Thanks baudman for yet again creating a really interesting thread, and thanks to the other contributors (especially Barefoot) for turning it into a very rewarding read.
Perhaps I can offer some observations from my professional perspective (as well as that of recreational and commuting cyclist).
baudman: Southbank and Docklands were instigated and carried out by agencies under the auspices of the state government rather than the City of Melbourne.
Egate: this is intended to be a carbon-neutral precinct. Now, while "carbon-neutral" is not necessarily an absolute term, it indicates the approach to the design of the precinct, and attitudes towards the consumption of energy. Clearly cycling would need to be a part of that matrix. What is interesting (and this ties into other comments about integration versus individual council ad-hoc approaches) is that the effectiveness of cycling as a strategy will not only be influenced by how cycling is treated within the precinct, but how that cycle network can then integrate into the broader community. Given that the "Footscray Road cycling boulevard" is the southern boundary of Egate, it will be interesting to see how the work done in Egate starts to influence the broader cycle network. In my experience it is often these sorts o projects which seed an influence far wider than the physical boundaries of the site. In other words an integration approach can very well result from an ad-hoc process.
In relation to the value of carparks for apartments, if developers didn't have to build them they wouldn't. As wagger says, they would rather build an apartment to sell- naturally! (although having said that carspaces are often located where apartments can't be). However multiunit residential development is very different from commercial development in relation to car parking, due essentially to the nature of financing of residential projects (see next paragraph). Firstly, before the GFC hit, developers of residential projects generally needed to sell approximately 60% of apartments in a development before financiers would be prepared to financially underwrite the project. These days it is more like 90%, often 100%. What that means is that the number of carspaces provided is quite fine-tuned to a mediation between statutory requirements and market expectations. Secondly, in the early days of apartments developments, carspaces would be included as part of the purchase price- in other words they were essentially "free". Once apartments became an accepted mode of living in Australia, that carrot was no longer needed, and a more sensible regime fell into place: the carspaces needed to be purchased over and above the purchase price of the apartments. The minimum number of carspaces required is set by the council. It used to be that the required "marketing number" of carspaces exceeded that required by councils, but these days that, pleasingly enough, is not necessarily the case. That minimum number is based on ratios which are then modified by proximity to public transport and the like. So the value of an apartment is not so tightly related to car parking, as generally there are enough within the minimum number to cater for those who want more spaces, and those who want fewer.
The real problem with parking is commercial buildings, in which car numbers are again set by council ratios. These can be quite high: a typical ratio used to be 3.5 cars per 100m2 of office floor. What that meant was that for every 100m2 of office built, there needed to be an equivalent area of car parking built. These days the ratios are reduced, but even so the amount of car parking that has to be built is extraordinary. There are a few problems associated with that. Firstly, if there is car parking at the building, that is an encouragement to drive rather than seek other forms of transport. Secondly, it is a great expense (monetary and energy) to create a "dead" form of building- the carpark. Thirdly, we are probably at the peak of individual car usage, which means that as car use declines in the future, we will have these redundant buildings.
Weg, your comment in relation to that was pretty spot-on. Much of the debate about car parking results from residents in single houses jealously protecting their annexation of the street for their private parking while forcing all new development to provide off-street parking. Of course, naturally enough (and I mean that seriously) they don't see it that way.
AndrewB: Often in subdivisions you will see streets without footpaths. Those aren't meant to be "second-rate" by neglecting to add footpaths; rather they are intended to use space more efficiently by reducing the amount of space taken up by vehicular circulation. If by doing so we can make the speed of cars slower, that creates a better pedestrian and cycling environment. The older approach of having wide roads with kerbs and associated footpaths does little to slow car speeds. Mixing cars, cycles and pedestrians, allied with a "roughening" of the road surface, has the effect of slowing car speeds dramatically. The Dutch call these "woonerfs". (Incidentally I was in a meeting at a key land development agency in Canberra yesterday, looking at their computer file structure being projected onto the wall as they searched for a particular file, and one of their folders was labelled "Woonerfs", indicating the level of interest int hat approach to road design.)
A smaller proportion of road area also means a lesser "heat island" effect from solar radiation, resulting in cooler local environmental conditions in summer.
Peter, residential development not only have to have bicycle parking, but they often need to have "green transport plans" as well, which describe for purchasers and residents green travel options for that development. However these are not necessarily seen by the developers as annoyances- often they are embraced. In one development I was associated with every apartment purchased came with a bicycle.
And I enjoyed Yehuda...
getting older but still enjoying cycling