The case for cycling infrastructure: What are we waiting for?
By Stuart Hedley
Last week saw the concluding episode of Biking Mad, GBC’s TV show which has demonstrated just how significant Gibraltar’s cycling community has become in recent years.
Over the last six weeks, Anton Calderon has taken us on a deep dig into all aspects of our local cycling culture, highlighting individuals and businesses utilising eCargo bike solutions as alternatives to cars and vans, all the way through to our competitive cyclists who leave this week to compete on the world stage at the Commonwealth Games.
Never before has Gibraltar entered such a large number of elite cyclists across such a wide range of disciplines. How proud we should be of them, and all of the athletes attending the Games as part of Team Gibraltar.
A common theme throughout the series has been the distinct lack of dedicated cycle infrastructure despite the escalation of cycle adoption.
The perception of road safety for cyclists in Gibraltar is still extremely poor.
Very few parents are at the point of allowing their children to cycle on the roads alone to school.
The game changer will be cycle lanes which we see transforming the quality of life for all residents in cities who have officials courageous enough to create them.
Episode 5 of Biking Mad saw Anton visit the city of Cadiz and interview the city planners who were able to clearly demonstrate the benefits of taking back control of their streets in order to promote active, sustainable transport modes such as walking and cycling.
Increases in visitor numbers and regeneration of derelict commercial areas have been just a couple of the measurable results.
Also during this episode, Gibraltar’s Minister for Transport Paul Balban gave us a glimpse at what we can expect for our city in, hopefully, the not too distant future.
Committing to integrating a city mobility plan which encourages active, sustainable transport, and which ensures our traffic is able to flow, does not always receive the immediate positive response from the community that one might expect.
The city planners of Cadiz describe how they were lambasted by members of their local community and the press for daring to wrestle some control away from the domineering motor vehicle.
In Gibraltar it is much the same story.
As soon as cycle infrastructure is introduced into the public forum, it is met by derision and ridicule by those who feel their vehicle liberties are in some way going to be curtailed.
There appears to be a common misconception.
The introduction of conditions which will ensure a safer cycling and walking environment does not mean that users of traditional motor vehicles will be unfairly impacted.
In fact, the very opposite is true.
Nobody is questioning the fact that all manner of motor vehicles have their time and place depending on the individual needs of the user.
The distinction that we need to make is between essential and non-essential vehicle journeys.
Encouraging people to use cars and motorbikes less, and creating an environment which will make people safer when cycling and walking, will reduce the number of vehicles on the heavily burdened road network.
This is a massive bonus for all those who have essential vehicle journeys to make such as the elderly or physically challenged, families with young children, commercial vehicles and our taxi, public transport and emergency services.
The number of registered vehicles in Gibraltar has escalated during the pandemic and is now estimated to be between 40,000-45,000.
Our road network has not increased at such a significant rate, and considering the amount of residential properties under construction (currently 2000-3000) we can only expect car ownership to continue to flourish.
As Anton’s interviews in Cadiz clearly demonstrate, building cycle infrastructure is no longer a leap of faith into the unknown which may or may not have a positive effect on the whole community.
What are we waiting for?
Stuart Hedley is the owner of EBike (Gibraltar) Ltd.