The DCE visits Melbourne

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Last week, The Dutch Cycling Embassy visited Melbourne after visiting the APCC in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Via a contact in the Netherlands, the DCE got in touch with a Dutch entrepreneur in Melbourne. This entrepreneur, Thijs van der Heijden, recently started a company called E-Stralian which allows employees to lease a bike with tax reduction in order to stimulate cycling in Melbourne. On Sunday, Thijs showed Mirjam and Edward Melbourne by e-bike. This was a great way to get the feeling of the city, to highlight some of the best cycling conditions and to show some examples which could use some improvements.

The tour led through different areas of Melbourne, ranging from developing regions to upcoming regions and from beachfront to industrial places. It was quite interesting to see what choices were made and how cycling infrastructure was put in place from time to time. Thijs provided e-bikes so the DCE could reach the rest of the meetings during the days in Melbourne by e-bike.

On Monday, the program started with a presentation/roundtable meeting with VicRoads. VicRoads is the road authority of the state Victoria. Currently, VicRoads is paying more and more attention to cycling. However, VicRoads is still facing a lot of challenges on their way to making Melbourne a cycling friendly place. It was good to discuss these challenges together and to provide examples of best practices both from The Netherlands and from the rest of the world.

The second meeting on Monday was a lunch meeting with Bicycle Network. Bicycle Network started as the advocacy organization for cycling in Melbourne, but recently they opened an office in Tasmania as well and shifted their focus towards cycling advocacy on a national level. Their organization employs +/- 50 people, which are for the largest part working from the office space in Melbourne CBD.

During lunch, the issues with cycling in Melbourne were discussed, just as the organizations active in cycling in Melbourne. After the lunch meeting, we were given the opportunity to address the team of Bicycle Network with a presentation on the Dutch Cycling Embassy and some of the developments around the world.

In the late afternoon, a meeting with Metro Melbourne Rail Authority (MMRA) was held. MMRA is the Victorian Government Body responsible for the delivery of a newly planned Metro tunnel and an upgrade of the ‘Ballarat-line’, a railway line between Melbourne and Ballarat.

The newly planned tunnel underneath Melbourne will put a lot of extra pressure on the already heavily used roads and public transport system. As a result, MMRA is investigating alternatives such as cycling to invest in to deal with the foreseen mobility problems. The MMRA showed particular interest in improving the combination of bike and Public Transportation, as this is currently quite poor.

Tuesday was used to catch up with people and organizations, such as RPS Group, Monash University, and Cycling Promotion Fund. It was useful to discuss the opportunities and challenges with these organizations while being there.

The last meeting was on Wednesday morning, shortly before flying out back to the Netherlands, with the staff of the Chief Resilience Officer in Melbourne. The Chief Resilience Officer is the executive officer of the Resilient Cities Program in his or her city. This program, issued by the Rockefeller Foundation focuses on achieving better cities worldwide.

One of the topics of the Resilient cities program in Melbourne is creating a bicycle network in the metropolitan region of Melbourne. Considering the clear link with cycling within the program, it was good to get to know more about this program!

Even though the visit was very short, it was good to get a brief impression of the cycling conditions and potential in Melbourne.

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