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.


Treadly and Me

I reckon I'll go with deadlion again on that:

I'd be happy if my superannuation increased 30%, and it somehow seems counter-intuitive to be lamenting a similar increase in cycle commuters, where-ever they come from.

It would be amazing if we reached 10% of trips by bike. It's not impossible, but it's not going to happen in the space of a year. As I said, credit where it's due: the trend is heading in that direction.


The obvious change since 1951 has been the number of cars per household, which increases access to motorised vehicles as convenient non-considered choice for short trips and commutes and reduces dependance on Urban and inter-urban public transport.

That sad situation, plus the overcrowding and timetable disruption that PT experiences in these days of low capital outlay (by managers and governments alike on PT) and over reliance on PPPs for capital outlay for infrastructure. This has directly exacerbated the drive for tollways, (PPP carnivores looking at the low hanging fruit of tollways ) to deliver a means to encourage the breeding programme for more motorised vehicle trips.

Cities have to take the initiative and ban private cars in CBDs and at the same time urban transport hubs need to change their focus from being poor cousins on the path to the CBD to be major destinations offering effective parking and node solutions for commuters and shoppers, especially to provide for those riding, with better bike storage/security and access facilties to widen the net.

The solution, not freeways, tollways or more roads and cars. The solution is better planned public transport and urban facilities solutions to encourage less use of cars and more use of PT, walking and bicycles. Paul Mees might just use some of his so called "influence" to push for that, rather than being the lacky of the meedya when it suits them.

Treadly and Me

The simplest cloth-eared syllogism causes me to flounder—not exactly my best piece of analysis. Eh, what can you expect from a lunchtime rush job?

One of the key points that just about everyone (except me) has already raised is the knock-on effect of getting people off public transport onto bikes. Scott Ratcliff and pedaller both mention it, but I'll go with deadlion:

many of them could have been taking public transport, which as anyone who uses public transport at peak times knows, is at or beyond capacity. So all those people cycling are actually making space for more people to take public transport, and leave their cars at home.

I think there are plenty of other things that need to be done to make public transport a more palatable option for habitual drivers, but simply freeing-up space is a big part of it.

Cyclists seem to have reacted badly to Mees' comments because of the "middle-class inner-urbanites" crack. I thought that was a bit odd coming from someone who personifies that category (he certainly qualifies more than me on all counts!) I don't know if he meant that as disparagement, but clearly it can be (and has been) taken that way across the board.


It's a discussion whose expiry date has long since past, I've commented upon what The Age apparently reported over on my blog as so has Scotty and Crowlie.

For better outcomes for integrated, sustainable transport options, Mees could learn to get over himself and instead take heed of Peter Newman and John Pucher.


I disagree with Mees, even though I've meet him, read his books and I have huge respect for his political commitment to public transport. However, playing the "yuppie middle class cyclist" card is a really dumb way of framing the problem because it alienates many people from the potential that cycling offers the whole of the city. Cycling needs to be promoted as a much more mainstream activity and while I'd love to have a much better train system all over the city (i.e. in Sydney!!!!) there is no reason why cycling a transport solution in suburbs that are not in the inner city. Mees finds a strong correlation between cyclists and the inner city residents, and they're may be many reasons for this (trendy environmentalism etc), but I think we are seeing a much more wider renaissance in cycling from all sorts of people.