Getting into the cyclist mindset
A council engineer once said that cyclists were like water – give them a path and they’ll flow down it.
There has been some resistance, however, to diversions to the Yarra Capital City Trail to avoid the riverbank.
Two months ago, a sign went up by the Swan Street Bridge saying, “Try the new Southbank bike route.”
The sign gives helpful distances to William St, Crown Casino, South Melbourne and Docklands.
During a day of monitoring cyclist behaviour in June, Southbank News did not see one rider opt for this deviation off the main Yarra Trail and the small sample interviewed was sceptical.
“I ride through just after 6am to the city,” one commuter told Southbank News. “There’s no-one around.”
Emma, the commuter, moved to Richmond so she could ride to the city along the river. She’s a working mum and her time is precious.
At the beginning of July an even bigger sign went up that was more commanding: “Use new bike route”. Emma continued to ignore it. Are cyclists bloody-minded or doesn’t the alternative route shape up?
The “new” Southbank bike route was completed at the time work began on the riverbank beneath Hamer Hall, which narrows the footpath down to a width of about one metre.
This area in front of the Saké restaurant has become a bottleneck and cyclists are advised to dismount.
In the interests of safety, Southbank News has followed the new alternative and assessed it in terms of viability from the point of view of a cyclist in a hurry.
The Southbank bike route turns off at the Swan Street Bridge, crosses City Rd then follows a new section running beside the Tan to link up with Linlithgow Avenue.
This is a major improvement. Previously cyclists were forced to ride on the soft, gritty surface of the Tan or brave the traffic of City Rd.
The trail then follows Lithgow Avenue, crosses St Kilda Rd then links up with the track on Southbank Boulevard.
This section is finally complete, with the council having wrested the space out of the hands of construction sites.
No self-respecting cyclist would have ventured down Southbank Boulevard in the past with the nightmare of criss-crossing, temporary tracks that have dominated the area beyond Sturt St for quite some time.
The diversion then follows Southbank Boulevard down to Queensbridge Square on the river, thus cutting out the busy section in front of Southgate and Riverside Quay.
Is it a viable alternative? Yes, if you are heading towards Docklands and want to stop off at a gallery on the way.
No, if you’re a commuter to the city, because of the waiting time at the three major intersections on Southbank Boulevard between St Kilda Rd and the river. •