Freohagen? Yes please

ALEX FLETCHER is a director of Freewheeler, the app that rewards Freo folk for ditching their cars, and principal of Fletcher Law.

COLIN NICHOL’S “Freohagen?” (Herald Thinking Allowed, January 9, 2016) suggests Fremantle’s focus on cycling is a pretty bad idea. I’d like to present a different, more positive, point of view.

Investing in cycling (and walking) should take precedence. We need a balanced transport system.

Roads and cars have been heavily subsidised for all of our recent history. This focus has significantly contributed to most of our current social problems, including urban sprawl and isolation, the socio-economic divide, obesity and fatigue, physical inactivity and mental illness, long commutes and lack of family time, infrastructure and healthcare spending blowouts, energy crises, pollution and climate change.

• Adobestock

• Adobestock

The only way to correct the inequality, and achieve balance, is to now focus on the largely ignored active and public transport areas.

A focus on cycling should be applauded. Cities around the world are trying to emulate Copenhagen because it is a very, very good idea.

There are some terrible cyclists around. While I haven’t seen any cycling-related accidents in Fremantle yet, it does drive me nuts when they act like the road rules don’t apply to them – such as whizzing through pedestrian crossings and red lights. However, this is a human problem, not a reason to torpedo cycling. There are plenty of idiot drivers and pedestrians around too.

The City of Fremantle will hopefully focus on segregated cycling lanes and acceptable road use education for all users.

As cyclist numbers increase, other road users get used to them and accommodate them, and vice versa, leading to safer roads.  This is probably why cycling in Copenhagen is more relaxed (in addition to Copenhagen having invested in good cycling infrastructure).

Security and vandalism are obviously very important issues that need to be addressed. However, it is hard to understand why the existence of these universal problems means we shouldn’t focus on really good ideas in other areas.

As streets are activated with more people out and about cycling, walking and interacting, there will be fewer opportunities for anti-social behaviour.

Investing in cycling and walking also leads to increased spending at local shops, not to mention the benefits for tourism and general city ambience.

Fremantle is a uniquely European town. Focussing on its strengths is a pathway to fixing its problems.

I doubt Mayor Brad Pettitt actually wants to turn Fremantle into Copenhagen. That would be hard. Rather, Copenhagen does some things well that Fremantle aspires to. It is easier to emulate a good role model than re-invent the wheel.

Copenhagen and Amsterdam are the two poster cities of cycling. They do it well. Amsterdam was not always like this — it used to be car-centric too. Smart decisions were made and things changed.

Fremantle is trying to make the same smart decisions. We should support this.

Suggesting that Copenhagen’s “way of life, culture, clime and landscape” are more supportive of cycling than Fremantle’s is bordering on the ridiculous.

Many Fremantle people ride bicycles — it is part of the culture already.

While determined Copenhageners ride to work in the dark and snow, Fremantle’s climate and geography are perfect for cycling.

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