We liked the idea of the stickers that go on rear-vision mirrors of cars, reminding drivers to check before opening their door. It came up as a winner in Bikefest’s Better By Bike competition, but something similar was done by Vicroads a few years earlier, then withdrawn. Vicroads explanation was that “community interest waned”. But we didn’t notice any waning of interest amongst those who use bicycles to get around. Perhaps Vicroads did not see it as important to stimulate community interest.
Now the Victorian Government has announced stickers are back on the agenda, but is it just the easy way out? The State Coroner recommended education and behaviour change campaigns after the death of James Cross due to a car dooring. But the coroner also recommended putting the bike lanes on the kerbside, to the left of the parked cars, as we already have in Swanston St north of Victoria St; in Albert St East Melbourne; in Cecil St South Melbourne; and in Fitzroy St St Kilda.
Meanwhile, last night the Government moved to refer the Greens’ bill on dooring penalties to a Parliamentary Committee. While this delays any increase in the dooring penalty, it does open the possibility for you to send your thoughts to the Committee and ask for safe, separated bike lanes outside the dooring zone.
The government’s press release does not mention any commitment to this type of bike lane, which experience has shown to be both safer and to attract more cycling trips. In Melbourne, evidence for this comes from the oldest kerbside lanes, in Swanston St between Victoria Parade and Grattan St. There, the number of crashes involving bikes has stayed almost constant (one fewer in the three years after the lanes opened compared to the three years before), while the number of bike trips has approximately doubled (based on report to City of Melbourne by their engineering department).
At the coronial inquest, Vicroads professed their support for kerbside lanes, and they have funded some of those constructed on local roads (Vicroads administers “declared” roads while councils maintain the rest — “local” roads). We have yet to see Vicroads build any kerbside lanes on declared roads however, which is where they are most needed — on busy roads with fast-moving traffic. Under Vicroads “smart roads” strategy, many declared roads will be prioritised for motor vehicles, with bicycles marginalised to back-streets. Watch out for the release of the revised “Principal Bike Network” which Vicroads is still preparing.
The Government’s proposed sticker campaign doesn’t even extend to providing stickers to all car owners – they have to come and get them. So it is likely to be ineffective and will probably be quietly shelved by Vicroads when “community interest wanes”.
Don’t let the Government get away with this wishy-washy response to a serious problem. Write Premier Ted Ballieu and tell him we need better bike lanes and more of them — fast. Bike lanes that have a buffer between parked cars and bikes, and on busy roads, bike lanes that are to the left of parked cars.
Premier Ted Ballieu, 1 Treasury Place, Melbourne, VIC 3000