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February 22, 2023

Fork in the road: Council divided on city’s next transport plan

The Adelaide City Council is on the cusp of creating a new 10-year transport plan, spanning cycling, walking and e-scooter access. But elected members are split on whether to conduct another round of research or just "bloody do it" and start work now on shovel-ready projects.

  • Words: Angela Skujins
  • Main image: Angela Skujins
  • Above: A cyclist in the Adelaide Park Lands.

At an Adelaide City Council workshop meeting Tuesday night, elected members were divided on how to start developing a new 10-year transport strategy.

The previous, now-lapsed strategy — spanning 2012—2022 — listed desired outcomes for the city, such as it being easy, comfortable and safe for both pedestrians and cyclists.

In a report provided to council members before the meeting, the administration estimated it would need to spend $200,000 on “discussion papers and strategy development” for the new 2022—2023 strategy, which would encompass separate policies for walking, cycling, and upcoming micro-mobility.

It would go through successive rounds of consultation before coming into effect in July 2023.

Last night’s workshop resulted in a heated debate about the speed of action on transport in the city.

Deputy Lord Mayor Phillip Martin said the council’s transport projects had been stalled in the past by attempts to balance competing views — “pro-cycling, anti-cycling, pro-walking, anti-walking, pro-parking, anti-parking, pro-car and anti-car” — resulting in no results for city users and ratepayers.

“These views have ultimately — to my mind, this is my opinion I am expressing — paralysed successive councils,” he said.

“What is needed is cut-through, and I think I would be suggesting to the administration that perhaps it’s time we engage another party and an expert to conduct a proper review about our integrated transport policy.”

Martin said there had been “consultation after consultation [and] recycling of the same questions” that produced “naught” for the city.

“It’s time we did something different.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Phillip Martin. This picture: Tony Lewis


But the room was split, with some elected members — such as cycling proponent and central ward councillor David Elliott, area councillor Janet Giles, and south ward councillor Keiran Snape — advocating for shovel-ready actions rather than more research.

“We’re constantly relying on more consultation [and] more research reports on the same thing we’ve done over and over again,” Elliott said.

“We are constantly excluding the people who need the access and have been asking for it for a long time.

“The result is we maintain the status quo and we get nowhere closer to achieving any of the aims, or any of the help or the implementation and the recommendations that have come out from all of these reports.”


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Previous research and community consultation had been done “to death” with the council “getting the same results,” Elliott said.

“The stakeholders are saying ‘just bloody build it’.”

CityMag asked Elliott whether he was directly referring to cycling projects in the city but he said this speech encompassed the city’s “overall” transport grid.

“They’ve (the council) wasted time and money directing admin to revisit the same projects, ask the same questions and produce the same reports,” he said.

“This approach failed to align with other strategic priorities like climate adaptation, social and disability access and inclusion.”

Councillor David Elliott. This picture: Tony Lewis


Snape said some Adelaide city councillors were voted into the council at the most recent general elections on promises to deliver better active and public transport options in the city — and that these policies would get over the line.

“The numbers are here in the room,” he said.

“I fully support and encourage communication and the light, but not endless communication to not actually getting anything done.”

North ward councillor Mary Couros was supportive of more consultation — particularly around cycleways — as there were “two arguments” in the debate.

“When we’re adding separated bikeways, you’re taking away car parks,” she said.

“We’re always going to have that debate with the businesses who do make up 75 per cent of the rates for the City of Adelaide, and who do have a big say as well.

“There is a whole community out there that you will need to persuade.”

Giles said the deliberative democracy process surrounding developing this strategy, and in particular, the impending Cycling Infrastructure Strategic Action Plan, were “very expensive” and that the council should “just get on with doing it”, in reference to building cycling infrastructure.

“Who are we persuading, and will they ever be persuaded?” she said.

“Why do we need to persuade them when it’s absolutely obvious we need to make it — the whole world is doing bicycle lanes.”

Councillor Janet Giles. This picture: Tony Lewis


Previous attempts at building cycling infrastructure in the city have been controversial.

The city council dumped a proposed east-west cycle route in the CBD in March 2021, and as a result, lost State Government funding allocated for the project.

This is despite the administration finding “the benefits to society outweigh the costs of the project”, the cycleway would support the council’s desire to “attract millennials to live and work in the city”, and it would tie into internal and State Government climate action plans.

Director of city services Tom McCready touched on the failed cycleway last night, describing this project’s inability to get off the ground as “unfortunate”.

“But I do agree that we may need to take a refresher in regards to how we can do that — either internally or externally or both — to speed up that process,” he said.

Cycling, vehicle and public transport discussion papers will be introduced in July 2023, with the shared micro-mobility policy slated for discussion in April 2023.

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