Council looks to solve “really difficult” Queens Bridge traffic issues

David Schout

Queensbridge St is Melbourne’s most-complained about thoroughfare since the introduction of separated bike lanes, and the City of Melbourne has proposed ways to ensure a smoother traffic flow across the river.

Congestion has risen on the prominent street, which connects the Hoddle Grid with Southbank, since the introduction of the cycling lanes which saw motor vehicle access cut from two lanes each way down to one.

The average daily volume of commuters travelling northbound has now more than doubled compared with 2018, which the council said was a double-edge sword.

“Community feedback has included concern about traffic congestion and appreciation for the safer bike lanes,” a recent case study reported.

Bike usage on Queensbridge St has gone up a whopping 186 per cent compared with the pre-COVID baseline, with safer infrastructure attracting new riders.

However, the street, which is also a prominent tram and bus route, has seen congestion sharply rise because of the changed conditions.

It was a prominent case study within the council’s recent Transport Strategy 2030 update — an item that received significant attention at the June 7 Future Melbourne Committee meeting due to the now-enacted proposal to pause the bike lane rollout within the CBD for 12 months.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said prior to the meeting that the street was the biggest source of discontent, as it was experiencing congestion particularly during the afternoon peak.

“I think the biggest focus has been Queens Bridge,” she told ABC radio.

“And that is a really difficult challenge in our transport network because we’re not looking to expand Queens Bridge, in fact we can’t because of the narrowness of the laneways that it goes into on the Southbank side, but also the spaghetti junction that exists (at William St into Queensbridge St).”

To alleviate congestion and improve the flow of traffic onto Queens Bridge, the council was now considering introducing a southbound dedicated bus lane in the southern portion of Queen St in the CBD.

It hoped that this, along with signs advising drivers of changed conditions ahead, would have the effect of dispersing southbound traffic onto King St (an arterial road) sooner, and provide a smoother flow from the Hoddle Grid to Southbank.

“[It is about] identifying some streets as really being there for public transport and bike lane prioritisation,” Cr Capp explained.

“Cars can still travel there, but we’re saying that if you’re in a hurry, think about Kings Way, think about Spencer St into Clarendon [St] where cars are prioritised. This is a way of sharing transport modes around the city — they can’t all fit at maximum rates on every single road.”

The Queens Bridge upgrades completed in June 2021 saw protected cycling lanes installed both north-bound into the Hoddle Grid and south-bound into Southbank.

Prior to the installation, the council said the intersection at Flinders St into Queensbridge St was “known by cyclists as a tricky spot to navigate” and they were “proud to make it safer”.

Queens Bridge itself was determined to be the preferred river crossing connecting south of the city, rather than Clarendon St which is identified as a main traffic route.

The council has said that while there were “a substantial number of complaints” about the bike lanes initially, “this has reduced”.

Cr Capp said there were no plans to remove or change the new bike lanes on Queens Bridge. •

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