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June 6th, 2006 Posted in Advocacy, Commuting

 from the Age

Bike craze hits top gear

Stephen Moynihan June 6, 2006
Stealing a march: cyclists glide past traffic on Princes Bridge. With petrol prices soaring, bikes have become "the water cooler topic of 2006".

 cyclists glide past traffic on Princes Bridge. With petrol prices soaring, bikes have become "the water cooler topic of 2006".

Photo: Andrew de la Rue

IT MAY be the winter of discontent for many Melburnians, but for those who travel on two wheels it's anything but.The city is in the middle of a cycling boom as commuters take to two wheels for their daily journey to work, and with the State Government planning to spend $112 million on bicycling and pedestrian programs in the next decade.

Bicycle Victoria commuter cycling director Heidi Marfut told The Age that recent petrol price rises had seen more and more people take to bikes."It's become the water cooler topic of 2006. It's really put cycling back on the agenda as a viable transport mode," Ms Marfut said.

Cycling has become so popular that VicRoads is recording the number of riders along the city's bike paths. Initial results show at least 4000 people are cycling in and out of the CBD each day.Some routes have become so popular that cyclists are experiencing their own version of peak hour. The results also reveal that more people are riding bikes on weekdays than weekends.

Paths along the Yarra take about 2000 riders a day and numbers are increasing every month on trails from Port Melbourne and Northcote.Stephen Hart, the owner of Grand Prix Cycles in Caulfield South, said people were willing to pay between $500 and $800 for a new bike instead of filling up the car with petrol."People haven't complained about petrol prices before and now they're actually saying it. There's plenty of people deciding to ride to work," Mr Hart said.

Ms Marfut says Melbourne is the best city in Australia for cyclists because of its lack of hills and the extensive network of bike paths. She believes there is no reason we can't catch up to Amsterdam and have a city consumed by bicycles.

Bureau of Statistics figures show that 1.1 million bikes were bought nationwide last year, compared with 988,000 new motor vehicles.Transport Minister Peter Batchelor said: "Melbourne is already a long way ahead of other Australian cities in terms of its cycling infrastructure. We have a well-developed network of on and off-road bike paths and a growing community awareness of the benefits of cycling."The Government has committed to develop the Principal Bicycle Network in metropolitan Melbourne and extend it to cover between 2500 and 3000 kilometres of bike paths. Almost 30 per cent of the network has been completed.

Cyclists concede it might be cold wearing nothing but Lycra during a Melbourne winter morning — but they argue that it beats sitting inside a warm car stuck in a traffic jam.