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Wyndham council's race to the CBD shows cyclists are on a winner

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Aisha Dow

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Commuters take the Wyndham challenge

Guess who won a peak-hour race involving bicycles, buses, cars and trains all trying to get to the city from public transport-starved Werribee.

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It is quicker to charter a boat from Melbourne's western suburbs to the CBD than it is to hop in your car and attempt to brave the crush of the West Gate Freeway.

On Wednesday morning the Wyndham City Council held a race into Federation Square, pitting motorists, cyclists and public transport users against each other. But even the council did not expect these results.

Despite having to travel more than 30 kilometres, the cyclists came out ahead, zipping well ahead of the cars as they groaned along the Princes Highway. They also beat the commuters who had taken a bus to their local railway station.

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''I didn't think that would happen,'' said cyclist Joe Patamisi, who made it to Federation Square from Tarneit in just over an hour.

''It's probably a bit embarrassing that we can have somebody [on a bike] beating public transport or even a car into town over 30 kilometres.''

The race was organised by the council to raise awareness of the urgent need for multibillion-dollar investment in growth suburb transport projects. At 7.30am more than a dozen teams set off from different points in the municipality bound for Federation Square. Each travelled up to 40 kilometres by car, bus, train, boat or a mixture of two modes of transport.

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At 8am on the Werribee line, the peak-hour train was already packed down the aisles, with passengers forced to suck in their stomachs as more filed in.

But, despite the uncomfortable state of affairs, these sardines knew they could have it worse.

Looking to their right out of the train window, they could see hundreds of cars creeping painfully slowly towards the West Gate Bridge, their brake lights glowing.

Joe Patamisi.

Joe Patamisi. Photo: Jason South

Wyndham councillor Peter Maynard said a quarter of the almost 200,000 people who live within the municipality spent more than two hours in their car each day. ''That equates to about 20 days driving a year.''

On Wednesday it took Cr Maynard's team more than 90 minutes to travel just over 27 kilometres from Point Cook, averaging a speed of about 17 kilometres an hour.

''I suppose at times you could have walked faster than you were driving. In fact for the first 10 to 15 kilometres, [the driver] Marie didn't get out of second gear,'' he said.

The first competitors to roll into Federation Square on Wednesday were two women who had ridden from Point Cook and Tarneit to their nearest railway station before travelling the rest of the way on public transport. Their journey took a little under an hour.

Just 10 minutes later, they were followed by two men who cycled the entire way on their bikes, beating two Labor MPs who travelled on the Werribee train line.

The cars were still nowhere to be seen when at 8.43am a speedboat came up the Yarra River and pulled up at a nearby wharf, following a picturesque journey from the Werribee South boat ramp.

Passenger David Fragapane had gleefully snapped photos of the West Gate Bridge, choked with trucks and cars, as they passed.

In the end it took the race's wooden-spoon winner one hour and 41 minutes to make his way by car from Tarneit to Federation Square, a return trip of more than three hours.

So why even bother?

Wyndham Mayor Bob Fairclough said that many outer suburbs in the west had indirect and infrequent bus connections to railway stations. Also, he said it was very difficult to get a car park at many of the stations by the time peak hour hit.

Cr Fairclough said a relatively small investment in more frequent trains and direct bus services from the suburbs to the train stations could make a big difference.

“What this race proves is when the public transport system is working it’s great, but when there is an accident on the West Gate Freeway it really is gridlock conditions,” he said.

The mayor said he also hoped the results would encourage more to consider cycling to work, though he acknowledged even this faster and healthier option was “no picnic”.

244 comments

  • I think this proves that money needs to be spent on improving cycling paths into the city. When you buy into these areas, you know you're also signing up for a car- dependent lifestyle. These people need options.

    Commenter
    Michelle
    Date and time
    April 03, 2014, 6:06AM
    • What about all the extra time the cyclist will spend at work getting unchanged, having a shower (which probably doesn't exist unless you work for a big company), getting dressed in your work clothes (which somehow magically appear at your workplace, because you can't carry a suit on your bike) and finding somewhere to store their stinky, sweaty bike clothes?

      Also, what happens when it rains? Give me the comfort, security and ease of an SUV any day!

      Commenter
      Simon
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:22AM
    • Now imagine if just a fraction of the roads budget were directed to making the bike infrastructure decent and safe. Even more cyclist would leave their car at home. This would improve congestion on the roads so canceling the need for hugely expensive and pointless road expansion. Every time you see a cyclist on the road, say "hail to thee dude/dudette your saving me money!"

      Commenter
      Janek
      Location
      Yarraville
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:28AM
    • What this proves is that we must get those thousands of city bound commuters off the freeways and into the trains but to do that we need many, many more train services. And the only way to do that is to fix the bottleneck in the railway system with the Metro Tunnel, which should be the absolute number one transport priority in Melbourne right now.

      The East West will only make inner city road conditions worse by dumping thousands more cars onto the gridlocked inner city roads.

      Commenter
      Jim
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:32AM
    • I don't think the outcome of this study should be that we need more bike paths (tho they are most welcome) but what exactly are our town planners doing???

      Blind freddy can see the developers are making their money building houses out to the west of Melbourne as far as the eye can see and what did they think was going to happen with all these people?

      Developers either need to wait for infrastructure to be in place or provide it as part of building these urban deserts...our city planning processes seem to be completely non-existent...that is the issue that needs to be addressed which may mean more bike paths, better public transport (bus lanes anyone?) and eventually roads...

      Commenter
      Greenscreeer
      Location
      Geelong
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:34AM
    • @Simon. What it also proves is that these knuckleheads just don't think. The simple fact is that cycling, in a city this big is always going to be impractical for the majority of people. I just wish cyclists would understand this - it is not a credible alternative. Factoring in the 2 young, the old, the unfit (there are people who no matter what you do will remain unfit), the ill, the dissabled, people going further than 'just the city', people who also do chores during the day (such an pick up shopping) and your not left with too many people cycling and able to change to a bike.
      Plus I can guarantee most of those driving are not going from Werribee to the CBD - they will be going in various directions once they get to the city, they could be going to Glen Waverley. Thats the problem with research, it does not think. It assumes vehicle A gets on therefore vehicle A will only be getting off in the CBD.

      Commenter
      Andrew
      Location
      Elsternwick
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:44AM
    • Simon - hopefully bike riders are not the only people having a shower each day. The fact they have it at end of journey rather than the start like you doesn't make it take any longer. Most major buildings have showers in them and they also have lockers to put your suit in so you don't bring it in every day.

      Commenter
      KG
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:46AM
    • Simon, when i drive to work I still shower... At home though before my drive. Takes me the same 20 minutes it takes to shower at work.. So myth busted. About the clothes, you could drive them in to work, x at a time and then you get to ride x days without worrying about your clothes. The rain one is a bit trickier, i tend to drive when it rains and usually traffic is heavier.

      Commenter
      Cyclist
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:57AM
    • @Simon

      "What about all the extra time the cyclist will spend at work getting unchanged, having a shower (which probably doesn't exist unless you work for a big company), getting dressed in your work clothes"

      It goes without saying that you need facilities to be able to do this, so it goes without saying that every new office building and every building refurbishment should include them.

      It's funny, every time I see this objection to the time comparisons, I remember my husband being out the door in five minutes, on his bike, into work, then spent the same time showering and getting dressed as the others did at home. He arrived at his desk much fresher than those cooped up in crowded trains and cars, in which the drivers sometimes smoked.

      Commenter
      bornagirl
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 10:58AM
    • @Simon: So are you saying you don't have a shower at home before climbing into your petrol guzzling SUV? You just get up and go to work? I hope you naturally smell of pleasant things in that case.

      As for clothing... There's these awesome inventions called bags? I'm sure you've heard of them. They come in a variety of sizes, forms and you can either carry it on your back or attach it to a rack on your bike. Just today I filled my pannier bag with a change of clothes and a small bag that has my wallet, phone and other things in it. Even better, yesterday I even put in a pair of knee high boots!! Amazing I know!

      You can carry a suit to work. There's a purpose made bag that allows this without creasing - it rolls up and you sling it over one shoulder.

      So Simon, you really need to come up with some better arguments. All riding to work requires is a small degree of organisation. There's loads of gear out there that makes it a much more pleasant commuting experience than being stuck in traffic in a petrol guzzling, polluting metal coffin.

      Commenter
      lauren
      Date and time
      April 03, 2014, 11:02AM

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