Recently I’ve taken up cycling. Up until a few months ago I had been a casual jogger. I would go for a jog three times each week. I would run 5kms with each outing but then my ankle decided it didn’t want to go running any more. So, I bought a cheap bicycle from a local department store. I’m no spring chicken but understand the need for regular exercise for both physical and mental wellbeing.
I haven’t ridden a bike for about ten years. I gave up before when I felt intimidated by cars on local roads but I had no option. I’d had gym memberships in the past but wanted something I could do at a low cost. Cycling was my last resort.
So, what have I discovered as a cyclist?
There are Now Defined Cycleways or Lanes
The existence of defined lanes for cycles on many roads is fantastic. While most are a retrofit it adds to the confidence I needed to embark on cycling. Changes in local legislation meaning cars have to keep a metre away from a cyclist also help.
But the big problem is that these cycleways are often afterthoughts. Roads are designed for motor vehicles not cyclists. Some of these cycle lanes are still a bit “dicey” but it is an improvement.
A major improvement has been the existence of shared pathways or, in some cases, cycleways. I’m not an elite athlete and I don’t necessarily require to ride on the road. The increased number of these shared pathways and cycleways makes life a lot easier for casual riders like myself.
The Things You See
As a cyclist, runner or pedestrian there are a number of things you see that you don’t really take in as a driver. As a person trained in Safer by Design or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) there is a tendency to do a quick safety audit on the areas I’m walking, running or cycling through. After all I want to stay safe. And there are a number of things I notice, many that could be improved. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
What is CPTED or Safety by Design?
It’s pretty simple really. To quote from the International CPTED Association “… (CPTED) is a multi-disciplinary approach of crime prevention that uses urban and architectural design and the management of built and natural environments. CPTED strategies aim to reduce victimization, deter offender decisions that precede criminal acts, and build a sense of community among inhabitants so they can gain territorial control of areas, reduce crime, and minimize fear of crime.” In short, CPTED is about designing an area so that the opportunity for criminal behaviour is minimised. It also includes the priority to build community as a strategy.
I’m not an Urban Designer or Development Planner but I do see areas that are poorly designed and planned without what appear to be any reference to CPTED principles.
This is one of the things I see frequently. There are many sub divisions or residential developments where CPTED would appear to be a final consideration. From my observation, as a cyclist, these are those subdivisions that are rambling in nature with many long streets ending in cul-de-sacs. While a cul-de-sac can be a safe place as you can easily observe your neighbours when they are at the end of a long street, they create problems. They are hard to navigate around and are a real problem for emergency services trying to find a location. It is even worse when there is poor signage. They also make it difficult for pedestrians trying to get quickly to a chosen destination.
I see these all the time. Many are the result of poor design described above. If people live at the end of one of these lengthy cul-de-sac’s pathways are created between properties so pedestrians don’t need to walk around the world to get to a location. It is not the presence of these pathways that is the issue, but their design. It almost appears as if many are designed as an afterthought or so the developer doesn’t lose valuable residential land to pedestrian access. The result is a pathway that goes between high fences and with no lighting or CCTV. Thee are some I wouldn’t walk down in the daylight, let alone at night.
The additional problem with many of these pathways is that they create an easy escape route for someone who has committed a crime, making it hard for Police to pursue them.
This is an issue that really should have not arisen. It is something that could have been dealt with at the design stage. But if CPTED and safety is not a high priority then it probably wasn’t considered at all.
There are cycleways and pathways that go into rainforest with no way for a pedestrian to view who or what is up ahead. There are shared pathways between gullies and ravines on one side and high fences on the other. These are locations where it would be easy for someone to become trapped between two groups of people considering criminal actions. Again, these safety issues should have been considered in the design phase.
It isn’t just poor design noticed as a pedestrian or cyclist but risky practices by residents.
I live in a city that has, anecdotally, a high crime rate, particularly youth crime. It astounds me as to some of the practices of residents that increases the risk of crime. I’m not saying that people are deliberately putting themselves and property at risk but behaviours where if people knew more about CPTED they wouldn’t do. For example, the number of houses where the garage door is left up or part way up with no one observable in the vicinity of the garage. This provides opportunity for a person considering a property crime to enter the garage. It is even worse if keys are left on a key hook or bench. Once a property has been entered by a person contemplating a crime it is easy for them to take keys, that are in plain site and steal a car. A simple practice. Leave the garage door down when you are not in the vicinity and store keys out of sight.
Tools or items left in the front yard. This is careless behaviour. Again, this just provides an invitation for a criminal to either steal the item or use it to gain forceable entry to your property.
There are so many things that can be done to create a safe environment. There are two things I particularly want to underline from my cycling observations:
The first one is for people to be considered in the design phase. This doesn’t mean only considering how people could find the quickest route somewhere but considering how to keep them safe.
The second main thing is something we can all do. That is to consider how small actions can make our property and ourselves safe. It isn’t hard to do.