Cyclists to become pedallers of power at Victorian election

The Guardian: Cyclists to become pedallers of power at Victorian election. Oliver Milman, Friday 10 October 2014

Australian Cyclists party hope to land up to two seats in the upper house and potentially hold sway over legislation

The Australian Cyclists party want Melbourne’s cycle path system to be properly connected and extended. Photograph: David Crosling/AAP Image
Pro-cycling groups are looking to flex their political muscles in Victoria, with the Australian Cyclists party registering 16 candidates for the upcoming state election.

The party is expecting to hear from the Victorian Electoral Commission on Monday that it has 500 verified members and therefore official party status for the 29 November state poll. It hopes it may be able to get one, or even two, seats in the upper house and potentially hold sway over legislation.

Omar Khalifa, president of the Australian Cyclists party, said many voters feel that the Liberal and Labor parties both lack any cycling strategy.

“We don’t want to make any predictions of sure-fire success, but there is a lot of huff and puff from the major parties, while very little is actually delivered,” he told Guardian Australia. “We need to take matters in our own hands and show there are votes in cycling.

“I have been called by people in the major parties quite a few times. That’s a sign that they know this is something to be concerned about. They have both been talking about the East West Link (a controversial $6.8bn road) instead of any other transport area, which is fairly pathetic.”

Khalifa said Melbourne’s cycle path system should be properly connected and extended. He also wants car speed limits to be reduced to 40km/h or even 30km/h on roads that are heavily used by cyclists.

Cyclists colliding with cars has become a significant issue in Melbourne, with figures released by Monash University on Friday showing that there were 6,219 cycle crashes between 2008 and 2013. Beach Road in St Kilda, the Nepean Highway and St Kilda Road are among the most dangerous roads in Melbourne for cyclists.

“Some of that is due to poor road design issues, which put people into conflict,” Khalifa said. “Motorists need to be put on notice that they have a responsibility to those who are most vulnerable on the road.

“I’d say Victoria took the lead with cycling in the nation but other states are catching up because Victoria hasn’t made the investment. Some cycle paths are in really poor shape and once you leave Melbourne things go downhill very quickly.”

The Bicycle Network has put forward a proposal to ban cars from sections of Chapel Street, one of Melbourne’s premier shopping strips. Nearly 100 cyclists have reported been hit by cars on the road since 2008.

Garry Brennan, spokesman for the Bicycle Network, said: “Chapel Street is one of the worst streets for crashes and has one of the world’s slowest tram routes. It isn’t working for anyone.

“Bikes need to be a significant part of the transport solution. We see on major routes that women are fearful of traffic and won’t ride their bikes there without separated cycle paths.”

Brennan said cycling has become a serious consideration for political parties looking for votes.

“It’s now a mainstream issue because riders are from all walks of life, all socioeconomic groups,” he said. “Every political party is aware it’s a looming issue.”

Neither the Labor nor Liberal party has a published cycling strategy. Guardian Australia has contacted both parties for details on their cycling policies.

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