More than 100 nabbed in Southbank Promenade blitz

By David Schout

A three-week police operation on Southbank Promenade saw more than 100 cyclists and scooter riders fined in a safety crackdown on the busy strip.

Long regarded as a risky shared space, Victoria Police launched “Operation River Run” on February 24 to target those travelling at dangerous speeds.

A total of 45 cyclists and scooter riders were charged on summons for travelling more than 23km/h in the busy thoroughfare, a charge that involves a court appearance and fine of up to $1652.

Speed wasn’t the only issue throughout the operation, however, as 33 people were also charged for not wearing a helmet while riding a bike or a scooter.

A further nine were issued infringements for riding an unregistered motor vehicle (eight scooters and one skateboard), while seven people were nabbed for using a mobile phone while riding.

More than 500 warnings were handed out throughout the three-week period, and Southbank Acting Senior Sergeant Brett Sidebottom said it had been a worthwhile exercise.

“We had the opportunity to engage with many people as part of this operation – commuters and local residents who use a range of transport methods including cycling, scooters and walking,” Senior Sergeant Sidebottom said.

“We know the majority of people using the space are trying to do so safely, however there were a small amount of people blatantly doing the wrong thing who were penalised or now face charges to be heard at court.”

“Given the overwhelming and positive feedback we received as part of the operation we will continue to conduct regular patrols and activities in the area to ensure both pedestrians and cyclists remain safe.”

At the start of the operation, Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said the $1652 fine was “extraordinary” and questioned its timing.

“It’s more than three times the amount of some drink driving fines,” he said.

“There are rarely incidents between people riding and people walking at Southbank Promenade. The timing of this blitz is hard to understand as it’s still very quiet there.”

The City of Melbourne has said Southbank Promenade would remain a shared space, although it would encourage cyclists to utilise soon-to-be-completed alternative routes.

“We are aware of conflicts between pedestrians and people riding bikes on Southbank Promenade and are currently delivering an alternative cycling route,” Cr Capp told Southbank News last month.

“We have delivered protected bike lanes on Linlithgow Avenue and Southbank Boulevard and will complete works on Alexandra Avenue to link this route to the Main Yarra Trail. Once it has been completed, we will encourage cyclists to use the new route rather than using Southbank Promenade.”

“We’re also planning additional bike lanes along Queensbridge St, Whiteman St and Flinders St in the future to provide alternatives to riding along the promenade.”

In 2019 the council announced a $5.1 million upgrade to Southbank Promenade, which has not had a major upgrade in more than 25 years. The project — which included new seating, native trees, garden beds and bluestone pavement — was put on hold last year, and its start date is now unknown •

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