Friday, 13 March 2015

What infrastructure and legal changes are needed to prevent dooring deaths in Melbourne?

Summary: In Feb 2015, Alberto Paulon was killed after being doored and pushed under the wheels of a truck driving alongside. This entirely preventable death occurred on Sydney Rd which has long been notorious for its high risk of dooring. This is exactly the same way James Cross died in another popular Melbourne street in 2010. However, a video of Alberto's incident has led to more media, political and community attention than normal, and there has been much debate on how to prevent future dooring deaths on this road and similar ones. Unfortunately, most of the mainstream discussion is ignorant of the key facts and real infrastructure and legal changes required to prevent these deaths. I'll use this post to concisely discuss them.


Related Posts:
How to avoid getting doored
How close to the kerb you should ride and when to take the lane
How to use and contribute to Melbourne cycling safety data

Details:
1. These deaths are not freak accidents, they are a direct result of discretionary decisions about road design and transport law and are simply a numbers game
The high risk of dooring on Sydney Rd (and other roads with similar design and activity) has been well known for years from the statistics. It is also obvious to experienced transport cyclists and those who work in transport. I've highlighted it myself on this blog using data that is well known to the responsible government agencies (VicRoads, City of Moreland) and cycling groups (e.g. Bicycle Network):

How to use and contribute to Melbourne cycling safety data

See also:
> Bicycle Rider Collisions with Car Doors - Cameron Munro (pdf)

Yet in its Bike Strategy 2011 – 2021 the City of Moreland makes no mention of dooring at all, let alone reducing dooring risks on high-risk streets like Sydney Rd. After James Cross was killed in 2010, VicRoads was forced to start keeping more accurate statistics about dooring and asked to scale up its actions to reduce dooring if the incidence didn't fall. Yet, the incidence of dooring has risen on Sydney Rd as the route has become more heavily used but VicRoads has taken no effective action to reduce dooring risks.

2. What about the claim that cyclists shouldn't be riding on Sydney Rd and should be using the Upfield bike path instead?
After deaths and serious injuries on streets that are known to be unsafe for cyclists, politicians and government agencies will routinely deflect responsibility by suggesting that the street isn't a recommended bicycle route and that there are better and sufficient alternate routes for cyclists. This is, of course, nonsense as indicated by the City of Moreland's own Bike Strategy 2011 – 2021:


The Upfield bike path is certainly much safer from traffic crashes but it is also crowded during peak commute time, is too narrow, has blind corners, is unlit at night and isolated, and has many conflict points with pedestrians both when it crosses the footpath and because it is a narrow shared path. It is desperately in need of a major upgrade but the City of Moreland in its Bike Strategy 2011 – 2021 indicates that it could eventually be lost to rail expansion and vaguely suggests some new off-road bike track might be built instead. This sounds like a convenient excuse for not doing this essential upgrade work but also not providing any decent alternative.

I've recommended previously that, if Sydney Rd isn't your destination, cyclists should avoid it due to its serious safety issues (primarily dooring) and provided alternate north-south routes (see below). Nevertheless, it remains part of the Principal Bicycle Network, is on the City of Moreland's TravelSmart bike maps as an "informal route," and is the only lengthy, north-south road arterial in this area.

How to use and contribute to Melbourne cycling safety data

3. How are cyclists meant to find the safest routes? Government doesn't provide a useful grid map of safe, connected, efficient cycling routes
Alberto and his girlfriend were riding their regular commute to Alberto's workplace at Donnini's in Carlton. If I was making this trip regularly I wouldn't be using Sydney Rd and would be taking the off-road Upfield bike track south, then the off-road Capital City Trail east and then Rathdowne St (wide bike lanes out of door zone) south (see below). This is a very safe cycling route. Conversely, Sydney Rd and other more direct roads like Lygon St are very unsafe to cycle on regularly - if you ride on them daily, it is only a matter of time before you'll be involved in an incident.

New cyclists have no easy way to discover the best cycling routes and so often end up on obvious but unsafe roads

The problem here is that neither State or Local government nor any bicycle advocacy groups like Bicycle Network Victoria disseminate free, usable grid maps of the safest and most preferable cycling transport routes. Moreover, a lot of the cycling infrastructure data they provide to Google Maps is inaccurate or misleading. Wayfinding signage on streets to the best routes is also sorely lacking. The reason I created my Melbourne Bike Grid Map is because there is no effective guidance for transport cyclists apart from trying Google Maps and learning from their own experience. Alberto and his girlfriend can't be blamed for the route they took. They were new cyclists in Melbourne who could not know any better.
See:
Melbourne map of key cycling transport routes, infrastructure and destinations
The Urbanist: How come we don’t already have safe cycling networks?

4. If there's insufficient space for public transport, traffic, parking and safe cycling on a key route or destination then the private vehicle space has to go
There's abundant evidence, much of it covered on this blog, why a useful grid of safe cycling routes are needed to equitably provide access and urban freedom for all residents. Key destination streets like Sydney Rd have to be part of this grid, even if a good enough, alternate bike transport route did exist (e.g. an upgraded Upfield Bike Path).

Once we accept that position, then it's straightforward to determine what has to give when there's insufficient road width for safe cycling: on-street car parking and/or traffic lanes for private vehicles have to make way. I don't bother writing much about best practice cycling infrastructure, laws and policies because it's already covered perfectly well on blogs like David Hembrow's: A view from the cycle path. Thankfully, David has once again covered this specific issue in a recent post: Eliminating the risk of "Dooring": Good cycle infrastructure design keeps cyclists out of the door zone and saves lives

Unfortunately, cyclists and cycling advocates have been conned into accepting the defeatist position that current norms and unsafe cycling infrastructure is what we are stuck with:
CINDY CALDEIRA: You can have as much infrastructure in place, but I think it comes down to every single person's awareness about bicycles and especially when you're in a motor vehicle.
TRACEY GAUDRY: Car drivers and passengers need to recognise that the car door is potentially a deadly weapon and was in this situation and it's responsible behaviour when getting in and out of the car.
7:30 Report: Young cyclist's death ignites debate on sharing our roads
5. During clearway times when parking is disallowed cyclists are already free of dooring risks
All of the claims about how on-street parking is essential and that Sydney Rd by its nature is inherently unsuitable for cycling are belied by the fact that there are already lengthy clearway times during the morning and evening peak times on weekdays. If Alberto Paulon had been riding just 20 minutes later during the clearway period he couldn't have been doored. That doesn't mean cycling is already perfectly safe during clearway times on Sydney Rd but it does indicate that parking can be removed from such streets. Sadly the political will only exists to do so for motorist convenience. One day there might be the political will to do so for public safety.

6. The responsible government agency staff for cycling safety are often part of the problem
Nicholas Elliot works as the Transport Projects Officer for the City of Moreland and has a key role in decisions, implementation and changes to cycling infrastructure on Sydney Rd. His personal view, provided after Alberto's death on the Moreland BUG Google Group, indicates his likely opposition to the only genuine solution to cycling safety (major road use changes to create more space for cycling) and shifts responsibility for preventing these cyclist deaths and injuries to individual cyclists and the way they ride. His argument that avoiding dooring is not best solved via infrastructure changes is spurious because around 25% of doorings in Melbourne occur on just five roads and Sydney Rd is one of them. Thus the idea that we shouldn't improve cycling safety on those five roads unless we can do so on all roads with parked cars is ridiculous.

Moreland BUG Google Group > The solution to car dooring

Advising cyclists to ride out of the door zone, where feasible, is fine by citizens; I've provided the same guidance myself: How to avoid getting doored. But those who are employed in government jobs to make transport safer for vulnerable road users need to actually work hard to genuinely improve cycling infrastructure, relevant laws and policies - that's what government is for! If these employees can't or won't do that, they should get out of those jobs and let others try.

7. Counterintuitively, key routes for cyclists with limited road width are the most in need of major infrastructure changes (like protected cycling lanes or removing parking) to make cycling safer
As an experienced cyclist who only gets around Melbourne by bike, rides all over town (even to the airport), and has to ride on Sydney Rd every week (not by choice only because I shop there), I can say, based on significant experience, that it is the popular cycling route where I feel the most in danger of dooring (Chapel St, Smith St and parts of Collins St and St Kilda Rd are similar). I can use alternate routes or my knowledge, skills and experience about minimising dooring risks to make cycling safe enough for me on most trips. But for even the most experienced and skillful cyclists, there is no comfortable, convenient way to ride on streets like Sydney Rd that can eliminate dooring risk. Jane Garrett, the Labor Member of Parliament for Brunswick, who has been very vocal about genuine improvements to safety on Sydney Rd needs to understand this. The only measure that can make a significant, lasting improvement is to provide sufficient, safe cycling space.

So rather than using the constrained road width as an excuse to do nothing significant, this should actually mitigate in favour of a major infrastructure change to remove space for private vehicles and create space for safe cycling. People without direct cycling expertise could look at raw dooring statistics and conclude that Brunswick St in Fitzroy is as bad and so a consistent way of addressing this issue on both streets is needed. However, while far from perfect, experienced cyclists can readily minimise dooring risks on Brunswick St while cycling in a convenient and comfortable way. Sydney Rd, Chapel St and Collins St - as popular destination streets with limited road width - are high priority exceptions. Virtually all cyclists agree that only a major infrastructure change can make them safe. Motorists and some retail traders may consider it unfair that Sydney Rd should be targeted for dedicated cycling space before Brunswick St (a more popular route) but this should be about evidence-based prioritisation. Additionally, there is ample parking space (over 900 just in parking lots) adjacent to Sydney Rd that isn't on-street and is never full.

Melbourne Grid Map

8. Sustainable safety ("safe systems") is what really matters as people will always make mistakes and cyclists will always come off their bikes
Most Australian commentators on cycling and pedestrian safety keep failing to understand the core principles behind safety for vulnerable users in the Netherlands. Fortunately, David Hembrow consistently keeps on providing reminders:
The really important principle in road design from the Netherlands which is worth campaigning for is Sustainable Safety. Frequently I see from the UK that there are calls for drivers to be better educated, for cyclists to be better educated, for pedestrians to wear brighter clothing so they are seen more easily and to take the responsibility for avoiding being hit by motor vehicles. This is not sustainable safety. Sustainable safety is not about punishing people for making mistakes, but about preventing those mistakes from occurring. 
While a good level of education of drivers in particular (as they are the ones bringing lethal force to the roads) is important, it is never possible to completely eliminate the chance of error, or of frustration leading to violent behaviour, if conflict is designed into the way in which roads are used. What's more, people are often tired or distracted. These things cannot be solved by education, they are a result of being human. 
What the Dutch have done is to reduce the frequency of conflict between road users and to to reduce the lethality of those crashes which still inevitably occur. This has involved changes in infrastructure to keep vulnerable road users away from the lethal force of motor vehicles, design of junctions so that routes do not cross each other at speed, as well as some changes in the law and education of road users about how to behave in a safe way (i.e. drunk driving, taking a break on long journeys...).
A view from the cycle path: Sustainable safety
However, it's inexcusable for professionals who work in transport, or for those involved in government decisions and policy about transport, to be ignorant of sustainable safety - known as "safe systems" in Australia. Even worse are those who are introduced to the strong rationale for this paradigm shift from accidents/persons to systems but then persist with their prior erroneous perspective:
Systems-based approaches are currently receiving increased attention from safety managers in complex, sociotechnical systems, and are attractive for a number of reasons including their consideration of the different contributory factors involved in accidents, the removal of an individualistic blame culture and the development of system-wide countermeasures that they facilitate. It was also concluded, however, that, despite the recent increase in systems based research the dominant view on human error in a number of safety-critical domains (including the road transport domain) is still the person-based view, and that this is detrimental to safety and error management because countermeasures are aimed at the individual, ignoring the latent conditions that reside within a particular system.
Monash University: Human error and road transport (pdf)
9. Dooring and other unintentional accidents are not a respect or courtesy issue!
Once you understand that the main game is all about sustainable safety you will find it extremely disappointing to hear from a bicycle safety advocate at a memorial ride for a dooring victim that one of the key things bike riders can do to help themselves is to show respect to other road users by obeying road rules and being courteous in sharing the road. Many bike safety advocates in Australia seem to be suffering from some kind of perverse Stockholm syndrome - they've been mentally captured by motorist culture and dominant norms and find it difficult to do much more than seek peace, empathy and small mercies from their abusers. Or perhaps it's just easier to raise money from government, business and the community when your solutions are sweet, palatable and don't upset any apple carts. E.g. Amy Gillett Foundation: It's a two-way street
See:
> YouTube: #AlbisRide - Simon Gillett of the Amy Gillett Foundation on sharing the road

10. Dooring risks are worst on Sydney Rd during peak periods when cyclists can be doored by both parked cars and stationary cars in the traffic lane. Trams and tram tracks also prevent simplistic "taking the middle of the lane"
One major reason why the simplistic admonition to simply ride out of the door zone doesn't work on shopping streets like Sydney Rd is that dooring can occur from both sides during the busiest periods. Indeed when I'm forced to ride on Sydney Rd each weekend to go shopping I feel most exposed to dooring as there is no way to ride completely out of the door zone of both parked cars and cars that are stationary in the traffic lane.

Another reason why simply riding further away from parked cars isn't feasible on these streets are the trams and tram tracks. Cyclists are essentially forced into a compromise position that is bounded by trams and tram tracks on one side and the door zone on the other. I reject that Alberto and his girlfriend could easily have ridden well out of the door zone and even taken the traffic lane if they needed to. Most experienced, confident cyclists (including myself) don't ride as far enough from parked cars as we'd like to precisely because current infrastructure and legal and social norms are barriers. New, inexperienced cyclists can hardly be expected to.

Google Maps - Sydney Rd near Weston St

11. The chief obstacle is that most motorists vote to put their convenience ahead of other human beings safety
Motorists are still easily in the majority even in the most active transport cycling localities in Australia (like Brunswick where Sydney Rd is), and the majority of these motorists would object to and vote against any significant reduction to space for car traffic or parking. That's legitimate (though selfish and unenlightened), because Australia is a democracy and the majority has to be persuaded. However, these motorists also need to face up to the consequences: they are primarily responsible for these cycling deaths and injuries by putting their convenience ahead of safety for other human beings. Government employees and politicians could always do more to educate motorists but, ultimately, the only major obstacle to eliminating risks like dooring is motorist selfishness. It really is that simple.

12. What about education campaigns, stickers and other ways to make motorists more careful when opening their car door?
These campaigns (e.g. open the door with the opposite hand so you turn first), stickers and reporting on dooring deaths have occurred for years and dooring rates haven't decreased. These methods can never be relied upon as a solution. Even regular cyclists who drive forget sometimes to check carefully before opening their door.
Some findings from the focus group included that few had much interest in putting the stickers on their car, either because they didn’t think they would work, or because they didn’t like the idea of blemishing their vehicles. The existing visual reminders to avoid car dooring (stickers) in their current format, distributed in isolation, do not lead to most people avoiding car dooring. 
The key to reducing the incidence of car dooring is to implement a package of measures which include information (including what the term means, incidence, impact, liability, associated fines); personal prompts including visual, audible and tactile reminders which people can choose according to what best suits them; community wide reminders – including media messages, inclusion in driver’s licence tests, through schools, workplaces and organisations; effective enforcement and pricing.
A multi-stage, multi-faceted approach to addressing ‘car dooring’ in inner Melbourne (pdf)
See:
> Concepts of Change: Reducing ‘car-dooring’: The role of stickers as visual reminders (pdf)

13. Would motorists open car doors without checking it was clear if their own life was at risk? Or even if there was a chance their car could be significantly damaged and they'd have to pay for it?
No, I think not. The fact is people are selfish and need no reminders to protect their own safety or property. In every situation where motorists are at serious risk themselves if opening their door without checking, they somehow all become reliable checkers. For example, when stopped in the emergency lane on a highway and getting out near a fast-moving traffic lane.

Below is Nicholson St, another busy north-south road adjacent to Sydney Rd in Brunswick. If a motorist flings their door open here without first checking its clear, there's a chance it might get ripped off by a passing car. Yet, despite this parking being extensively used every day of the year, I've never heard of a dooring with a motor vehicle on Nicholson St - not even a motorcycle. Car owners seem quite adept at avoiding dooring when they are at significant risk themselves. But, if not, then the door's fly open with much less caution.

Nicholson St - Motorists don't fling their doors open without checking when they'll come off worst

There are actually many circumstances in which car drivers injure cyclists and claim they didn't see them which wouldn't happen if a bike had the same damage potential as a truck. Car drivers don't cut off or hook into trucks purely because of self preservation. Conversely, they cut off and hook into cyclists because their life isn't at risk. Billions of dollars of "share the road" advertising and educating can't change human nature. So citizens need to stop pretending it can and support the only thing that has been proven to work - changing the design of the system.

14. The incidence of car dooring would drop significantly if heavier vehicles travelled in the door zone
Until there are bike infrastructure and legal changes, one way of educating motorists about the risks of opening their doors is to have heavier, more threatening vehicles travelling in the door zone.

An idea for a guerrilla bike safety campaign is to collaborate with others to arrange for heavy, delivery bakfiets trikes to be ridden in the door zone on Sydney Rd, Collins St, Chapel St, Elizabeth St and St Kilda Rd. I think it would only take a couple of car doors being ripped off for motorists on these routes to suddenly start paying a little more attention to causing dooring incidents. If these key roads, responsible for 25% of Melbourne's doorings, had such heavy duty bikes regularly using the door zone, the incidence of doorings by regular road users would likely drop considerably.

Until the infrastructure is improved, perhaps cyclists should even campaign for motorbikes to be allowed to use the door zone on routes like Sydney Rd.

Flickr CCby2.0 - Jacques Mounnezergues

YouTube: Motorcycle cuts through traffic, hits car door

15. Would it help to give cyclists the legal and moral right to ride in the middle of a traffic lane where necessary for safety?
Alan Davies has argued that one solution would be to prompt more cyclists to take the middle of the traffic lane even if it meant motorists may be held up:
I think this is an opportunity to start thinking about another option; give cyclists the legal and moral right to ride in the middle of a traffic lane rather than keep close to the left hand side. It wouldn’t be plausible on all roads. I have in mind local roads; dense locations like the CBD; and congested arterials where segregated lanes aren’t a realistic option e.g. narrow inner city roads. It would give cyclists the confidence to keep out of the door zone and to avoid other potentially dangerous situations such as being shunted to the kerb on small roundabouts and traffic islands. It would signal to motorists that cyclists have the right to occupy the lane.
The Urbanist: What to do about cyclists getting doored?
In fact, cyclists already have this legal right as they are not required to cycle wherever it is impracticable and that obviously includes wherever it is unsafe. See: How close to the kerb you should ride and when to take the lane.

A significant issue on roads like Sydney Rd is that traffic is often banked up at intersections and moving much more slowly than bikes and so cyclists use the de facto lane next to parked cars in order to travel more efficiently. In such circumstances, there is little attraction for most cyclists of riding in the middle of the traffic lane.

However, when there is less congestion, confident cyclists should start asserting their right to occupy the traffic lane if that is the safest riding position, and consequently prevent vehicles behind them from overtaking.

16. Guerrilla painting of door zone stencils is necessary till safe space for cycling is provided
Until cycling infrastructure is made safe, guerrilla stencils are highly desirable which advise of dangerous door zones like that on Sydney Rd. Alberto and his girlfriend are from Italy, had just started riding in Melbourne, and would have had no idea how much more dangerous it is to ride in the Sydney Rd door zone than to ride outside it and be uncomfortably close to passing vehicles. Door zone stencils like the one pictured below could have led them to riding further from the parked cars and given Alberto time to swerve rather than being pushed violently by the door under the truck.

If you are aware of other innovative, practical ways of using the street surface itself to advise inexperienced cyclists about where to ride and safety risks, please suggest them in the comments.


17. Commentators and the public still don't understand there is a Road Use Hierarchy which deprioritises vehicles on these roads but that is never actually implemented
The implicit assumption in most discussions about which transport modes have priority on these roads is that the roads belong to motorised traffic and cyclists are interlopers that should be grateful for whatever space they are granted. In fact, a Road Use Hierarchy has existed for years and consistently prioritises pedestrians, public transport users and cyclists along these activity areas - which is the rational and ethical position. The real problem is that VicRoads and state and local governments don't follow through on modifying the infrastructure to reflect these priorities.

Ask any motorist or cyclist to consider the existing infrastructure and usage of the road width on Sydney Rd and answer which mode has priority and they would all be amazed to hear that cyclists are apparently prioritised and private motor traffic is not. Our society's true priorities don't reside within documents, they are evidenced on our streets every day. VicRoads and the Victorian State Government are self-evident liars for claiming they've prioritised cyclists over motorists on Sydney Rd. How does one prosecute this fraud and force it to be corrected one way or the other? If the reality is that the Victorian government almost always prioritises motorists over cyclists and pedestrians because that's what the majority of voters support, I can tolerate that and fight against it. But let's start with some honesty.

SmartRoads - City of Moreland (pdf)

18. Some local traders on these streets are one of the biggest obstacles to removing car parking and the most vocal objectors should be identified and boycotted by cyclists
For reasons that confound me, local governments consider the views of a local business to be far more important than a local resident or affected person. The problem is that some local businesses on streets like Sydney Rd are resolutely and vocally opposed to removal of any on-street parking to make more space for safe cycling.

If those who support safer cycling and safer streets are serious about their efforts they should be identifying the biggest opponents of parking removal and advocating boycotts of these businesses till they change their position.

Local government periodically considers removing car parking and traffic from activity areas to revitalise them and improve safety and amenity but there is little concerted effort by people with the most to gain to pursue these opportunities. See: The Age: Sydney Road - a boulevard of dreams
"It's bullshit," he said of the proposal to ban motorists from the four-kilometre strip between Brunswick Road and Bell Street. "Most of our customers drive here. This is going to kill us." Mr Assaad is not alone in his assessment. Every local trader and resident The Sunday Age spoke to expressed concern about the proposal, with most insisting it should not proceed. Many feared it would only worsen traffic congestion in surrounding streets and scare off car-dependent shoppers. Fruiterer Steve Semaan estimated his revenue would halve if cars were banned.
The Age: Traders say: keep it open
Even after cyclist deaths due to dooring crashes, the Sydney Road Brunswick Association issued the below press release defending on-street parking and incredulously asserting that removing it would make the road more dangerous for cyclists. The businesses that support this position should be boycotted by cyclists till they change it.

Sydney Rd Facebook page: Post by Sydney Road Brunswick Association

Twitter: Melbourne Crank

Cycle Local Shop Local is a fantastic initiative to convince local traders that bicycle lanes are good for business. It has been particularly active since Alberto's death in trying to get support from Sydney Rd businesses. I highly recommend local cyclists like their Facebook page, note the businesses supporting cycling infrastructure and make their consumption decisions accordingly.

Cycle Local Shop Local Facebook page

19. Given car doorings are always the motorist's fault why aren't penalties automatic and reflective of the consequences? Especially when a cyclist is injured or killed as a result?
According to Australia's road laws, motorists are always at fault in dooring incidents. There are no legitimate excuses such as "I didn't see them" or "They came out of nowhere." A motorist simply cannot open their door and cause a hazard to others:
RR 269(3): A person must not cause a hazard to any person or vehicle by opening a door of a vehicle, leaving a door of a vehicle open, or getting off, or out of, a vehicle.
The Law Handbook Victoria: The Road Law for Cyclists and Skaters
This begs the question as to why so many motorists that door cyclists, including many causing serious injury and death, escape with either no penalty or with the most minimal fine possible? One can only conclude there is a serious bias in favour of motorists for these offences.

Of course, ignorant media personalities will still refuse to be educated and shift the blame to cyclists but hopefully one day their smirks will be wiped off their faces:

ABC News: Car door bikie hits increase in Melbourne

20. Politicians and government agencies routinely fail to follow through on their promises to improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians. Often they target the vulnerable road users instead
One constant is that the vast majority of politicians and government employees will continue to fail the public on these issues. The majority are incapable of courageous leadership if it might cost them their jobs, power or popularity. The Greens are the only exception I am aware of, though even they sometimes need to be educated as to the real, priority solutions. For example, the last time a cyclist was killed in these circumstances (James Cross in 2010) a parliamentary inquiry concluded that demerit points should be considered for introduction if fine increases didn't reduce the incidence:
The Committee recommends that VicRoads undertake a review of ‘car dooring’ incidents before the end of 2014 to determine whether the higher monetary penalties and further police training have achieved a decrease in the number of ‘car dooring’ incidents. If the number of incidents has not decreased, the Committee recommends VicRoads then reconsider attaching demerit points to the offence.
Inquiry into the Road Safety Amendment (Car Doors) Bill 2012 (pdf)
It's now 2015 and dooring incidents are as high as ever and another death has occurred. Yet there is no discussion by politicians or VicRoads of introducing demerit points for dooring in the light of the latest death. Nor any conclusion about the review that was due by the end of 2014.

Instead of serious action, the state politician and selected agencies had their private talks and came up with a minor extension to the 40km/hr speed limit (irrelevant to the times cyclists are doored and the incident), speed humps at intersections (I'll be amazed if these ever arrive but also irrelevant to dooring), tweaking traffic signals to give pedestrians priority (irrelevant to dooring), removing some right hand turns (welcome but irrelevant to dooring) and removing some parking spaces (no details and likely to have a negligible impact on dooring risks on Sydney Rd):
The speed limit on Sydney Road will be permanently lowered to 40km/h, 24 hours a day, following the cycling death of Italian man Alberto Paulon in Brunswick last week. An "emergency meeting"  in Brunswick on Wednesday afternoon produced few firm plans to improve safety on Sydney Road, a heavily congested arterial in Melbourne's north that is statistically among the most dangerous for bike riding in Melbourne. 
But Brunswick MP Jane Garrett, who called the meeting, said the "overwhelming feeling in the room was one of wanting to pay tribute to this man and all work together to find practical solutions to this really congested piece of road". Short-term changes that will be made to Sydney Road include building speed humps at intersections, tweaking traffic signals to give pedestrians priority ahead of vehicles and removing some parking spaces, Ms Garrett said. 
But an online petition to remove all on-street parking along a short stretch of Sydney Road where Mr Paulon was killed was not endorsed in the meeting. There was discussion about taking cars off the road, there was discussion about taking bikes off the road," Ms Garrett said. "We just have to find better ways to ensure in a population which is embracing cycling in record numbers that we are able to live together in this stretch of Melbourne."
The Age: Sydney Road speed limit drops to 40km/h in wake of dooring death
The worst aspect of the approach of VicRoads and Victoria Police to these safety issues caused by infrastructure design and unjust laws is that they often respond to high incident rates by vulnerable users by targeting the vulnerable users rather than addressing the real dangers (poor design, law, policy and car-centric norms).
VicRoads and Victoria Police are joining forces to combat the high number of casualty crashes involving cyclists along a busy stretch of Sydney Road in Brunswick. VicRoads Regional Director Adam Maguire said a recent investigation into road safety along Sydney Road between Barkly Street and Albion Street revealed alarming statistics. “In the five years to June 2014, there were a total of 179 casualty crashes along this section of Sydney Road, and 85 of those crashes involved cyclists,” Mr Maguire said. “Our investigation revealed many of these 85 crashes involved doorings and cyclists turning right and colliding with oncoming traffic. “More often than not, a cyclist involved in a casualty crash will come off second best. We want cyclists to be safe and enjoy their journeys, but also acknowledge they are in a shared roadway with other road users and act and ride accordingly. “We can help reverse these trends through increased awareness of the road rules, tips for riding on the road as well as through engineering solutions.
VicRoads: Sydney Road cyclists to be targeted in behaviour blitz 
21. Decision makers continue to ignore the evidence and genuine experts as what we should be doing is a long way from what we are (i.e. too hard)
Instead of evidence and expertise about the massive shift needed in our approach to road safety being taken seriously it continues to be ignored. Motorists simply love their cars too much and prioritise their convenience over other's safety.
Australia is one of several nations that has a long-term goal of reducing the road toll to zero, perhaps an impossibly ambitious target but one that nevertheless drives authorities such as Victoria's TAC to seek to continually push down the number of deaths and serious injuries on the road. But a recent review of the 10-year strategy revealed a host of areas where Australia is failing to reduce the carnage, especially for "vulnerable road users" such as motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians. 
The review says we will have to take a much more radical approach to road safety if the "vision zero" ambition is a sincere one. The focus on "blaming the driver" – in which hoons, drunks and "irresponsible" drivers are viewed as the main cause of crashes – must shift, the review states. "We are concerned that this distinction perpetuates the 'blame the driver' attitude still common in the media and the community," it states. Instead, more effort must be made to build a "safe system" that accepts that people make mistakes, and design roads that reduce crash risks as much as possible. 
Professor Ian Johnston was director of road safety at VicRoads for five years in the 1980s and remains one of the leading voices in Australia calling for a change in direction in road safety strategy. He believes Australian society is too complacent about the fact that more than 1000 people die on the roads each year, while tens of thousands are admitted to hospitals. "The target is to reduce serious injury and death by 30 per cent by 2020," Professor Johnston says. "That means more than 70,000 Australians will be killed or seriously injured on the roads every year. Have we ever asked the community if they're happy with that?" 
Calls are growing to similarly ban on-street parking on a stretch of Sydney Road, where cyclist Alberto Paulon was killed last month when a woman opened her car door in his path and he was knocked beneath a moving truck. Professor Johnston says incidents like the death of Mr Paulon are less a case of bad driver behaviour than unsafe road design that makes road trauma more likely. "We've designed a system where dooring is going to happen," he says.
The Age: Road trauma: Design a big factor in accident statistics
Cameron Munro has done some of the most extensive research into bike crash data and road safety and agrees the current road system trades off cyclist safety to achieve motorist parking convenience and their ability to drive fast (even if it doesn't save any significant trip time):
Melbourne's roads are fundamentally unsafe for bike riders and we need to make  big decisions on the value of on-street parking if we want to save lives, according to new research from a traffic engineer. Dr Cameron Munro analysed VicRoads and Victoria Police crash data involving cyclists in Victoria from 2002 to 2012 to determine the most common causes of bike accidents. The research has been published on the Bicycle Network's Ride On website. "Our road system is fundamentally unsafe, and we implicitly trade off serious injury and death to allow us to drive fast and park in the most convenient locations," Dr Munro said.
Big decisions needed to make 'fundamentally unsafe' road system safe for cyclists: expert
22. Independent transport safety and equity citizen groups in Australia are light years behind the rest of the developed world
One of the things that troubles me the most about transport and road safety, justice and equity in Australia is the lack of strong, independent citizen groups that aren't beholden to government funding or constrained/conflicted in other ways. Consequently, Australian pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users simply don't have a strong, independent voice that is heard in the media, community and by decision makers. A brief review of these groups just in New York City provides telling comparisons:
> Transportation Alternatives
> Streetsblog NYC
> Right Of Way
> Families for Safe Streets

Just one example which shows up this contrast in reporting and advocacy is Streetsblog NYC's end of year review called "In Memoriam". Have a read of this amazing citizen journalism and follow some of the links in these posts:
Streetsblog NYC - In Memoriam 2014
Streetsblog NYC - In Memoriam 2013
Streetsblog NYC - In Memoriam 2012

23. Australia is particularly scarce of groups, political parties and influential individuals articulating a transformative vision of safe transport and pleasant environments where cars are unnecessary and undesirable in activity areas
The reason why the vast majority of car-centric citizens, politicians and business owners in Australia struggle to be convinced that major changes to transport infrastructure and policies are practical and beneficial is because no-one has effectively communicated to them a vision of a better, different society built around walking, cycling and public transport. Australia is far behind much of the world in establishing this vision of better cities and more beneficial mobility.

One of the most influential posts about urban cycling I've ever read is by Dave Horton in which he convincingly argues that those advocating for mass cycling will struggle forever to make significant progress till everyone else can clearly see the compelling, alternate vision being proffered. Below are some extracts but the whole post is worth reading and re-reading until it fully sinks in:
Have you ever left a meeting utterly dejected, feeling you might as well give up because ‘people just don’t get it’? Meetings about cycling inevitably involve different agendas and compromise. But is our struggle to make cycling mainstream so difficult because we – it’s strongest advocates – still haven’t learned how to speak about it? Are we yet to find our voice? If so, other people, understandably, would struggle to hear it. So perhaps ‘people don’t get it’ because we’ve yet to tell them? 
Cycling advocacy for the past half-century has been on the back foot, so busy complaining, criticising and protesting it never paused to build – let alone proselytize – progressive visions of an alternative society with the bicycle at its heart. Yet isn’t that what we must do if we’re to convince others that cycling matters? 
We have jumbles of ideas, impulses and convictions around cycling’s worth. But we lack the confidence to develop these jumbles into coherent visions, because they’re about bicycles, and bicycles don’t count. Personal and collective development of mass cycling visions is immature because we have internalised the cycling shame of the last half-century. This shame got forked on bicycles as the car became everyman’s vehicle (and gradually every woman’s too). So now we are embarrassed to say we believe in bikes, believe in society re-organised away from cars and towards bikes. As many people today are embarrassed to think of themselves as people who might cycle, we are embarrassed to advocate boldly for their cycling. 
How powerful is the dominant ideology that it stops us articulating even to ourselves, let alone asking for, what it is we really want! Thus our silence contributes to cycling’s continued repression. So? So we need to develop our visions and move beyond the shame of speaking them. Find our voice. Of course we must compromise – to make cycling big requires working with others, and that inevitably entails compromise. But unless they know what we really stand for, those others can’t know by how much we’re compromising. 
We believe bikes should replace cars. We think half of all journeys could easily be made by bike. We see a bicycle-based society as better than a car-based one. We look forward to the time when bicycles proliferate as cars disappear and die. People won’t know these things unless we tell them, so we should tell them. We need to make our stories, to help make sense of the changes we’re calling for. 
Just one example – the conversion of two lanes of a dual-carriageway’s four into top-notch space for cycling. Howls of protest, obviously. But the prospects of such change have to be higher the more people see them as forming part of an ongoing societal project to re-design our cities away from cars towards bicycles. The more people can see and understand the bigger picture, the more supportive they will be. That’s why we need vision, narrative and discourse elucidating change, helping people make sense of, rather than react against, it.
Thinking About Cycling: New cycling stories
One of my favourite cycling blogs is Bicycle Dutch because pretty much all it does is show the rest of the world what communities built around mass cycling look like. I have a vision of permanently car-free activity areas including Sydney Rd, Brunswick St, Collins St, Chapel St and most of the other streets where the incidence of dooring is high. In this regard, it is interesting to see how Utrecht converted its city centre to car-free and ultimately fully-pedestrianised streets. See: Bicycle Dutch: Car free city centre in Utrecht

Bicycle Dutch: Car free city centre in Utrecht

24. There will be many more serious injuries and fatalities due to dooring on the roads with on-street parking and insufficient space for cyclists
No matter how much money, time and effort is spent on education and changing behaviour, for as long as road design creates elevated dooring risk on popular cycling routes, there will be further injuries and fatalities. Indeed, given the statistics, it's amazing that there haven't been more deaths from dooring on St Kilda Road, Chapel Street or even Brunswick St. For the streets with current designs that generate numerous injuries each year, it is only a matter of time before the next dooring death. Cameron Munro continues to collate these statistics and analysis on his site:

Cameron Munro: Top 50 streets with cyclist dooring injuries (Victoria)
To my interpretation these graphs suggest the following:
  • Over the period dooring crashes were the third most frequent crash type in Victoria for riders (indeed, this has been the case for many years)
  • The map shows the top six crash types, and suggests dooring crashes are concentrated along a few corridors. This is rather different to most other crash types, which are far more disperse across the metro area.
  • We can demonstrate this level of concentration by looking at the crashes on each road. The second graph illustrates this by showing the top 50 dooring roads - notice how St Kilda Rd had far and away the most dooring crashes over the period, followed by Chapel St and Collins St. Sydney Rd is no. 5.
  • The third graph is the crux of my argument; this shows the % of dooring injuries attributable to each street for the top 50. Note how if we could magically eliminate dooring on St Kilda Rd we'd reduce all Victorian doorings by 9%. If we could tackle the top 5 we could eliminate 23% of doorings, and if we could fix the top 10 sites we could reduce dooring by about a third. I suggest this is rather unusual in road safety for crashes to be so concentrated; normally in a 'black spot' program we'll treat one intersection or section of road which'll have a tiny impact on overall crash totals. (conversely of course, one could argue that we've still got 2/3rds of crashes even if we could deal with doorings at the top 10 sites).
  • Looking only at Moreland, almost half of all dooring crashes occur on Sydney Rd. 
  • So although it's certainly true that the there is a dooring risk on almost all streets, we can materially reduce the injury burden if we treat "only" the highest risk streets.
Cameron Munro: Moreland BUG Google Group - The solution to car dooring
25. Fatalities are just the tip of a massive iceberg of injuries and loss of urban freedom and equity. Focusing solely on fatalities lets governments and transport/safety agencies off the hook
Decades of single minded, car-centric infrastructure and policies (including housing and jobs policies) and Mandatory Helmet Laws have crushed mass cycling in countries like Australia. The recent, small resurgence has been mostly among the young, fit, well-educated and privileged due to their values and when the benefits (health, money, time, convenience) are considerable. These people aren't dying in droves and never will be as transport cycling rates are now largely driven by judicious safety decisions. Essentially, virtually no-one in Australia is forced to cycle for the trips they judge to be most unsafe and so they don't.

All actual and potential Australian cyclists only ride the trips and routes they feel are safe enough and thus exist somewhere on a continuous spectrum of cycling usage illustrated by the "spider map" images below (See "Interested but Concerned" potential cyclists need to take action themselves). For the ~60% of Australians that are "Interested but Concerned" they feel very few of their trips are safe enough and feasible to cycle so there are very few trips they ride. For the ~7% that are "Enthused and Confident" the extent of their safe-enough trip spider map varies but would exclude the many routes they feel are too unsafe. Even the ~1% "Strong and Fearless" (which now likely includes myself) still exclude the most dangerous routes (thus some trips) for reasons of safety.

SCI Study Shows Poverty of Existing Bikeway System

For example, I would love to do more winery trips using a route following the Maroondah Highway in the Yarra Valley but am prevented from doing so as the lack of cycle space means the risk of death is too high. I would also like to be able to ride on many routes at night but don't as the risk of death is too high. I'm lucky as I am forced to give up only a few trips now due to lack of safety (I've found safe-enough alternate routes for most trips). The majority of potential cyclists are forced to give up a far larger proportion of their possible trips due to a lack of safety. Conversely, motorists are forced to give up none of their trips due to a lack of safety. Imagine how many fatalities there would be if all Australians that wanted to cycle for their trips actually did so regularly regardless of the lack of safety? Tracking that number might indicate whether Australia's cycling infrastructure is progressing sufficiently. Tracking the actual fatalities - which are rare precisely because people don't intentionally risk death - tells us very little about whether there have been improvements in sustainable safety.

Because it's difficult to make accurate estimates of the number of cycling trips people didn't make because they considered them too unsafe, it's too easy for car-centric decision makers to dismiss this significant, adverse impact on access and urban freedom. Fortunately, there is hard data about something very real that does hint at the true state of sustainable safety - the number of injuries. What alarmed me in Cameron Munro's image above about dooring incidents are the sheer number of injuries and serious injuries in particular. If I get doored, run over and become permanently disabled in some way that won't count as a fatality or likely get much media coverage but the impact on a person and family can be huge. I often hear mentions of previous cycling trauma from people I meet in person but the details are rarely discussed. Even now, I am fixing up a disused bike for someone who plans to give it to a friend as they gave up cycling permanently after being injured. This is a serious injustice and, from the statistics, there are clearly thousands of these hidden injustices but most receive little attention and prompt no effective action from government.

For instance, we know there are dozens of serious injuries each and every year on St Kilda Rd due to dooring, but it seems like government will wait for someone to die before even pretending to do anything significant about it. Sydney Rd was the same story. Do we really need to wait for a dooring fatality on each individual street to significantly improve that street? Are patterns of flawed road design and mode prioritisation not clear enough?

Brunswick Residents Network - Comments about being seriously injured and giving up riding

26. If Australian governments and their agencies have designed and maintained a system that makes injury and death from things like dooring inevitable, then why isn't anyone suing them?
As noted above, Professor Ian Johnston, the former director of road safety at VicRoads, argues that the current road safety system is designed in a way that makes injuries to vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) inevitable. He and other experts argue that a paradigm shift toward sustainable safety is necessary. Yet, government is doing nothing. I have no great love for much of what lawyers do but it seems that there is an urgent need for traffic justice lawyers in Australia to test the limits of government responsibility for foreseeable injuries and deaths. In the absence of a shift in most Australian's car-centric norms, significant financial losses might be one of the few ways of forcing government to act. I'd be interested to hear from any lawyers who work in this space. I'd be delighted to contribute to the initial funding of such traffic justice cases.

27. Updates on cycling infrastructure, laws and policies to reduce dooring in Australia
Below I'll maintain links to updates relating to this issue, particularly for Sydney Rd.

Bicycle Victoria
Metro Routes: Sydney Road

SydneyRoad.org
A community group has come up with a proposal called Revitalising Sydney Road that would address bike safety with separated lanes as well as improve circumstances for pedestrians and public transport users. It would remove parking for cars and shift it to the ample, adjacent car parks and side streets.

Revitalising Sydney Road Plan

City of Moreland
Cycling and Traffic Safety - Sydney Road and Upfield Shared Path

The Age
Sydney Road bike lane plan rejected amid calls to scrap on-street parking
New bike lane plan to prevent Sydney Road “doorings”

Herald Sun & Melbourne Leader
Cycling groups urge Moreland Council not to adopt double cycle lanes on Sydney Rd
Cycling advocates call on VicRoads to extend ‘door away’ bike lanes across Melbourne

SMH
Bike activists take guerilla action by painting 'unsafe cycle lane' on Sydney roads

Further Info:
ABC News
> 7:30 Report: Young cyclist's death ignites debate on sharing our roads

The Age
Sydney Road speed limit drops to 40km/h in wake of dooring death
Riders pay respect to Alberto Paulon, killed in Brunswick dooring
Road trauma: Design a big factor in accident statistics
Tougher dooring penalties call rejected after death of Italian cyclist Alberto Paulon
Proposal to curb car traffic in Brunswick Street in favour of pedestrians

9 News
> Chilling footage of cyclist's road death sparks passionate debate

The Urbanist
What to do about cyclists getting doored?
How come we don’t already have safe cycling networks?

The SMH
Cycling's door zone of death

The Weekly Review
Greens MP Ellen Sandell’s safer cycling call after Sydney Road death

Bicycle Network
> Dooring
> Metro Routes: North - Sydney Road
> City of Moreland
> Share the road

VicRoads:
> Cyclist safety
> Bike rider safety
> Car doors & bike riders
> SmartRoads - City of Moreland (pdf)

City of Moreland
Moreland Bike Strategy 2011 – 2021 (pdf)

Safer Cycling Sydney Road

RideOne
Exit with care

Change.org
Remove parking from Sydney road Between Weston and Barkly street to make cycling safer

Cycle
> Make sydney rd safer - event march 6th

The Monthly: Four wheels good, two wheels good

Victorian Parliament
> Inquiry into the Road Safety Amendment (Car Doors) Bill 2012 (pdf)

Moreland BUG
> Moreland BUG
Moreland BUG Google Group

YouTube
The Project TV - Looking at the issue of #CarDooring

Melbourne Leader
Moreland Councillor calls for urgent Upfield bike path audit following cyclist death on Sydney Rd
Brunswick traders want Sydney Rd parking fees slashed to bring shoppers back

CityLab
The Complete Business Case for Converting Street Parking Into Bike Lanes
3 Enormous Benefits to Charging the Right Price for Parking
Just Because You Can't Find a Place to Park Doesn't Mean There Aren't Way Too Many Parking Spots

Monash University: Safer Cycling

0 comments:

Post a Comment