10 January 2008

More transport miscellany

Cycling and trams

Today's Advertiser/ Adelaide Now editorial, acknowledges the Tour Down Under and calls for better cycling infrastructure for "day to day riders", eg me:

Bicycle lanes on our streets are haphazard and poorly co-ordinated.

There are few, if any, viable bicycle transport corridors leading into the city.

Worse, bike lanes often peter out into nothing on the most dangerous stretches of road such as Main North Rd leading into the city.

With the event celebrating its 10th year, it is time for Mr Rann and his Government to show similar support for grassroots cyclists, by developing a co-ordinated approach to making the roads safer for our bike riders.

Bicycle lanes and dedicated transport corridors should be as much a part of our transport planning as trams, trains, and large-scale roadworks like the Northern Expressway – construction of which began yesterday.

Cycling is a healthy, environmentally-friendly transport option. It ties with many of the Government's strategic plan targets concerning sustainability and wellbeing.

It is time to fund it accordingly.

While it's on the topic of transport the editorial adds some supportive words to say about the much maligned tram extension:

The new trams, while relatively comfortable, are clearly not big enough for their task.

Either the Government incorrectly forecast passenger numbers or it bought the wrong trams for the job.

Adelaide urgently needs a greatly expanded light rail network as part of an overhaul of its public transport system.

It is to be hoped the same mistakes do not happen next time.

When will the next time be, I wonder?

The tram line now runs down North Terrace by the railway station so it shouldn't be too difficult to convert at least some of the existing suburban lines eg Outer Harbor, Grange, Belair to "light rail". This has been done elsewhere, including some Melbourne lines and in South London

Insurance to protect licence losers

TheAge reports that an insurance company is now offering cover against loss of a driving licence.

National Underwriting Agencies spokesman Noel Johns said the policy was designed for good drivers who fell victim to revenue-raising.

"Thousands of Australians are being penalised for minor transgressions each day and the loss of their licence can really affect their work and family life," Mr Johns said.

"There are over 10.5 million registered passenger vehicles in Australia and the majority of the drivers of those vehicles are trying to do the right thing.

"But with the increase of fixed cameras and other devices, people are getting tired of being booked for a few kilometres over."

An increase in the number of speed detection devices throughout Australia has made it more likely for the average motorist to accumulate points and lose their driving licence.

The latest VicRoads figures show 33,082 full-licence drivers had 12 or more demerit points at June 30 last year, while 12,132 had 11 demerit points and 22,844 had 10 demerit points.

The State Government and Victoria Police deny speed cameras are used to raise revenue.

Although I won't be applying for one of the company's policies as I'm not (touch wood) at immediate risk of losing my licence (I have 3 demerit points) I think their arguments have some merit. For one thing, the government and Vic Police claim that speed cameras are not used to raise revenue is balderdash, for another many speed limits are arbitrarily selected and often on the "if in doubt, lower the limit" principle.

See the article I referred to in yesterday's post for another example of concern at the growing, and potentially misdirected, regulation of on road behaviour.

None of this is intended to make light of the still unsatisfactorily large road toll on our roads, and I'd be happy to consider any other views about what might be done to reduce it.

World's cheapest car

Both the Murdoch and Fairfax media report on the launch in India of what is claimed to be the world's cheapest car, the Tata Nano, a five seater no frills (eg no Air Con) vehicle with a 624cc engine which will sell for 100,000 rupees (about $A2,800).

I'd expect it to do well, though driving in many parts of India is, from my experience ( only as a passenger, apart from a brief bike ride in Goa), not for the faint-hearted. The price of petrol is high, the roads are are variable quality (there are some very good ones), and none of the cities have half decent street directories (or if they have none of the hire car, taxi or auto rickshaw drivers I've used have had one). That said, while I expect many people here will turn their noses up at the Nano, it doesn't seem to be very different in specs from a Fiat 500 or 600, a specimen of which I saw yesterday on the road near here.

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