The next twelve months will see some major projects in the City of Melbourne. This article summarises these projects and their benefits. This year will see more improvements than the last several years added together. This is happening because City Councillors backed Melbourne BUG's call for a budget of $5 million for bike projects, and the City's engineers came up with an excellent capital works program to make the best use of the funds.
Most exciting of all is the prospect of increasing the number of people using bikes to get around the City as a result of these works. If you are reading this you probably already ride, but isn't it great to think that more people can share the benefits that you already know about? So, what are these projects that are going to get more bike trips and improve things for us all?
Princes Bridge and St Kilda Road
The flagship project is Princes Bridge and St Kilda Road. Bikes are already about 40% of vehicles on Princes Bridge during peak hour. The City plans to make one car lane in each direction into a physically separated bike lane on the bridge. Outbound, the separated lane will go as far as South Bank Boulevard. Inbound, alongside the Art Gallery and Arts Centre, no physical separation, so the design of this stretch still needs to be watched. (We wrote about this in our "media watch" section recently). This part of St Kilda Road has been identified as a "bike black spot" for several years, and at last big steps are planned to fix it. Another benefit is the restoration of wide footpaths on both sides of the bridge to pedestrians – we won't need the segregated footpath and it will be removed. South of South Bank Boulevard needs separated lanes as well, and we eagerly await completion of the St Kilda Road master plan, currently being worked on by the City.
La Trobe Street
The other big project is La Trobe Street – physically separated lanes along the entire street from Spencer Street to Spring Street. So many connections are made that we can start to see the beginnings of a connected network – where you can travel on good facilities all the way. At the western end, La Trobe Street crosses down to Docklands over the bridge. Other connections include the William St bike lanes, Swanston Street, Rathdowne Street and proposed part time (peak hour) clearway lanes in Exhibition Street (that's another project this year). There will eventually be a connection east to the Albert Street lanes, but this is pending a few other issues including sorting out the bus route, so we hope this connection can be made in the following year's projects. The BUG believes that no solution will be found to the lack of a route down Nicholson Street and instead a bike path should go through the Carlton Gardens from the corner of La Trobe, Spring and Victoria Streets, up the center to the big fountain, around the front of the Exhibition Buildings (this area is used by motor vehicles already) and then up to Canning Street. Council is still holding the line against bikes in the Gardens, but we don't see any better solution. We are also proposing to connect La Trobe Street to Albert Street via the top part of Spring Street and to complete the Albert Street lanes through to Spring Street.
Mentioned above are the part-time (peak hour) bike lanes for Exhibition Street. These are still being designed, so watch this space for details as the proposal is developed. It will be critical to stop cars from parking in the bike lanes if they are to work safely. Coming in from (e.g.) Rathdowne Street or from the Yarra River via the toll bridge, you will be able to use the peak hour bike lane to get into the City.
Another important project is in Elizabeth Street between the Haymarket roundabout and Victoria Street. This is the wide part of Elizabeth Street which can well afford space for good quality bike lanes. The outbound lanes (up the hill) will be physically separated, kerbside lanes (excellent) but the current proposal for inbound lanes is on the dangerous side of the parked cars. The issue seems to be that Council is not willing to use a red arrow to regulate left-turning cars at Queensberry Street and Victoria Street to allow bikes to go straight ahead with safety. You can see a partial example of this "red arrow on left" already in action if you travel south down Elizabeth Street and watch at the corner with Victoria Street. Council just needs to extend this idea to protect cyclists and pedestrians from turning traffic, leaving plenty of time for left turns to happen during the period when the reverse direction (right turn into Elizabeth Street) is controlled by green arrows.
Other projects include improvements in Clarendon Street East Melbourne (to the existing bike lanes); along the Yarra downstream of Web Bridge towards Fishermen's Bend; connecting the separated lanes in Cecil St South Melbourne across the tram lines to join the existing shared path that follows the Port Melbourne tram line and improvements to the connection between St Kilda Road and the Yarra (southbank) path behind the boat sheds area.
So these are very good projects and will be money well spent. Hopefully the resulting increase in cycling numbers will encourage the City and importantly the State Government to join up more gaps in the network. Roads like Flemington Road, Royal Parade, Grattan Street, Flinders Street, Spencer Street and the Clarendon Street bridge all need to be brought into the safe bike network. Have we missed any in that list? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.