I like it when Paul Mees gets into the press—he's so delightfully disagreeable. I can just imagine that whenever journos do a story on transport and they need someone to oppose the conventional wisdom, they say "Get Paul Mees on the line".
So I was a bit surprised when he was quoted in The Age over the weekend, apparently bagging cyclists. Whereas organisations like Bicycle Victoria were celebrating an increase in bike commuters of 6000 (or 0.3% of trips) over the last five years, Dr Mees reckons it's
a blip compared with 1951, when 10 per cent of trips to work were made on a bike.
And he's right, of course. Credit where it's due, numbers are on the rise, but it's still peanuts compared to times past.
According to BV, improved
bike lanes and other cycling facilities
and events like Ride to Work Day are helping to get more people to
try cycle commuting, but
Dr Mees said the increase in cycling to work had come almost exclusively from "middle-class inner-urbanites".
Those who lived in the outer suburbs did not have the luxury of not using their cars, Dr Mees said.
Weeell, I think mixed-mode transit might be an option; we aren't strictly limited to using the car only, but I see what he's getting at. Using mixed-mode transit in outer suburbs, one of the modes is almost certainly going to be the car.
"Whether middle-class inner-urbanites are swapping one non-car mode of travel for another is not terribly relevant to the goal we set for our transport policies in (planning blueprint) Melbourne 2030: getting cars off the road," Dr Mees said.
"If all it has done is get people who used to walk or take a tram on a bicycle, then it has failed terribly."
I think there are other benefits to be had from bike commuting than lowering the number of cars on the road, but on that score I find it hard to disagree with Dr Mees' argument.