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Blazing Saddles: A lesson from Brisbane

Queensland’s capital city of Brisbane has a population of 2.4 million people, some four times the official figure for Phuket island. Yet driving around Brisbane, as I recently did, you would be forgiven for thinking you were in a quiet country town. The traffic flows efficiently and there’s rarely any bot­tlenecks or congestion with which to con­tend.

By Baz Daniel

Monday 29 April 2019, 11:00AM

Certainly Brisbane has a modern and efficiently-planned system of su­perhighways, dual carriageways, roads and bridges over the Brisbane River, upon which the city stands. To comple­ment its modern infrastructure, this forward-looking city also boasts superb cycle pathways, largely separated from the vehicular roads and traffic, and a new CityCycle scheme.

Brisbane’s cycling initiative is de­signed both for recreational and work-related biking. Of course the key to any successful cycling initiative is not just the convenient availability of rental bikes at reasonable prices, but also the availability of excellent and safe riding tracks, and here Brisbane excels.

The beguiling waterside environ­ment alongside the Brisbane River weaves right through the heart of the city, so that commuters and tourists alike can get to shopping centres, offic­es, cafes, botanical gardens, museums and art galleries quickly, safely and conveniently, and all by bike.

Does that remind you of anywhere else where such an initiative might work? Exactly! Phuket has every op­portunity to capitalise on its island topography and large tourist base to develop a financially successful, com­munity bicycle rental programme, and can learn a great deal from the model that Brisbane has established.

Brisbane has 150 separate locations where CityCycle bikes are available on a 24/7 basis. These dovetail closely with mainstream transportation infrastruc­ture such as bus, rail and ferry sta­tions, plus there are plenty of suburban and downtown car parks encouraging you to leave your vehicle and go by bike.

You can sign up online for a day for as little as B100. You get a code to enter into the computer at the bike docking stations which releases a bike plus helmet for you and away you go. Amazingly, if you use your bike in less than 30-minute intervals throughout the day, you don’t have to pay any more than that. If you become a regular user, you can buy the annual subscrip­tion, giving you the flexibility of City­Cycle any day of the year for B1,800, or about B5 per day.

So, when visiting Brisbane, you can do what I did. Take a bike from near your hotel, ride a river pathway into town, lock the bike into a nearby dock­ing station and enjoy breakfast and the newspapers at a riverside coffee shop. Then, take another bike through the botanical gardens over to the Museum of Contemporary Art (also on the river), dock the bike again and spend a couple of hours browsing the Brett Whiteleys and Sidney Nolans prior to lunch in the museum’s outdoor restaurant. Take yet another bike across the river on a cycle/ footbridge to the free outdoor swim­ming pool on the riverbank, dock the bike and swim, then doze in the sun for an hour. Take a final ride back along the river to the little park by your ho­tel, lock up the bike and sit by the river enjoying a well-deserved sundowner while watching the evening commuters scurry home across the Story Bridge.

I cycled for a total of almost three hours, covering maybe 30 kilometres, and I was out all day. All for the prince­ly sum of B100.

Now, imagine what a wonderful attraction it would be for tourists if Phuket could offer such a bike scheme with attendant cycleways. And imagine how much Phuket’s notorious traffic congestion, mayhem, death, injuries and pollution could be reduced by such a scheme.

Food for thought indeed.

“Bicycling” Baz Daniel fell off his first bicycle aged three... a case of love at first slight. Since then he has spent a further 65 years falling on and off bicycles all over the world, but his passion endures. When not in traction, he found time to become Senior VP of the world's largest advertising and communications group, finally retiring to Phuket in 2006. He has been penning his Blazing Saddles column, chronicling his cycling adventures in Phuket and beyond, since 2013.

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