Section 9.3 Cycling cities is about not re-inventing the wheel

Cities that have prioritised cycling have never looked back. However, the transformation cannot happen without strong leadership. We need to appoint a Cycling Commissioner to get us moving.

The lack of leadership in Canberra has been an ongoing woe. The UK has demonstrated one approach to fixing this.

One of the things that Manchester has done is really get the governance right for cycling. It set up a metropolitan governance, so that’s a lot of local government areas are brought together under one Regional Council. The mayor there has really prioritized cycling by appointing a Cycling Commissioner, very high profile person, Chris Boardman, he is really shown some very strong leadership.

On NOT Re-inventing the Wheel – Australian Walking & Cycling Conference (, accessed 17 March 2021

On NOT Re-inventing the Wheel

As Australia grapples with questions of how to encourage more walking and cycling, Churchill Fellow Jo Cruickshank looked to cities that have already come up with some answers. Jo is a Senior Policy Officer with the Northern Territory Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics. She speaks here about what she learned from European cities that have wholeheartedly embraced cyclists.

Listen to the podcast here.


Interviewer 0:05
Trapped in your car. In this series, we explore different ways to step away from the car. Churchill fellow Joe Cruickshank, in 2017, exploring overseas cities to see how they cater for cyclists so that Cycling is both safe and enticing.

Joe Cruickshank 0:23
My name is Joe Cruickshank, I’m from the Northern Territory, and I’m here at the conference talking about my Churchill fellowship bindings. Earlier this year, I was very fortunate to receive a Churchill fellowship to investigate cycling and walking in Europe and the UK, I focused on some of the world’s best cycling cities, the Netherlands and Denmark, but also in some places, which are just starting their journey and becoming cycling cities, and some smaller regional centres such as Bordeaux in France, I met with who would ever meet with me, so politicians and journalists and public servants and local government. Also, everywhere I went, I borrowed a bike or I hired a bike and took a picture of what made these cities different. Why were they different from Australian cities? Why did they have such high levels of cycling? Or why were they focusing on cycling? In a lot of places, they found that the most livable cities were those cities which prioritize cycling and walking. One of my inspirations to the project is an index called the Copenhagenize Index. And they use criteria such as good infrastructure, the levels of cycling the levels of inter trip facilities, the programs are there to support cycling.

Interviewer 1:38
We’re certainly looking at cycling not just as a leisure activity.

Joe Cruickshank 1:42
Very much so. My focus was really on cycling to transport, a cycling for short trips, so trips to work or trips to the shops or chips, the supermarket, and where trips are maybe a little bit longer looking at cycling to public transport and combining cycling public transport for a transport trip. I started in Manchester in the north of the UK. It’s a big industrial city. One of the things that Manchester has done is really get the governance right for cycling. It set up a metropolitan governance, so that’s a lot of local government areas are brought together under one Regional Council. The mayor there has really prioritized cycling by appointing a Cycling Commissioner, very high profile person, Chris Boardman, he is really shown some very strong leadership. And so the momentum is really gathered there. Some of the projects that mentors put in place is a major road through the center of the university district, Oxford road, used to be all types of traffic use the road, but now it’s just buses, taxis cycling and walking. And it’s been enormously successful, high levels of cycling, high levels of walking. And a great feeling of livability along that corridor. Other cities that I visited Bordeaux, in France, is a really interesting case study of what happens where they are restricting vehicle access into the city centre. So they have a mode share of around about 15% cycling for all trips in the city, which is really quite high. It’s got a beautiful medieval city centre, and restricting traffic in that city center. It has a thriving center as people cycling, there’s people walking, it’s busy, has a lovely feel to it. But amazingly, it’s very quiet. The lessons of slightly different centers, the Netherlands. A lot of cities and towns across the Netherlands, very high levels of cycling, great integration with public transport. Looking at Denmark, Copenhagen, very high levels of cycling for trips, local trips. In Denmark, in particular, there’s not a lot of amazing infrastructure. It’s about space, providing space on the road for everyone. So there’s vehicles and there’s positions and there’s space for cyclists.

Interviewer 3:50
One of the things that I am picking out from this walking and cycling conference, is the fact that the cities that have tried this haven’t really looked back.

Joe Cruickshank 4:00
And definitely that’s something that’s happening. A good example, in Bordeaux, a major bridge into the city center. In about 2017, there was a proposal for a trial to restrict all vehicles on the bridge into the city center, I need to have trams, buses, cycling and walking. And at the time, it was a lot of controversy. People thought that this just wouldn’t work. But again, with strong leadership from the mayor, at the time, the project went ahead as a trial. And the results have been phenomenal. The number of people using public transport has increased. The number of people cycling walking is increased. And interestingly, a large percentage of the people now cycling and walking used to drive. Nobody wants to go back to the road having vehicles on it and the businesses are thriving.

Interviewer 4:47
Australia is in quite a different position. What things did you pick up that would help us do this transition.

Joe Cruickshank 4:56
We are obviously at the beginning of a long journey. There’s not One action. It’s like a recipe of actions that we need to put in place to get a change. Infrastructure is really important having separated infrastructure for cyclists, so people feel safe or they perceive they are safe, really strong leadership is essential. Also important is some behavior change programs to support the infrastructure. The cities that I found were really successful, had a very comprehensive approach, not just the infrastructure, but the change programs, which was ongoing, they didn’t stop there still going now. Advocacy: So having the community to show the the demand for change was really important. Where efficacy government and community work together, that’s also a real recipe for success.

Interviewer 5:46
So when you talk about these behavior change programs, what are you referring to?

Joe Cruickshank 5:51
Yeah, so that might look like a way to engage with the community to change the travel that they’re doing, because a lot of travel is a habit. So if you drive to work, you your habit is to drive to work, you do that every day. So it’s about people trying to change what they’re doing, and just try something. And there might be a program such as it might focus on a workplace, there might be some incentives, or there might be a challenge between workplaces to try things differently. You might focus on a school, look at how people are traveling to school, and encouraged the school children to have a ride to school day, or there might be incentives for bringing your wheels, whether it’s a scooter or bike or walking. So it’s like setting up a program which has got ongoing engagement broadly across the community, providing bike education skills, something to initiate that stepping out of your car, and trying something a bit different.

Interviewer 6:45
Trying something a bit different is quite important, isn’t it?

Joe Cruickshank 6:48
That’s the big challenge. And once once you do change your habit and your habit becomes to cycle or to catch public transport or try something a bit different. It actually feels odd to go back to driving.

Interviewer 6:59
Did you look at what’s going on in Australia?

Joe Cruickshank 7:01
When I’m not studying with the Churchhill Fellowship, my position is working with the Northern Territory government. And I work in the Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Logistics. So I’m aware of what’s happening you certainly in the Northern Territory, but then I’m in touch with my colleagues elsewhere. So certainly know where things are happening in Australia.

Interviewer 7:18
Where do you think would be a good place to start with what’s happening here?

Joe Cruickshank 7:22
The infrastructure is something that we can we can work on. Infrastructure does cost money, and so it’s probably something that will take a little bit longer. Talking about behavior change, there’s some small things that we can do make some changes, educating drivers about being more aware about the cyclists. So in the UK, there’s a program we’re driving instructors who are teaching learner drivers how to drive, taking the driving instructors on a bike education course, and raising awareness with them about what it’s like to be on a bike and and feel with vehicles around you. So that then the driving instructors can pass that on to the learner drivers that they’re teaching.

Interviewer 8:04
So what’s the most exciting thing that you saw on this trip?

Joe Cruickshank 8:08
Yeah, so many exciting things. You know, in the Netherlands, you see in the city of Utrecht bike parking at the station there for 22,000 bicycles. On my last day in the Netherlands I sent myself a little quest to find the Hoven Ring in a town or city called Eindhoven. So I ended up cycling to the station, I think catching three trains to get to Eindhoven and then pedaled to the hoven ring and it’s basically a floating a bike roundabout, and it sits above a very busy intersection road intersection. That Hoeven Ring literally floats above the intersection, and it’s suspended from a central sort of column, and it’s the connection of four major bike paths. It was snowing at the time, and there was continuous flow of cyclists moving on to the roundabout, around the roundabout and off again, it really is quite a sight to be seen.

Interviewer 9:04
Joe Cruickshank is a Churchill fellow and Senior Policy officer with the Northern Territory department of infrastructure planning and logistics. You’ve been listening to step away from the car, recorded at the 2019 Australian walking and cycling conference by Suzanne Reese, and Nikki Paige and produced at Radio Adelaide.

Transcribed by

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s