “bring people on a journey”.
“When we talk about lack of leadership – shoving an idea down someone’s throat is not leadership,” she said.
The motion was supported by all councillors except Councillor Moran.
CEO of Bike SA, Christian Haag said while Councillor Knoll’s motion is a positive step, there have been multiple reports and plans previously published by the council that have not been acted upon.
“The failed east-west bikeway made us the laughing stock of the country,” he said.
“I don’t believe they will deliver any infrastructure before the next election [and] Team Adelaide have no intention on delivering.”
The council meeting also covered another sides of the transport debate, as elected members discussed Councillor Mackie’s pitch for free but timed parking opportunities.
The aim of Councillor Mackie’s motion is to support hospitality and retail businesses within postcode 5000 who have been impacted by COVID-19 by offering their customers prioritised and subsidised parking.
“As a capital city, we need to walk and chew gum. We need to cycle and chew gum. We need to drive and park and chew gum,” he said.
“We have, as a capital city, a responsibility and an opportunity to ensure that our city businesses, retailers and hospitality providers can optimise their potential to attract visitation.”
Councillor Knoll said city users were “addicted to car-parking” and supported the idea, saying “we can use it as a weapon, [and] and use it in a way to encourage good things.”
Councillor Hyde and the Deputy Lord Mayor voted against the idea, with Councillor Hyde describing it as “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” that will be a disincentive for visitation.
“Ultimately what this will deliver onto us is a reduction in people who are coming to the city for longer stints,” he said.
“We’re creating a parking monster with this. I appreciate the intent but I really don’t think it’s going to do the trick.”
Councillors Donovan and Moran supported the idea only if administration sought to explore other modes of transport into the city.
“I think that Team Adelaide, having voted for car month, will vote against this… I find that hysterical,” Councillor Moran said.
Ultimately, the motion was supported.