With strict restrictions in place for many weeks, traffic in Brisbane has been drastically reduced. Rush hour now sees far smaller traffic peaks, and congestion is virtually non-existent compared to what it was like two months ago.
Non-essential workers are either working or staying at home, and many are getting a feel for cabin fever for the first time. One positive thing that’s come out of our collective lockdown is that people are going outside and enjoying their local footpaths and bikeways. But that presents its own challenges!
Let’s just say that Brisbane’s cycling infrastructure still has room for improvement, especially in the CBD. Bikeways aren’t exactly available everywhere, and footpaths are often not in the best of shape. The number of bike lanes have definitely increased over the last few years, but we still have a way to go. In fact, both Melbourne and Sydney were ranked in the top 40 cycling cities in the world for 2019, but Brisbane is nowhere to be found on the list.
Brisbane City Council have spent years and millions of dollars improving and expanding a road network that is currently under capacity while pleas for improving city cycling have largely fallen on deaf ears.
Even now, the Lord Mayor is fast tracking $350 millions worth of road projects. In other major cities around the world, they are taking advantage of the decreased city traffic and are closing streets, implementing lower speed limits, and building dedicated bike lanes. Cities like Paris, Milano, Manchester, New York and Berlin are giving city roads back to their people.
It feels like the tide was turning. Our devastating bushfires increased the public awareness of the climate crisis, and the fact that we need to take action now. With traffic levels lower than in decades, this would be the perfect opportunity to pivot towards making Brisbane city green.
Over 100 Australian health and transport experts have published an open letter that calls for the government to enact urgent measures to support safe walking and cycling during our current pandemic.
Our narrow footpaths and limited bikeways make it nearly impossible to maintain social distancing, and it is putting us all at risk – especially now that there are more people out walking and cycling than ever before!