The City of Stirling encompasses 30 suburbs that cover approximately 104 square kilometres to the North of Perth’s Central Business District (CBD) and, in 2016, was home to 219,981 people, making it the most populous Local Government Area (LGA) in Western Australia.
In 2013, the City of Stirling published their Climate Change Adaptation Plan in which it was stated that the LGA will be most vulnerable to the effects of “sea-level rise, increasing temperatures, reduced rainfall and infiltration, and increased frequency and intensity of storms”.
Instead of merely adopting adaptational measures to deal with the effects of these risks, the City of Stirling has chosen to actively address the LGAs contribution to climate change and reliance on fossil fuels. An important element in the LGA’s efforts to mitigate climate change and increase their resilience has involved encouraging people within the City of Stirling to rethink their transportation choices. This has seen the increasing prioritisation of infrastructure that discourages the use of private cars in favour of a new normal in which walking, cycling, public transport or multimodal methods are favoured. It is posed that by increasing the adoption of these alternate transportation methods, emission and congestion levels in the City will fall and a greater sense of place will be fostered in areas that were formerly made inhospitable by high volumes of traffic. The long term economic rationality of such transportation modes is highlighted by the City, with observations that decreasing global oil supplies will raise fuel prices to a level that will force some people to seek alternative options.
An interviewee noted that there had been particular effort expended by the City of Stirling to inspire more people to view cycling as their main mode of transportation in the LGA. This has seen the creation of an Integrated Cycling Strategy which includes the development of a comprehensive network that people can ride on throughout the city, the preferential status of cyclists over other vehicles, educational programs, increased signage and hundreds of parking areas in which bicycles can be safely stored. The strategy details how the first stage of development will centre around three train stations on the Joondalup line, maximising the potential for the adoption of multimodal transport options. In an indication of the City’s changing priorities, cycling has become an important consideration within redevelopment strategies in Stirling, including the Herdsman Glendalough Integrated Transport Plan, the Scarborough Beach Road Activity Corridor plan and the reimagination of Moorland street.
According to the Integrated Cycling Strategy, for a bicycle route to be considered complete, it must incorporate four principles:
Continuity (connectivity); Functionality (level of service); Legibility (a clearly visible route including signage and way-marking where necessary) and Conflict Resolution (removal of point or persistent conflicts along the route wherever possible)
With such factors in mind, transformational outcomes are being sought by the City of Stirling, with an aim to double the number of active cyclists in the LGA by 2020, 5 years after the adoption of the strategy. A specific goal is outlined In the Herdsman Glendalough Integrated Transport Plan, with the authors aiming for 32% of all traffic to be made up of cyclists and pedestrians through the application of a European style mode sharing experience.
The Integrated Cycling Strategy acknowledges that there are barriers within the City of Stirling that discourage people from adopting cycling as a means of transport, with the majority related to sharing the road with a large volume of traffic. Scarborough Beach road is highlighted as a particularly problematic space, catering to a high volume of vehicles and lacking the infrastructure needed for the safe accommodation of cyclists and pedestrians. The inherent issues produced by such a dynamic have led the City of Stirling to begin reimagining the use and meaning of areas that are currently dominated by fast moving traffic.
Instead, the City is increasingly moving towards the creation of spaces that prioritise people over vehicles, with the aim of fostering a more community centric atmosphere due. This is intended to complement the ongoing development of further shared and dedicated cycling paths in the City. This style of development was highlighted by an interviewee who cited the creation of self-explaining roads in the City, streetscapes narrowed and interspersed with trees to encourage motorists to abide by slower speed limits. Not only does this make the area safer for pedestrians and cyclists, it contributes to the City’s efforts to increase the tree cover and increase aesthetic appeal. However, as the Integrated Cycling Strategy states, the most important change that needs to occur for cyclists to be safe on the road is attitudinal, with the acceptance of that they are equally entitled road users. As an interviewee contended, the creation of such a precinct signals the direction in which the City is moving.
The City of Stirling’s moves to encourage the adoption of cycling as a more sustainable transport option also has economic benefits for the LGA, with an interviewee noting that the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure for bicycles is far lower than the equivalent for cars. Both an interviewee and the Integrated Cycling Strategy observe the benefits that increased cycling will illicit as populations increase, with one car parking space having the capacity to fit 8 to 12 bicycles, vastly increasing the efficiency of land as the demands it faces rise.
The push to integrate cycling as a primary transportation method has led to moves aimed at strengthening relationships between the City of Stirling and other stakeholders. This has involved the LGA and employers jointly encouraging people to ride to work and consulting with developers on the inclusion of bicycle parking in new shopping centres. The City has implemented policies that require developments to provide bicycle parking once they reach 400 square metres of gross floor area, with schools expected to provide spaces on a per student basis. The safety, security and convenience of these areas is mandated to ensure that they make a useful, positive contribution. Secure bicycle storage has also been made available at transport hubs by the Public Transport Authority, with ticket discounts available for those who ride to train stations.
Throughout the development of such plans, the City has endeavoured to ensure that informed decisions are made, with an interviewee noting that experts in climate change have been brought before Council to ensure a deep level of understanding. However, this interviewee acknowledged that the wide-ranging effects of climate change have made it difficult to determine which areas should be afforded the most resources.
Many of the recommendations in the City’s Integrated Cycling Strategy highlight the importance of cooperation with and action on behalf of other branches of Australian government. This is particularly the case in regard to the State government, with the City advocating changes that this branch could make to traffic signals, speed limits (both for drivers and cyclists) and the collection of more detailed accident data. According to the City’s Integrated Transport Strategy, meaningful change can only be enacted if the relationships between local and State government are positive and productive.
The City of Stirling’s community members are important actors in the creation, adoption and development of such initiatives, with both the Integrated Cycling Strategy and an interviewee noting that consultations and workshops are undertaken to increase people’s awareness, allow feedback and ease implementation. When considering the introduction of self-explaining roads, an interviewee explained how the City set up a marquee, created a display to explain the concept and encouraged small groups of people to take part in an interactive activity that allowed them to have a say in the future layout of the Innaloo precinct. Such efforts act to empower community members, allowing them to have their concerns heard and addressed in a forum that encourages knowledge sharing.
In the City of Stirling’s Integrated Cycling Strategy there is an acknowledgment that the development of a cohesive, fully formed cycling network will take time. However, the achievement of these alternate transport goals will make long term contributions to the City’s resilience and sustainability as well as the wellbeing of the community.