Protected cycling lanes fast-tracked

By David Schout

The City of Melbourne has aimed to install separated cycling lanes on Queensbridge and Whiteman streets within the next 12 months as it ramps up its bicycle infrastructure pledge.

In a move that further accelerates a “bicycle friendly city” shift, the council announced a network of dedicated lanes that seek to both increase cyclist numbers and maintain rider confidence on the roads.

By July next year, the council is looking to install cycling lanes from the north end of Queensbridge St up to the City Rd intersection.

Further, it will extend the current bike lanes on Normanby Rd into Whiteman St, until the Queensbridge St intersection.

The lanes, if approved by the state government, will be “protected”; that is, will provide cyclists with a physical barrier to motor vehicles.

In the council’s extensive research before the release of last year’s 10-year transport strategy, many current and would-be cyclists reported feeling intimidated on inner-city roads.

“By fast-tracking the delivery of bike lanes on key routes, we’re creating streets that people can feel confident riding along, which in turn will free up space on our roads, buses, trams and trains,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp said.

“Our research shows that it’s essential to create physical protection from motor vehicles to encourage more people to ride in the central city.”

Town Hall had already committed to long-term cycling infrastructure reform prior to now, but the sharp rise in cycling during the COVID-19 shutdown has hastened their plans.

“Riding and walking have increased in popularity during the pandemic. As people return to the city they will want to travel in ways that allow them to maintain physical distance,” Cr Capp said.

“I look forward to seeing lots of Melburnians enjoying our city on bikes – as I do – especially those who’ve taken up riding as a way to stay fit and healthy during the pandemic.”

The upgrades along Queensbridge St and Whiteman St would complement recent council commitments to install protected lanes along Kavanagh St and Southbank Boulevard, the latter of which is aimed to divert cyclists away from the contentious Southbank Promenade.

The new separated bike lanes are currently being installed on Kavanagh St in addition to many new bike lanes already completed along Southbank Boulevard. A new signalised crossing is also planned near the tram stop beneath the Kings Way overpass, which will form part of the cycling connection to Kavanagh St.

The council’s transport portfolio chair Cr Nicolas Frances Gilley said once these works were complete, there would be an uninterrupted network of bike paths along Moray St, Kavanagh St, Southbank Boulevard and north to St Kilda Rd, or east along Linlithgow Ave and the Yarra Trail.

“It’s fantastic to see the protected bike lanes along Kavanagh St starting to take shape,” he said. “The lanes will make it safer and much more enjoyable to ride around Southbank.

“Once the Kavanagh St bike lanes and the crossing under Kings Way are complete, there will be an uninterrupted network of bike paths for people to ride from South Melbourne and Southbank to the heart of the city, or to the eastern suburbs.” 

“The community has had input on the final designs and we’ve had working groups with owners’ corporation members, the Bicycle Network and Southbank Residents’ Association.”

“With six new trees to be planted in Balston Street as part the works, it’s a great outcome for Southbank.”

“Southbank is a thriving tourist and residential area now and is set to boom over the next 15 years, so good cycling infrastructure is critical to maintaining Southbank’s liveability.”

The measures are all aimed at removing more cyclist from the dangerous Southbank Promenade, which was rated in the top 10 scariest cycling spots in Melbourne in a recent survey completed by more than 6000 cyclists.

The BikeSpot survey allowed cyclists to pinpoint dangerous locations within the city on a map, and the vexed stretch of pavement featured as the seventh-worst.

The survey, run by mapping website CrowdSpot and charity the Amy Gillett Foundation, allowed cyclists to not only mark unsafe spots but provide comment, which many did.

By contrast, the separated southbound cycling lane on St Kilda Rd (next to Queen Victoria Gardens) was rated in the top 10 safest.

“It’s awful all the way along Southbank [Promenade],” one responder said. “At 5.30/6pm there are so many bikes going both ways and pedestrians in big groups going out. It’s dangerous for everyone and very stressful cycling along here. Bikes and people need to be separated urgently.”

Last year the council announced that while the Southbank Promenade would continue to be a shared space, it would aim redirect cyclists onto new lanes on Southbank Boulevard.

The Promenade upgrades, which will include new seating and the planting of native trees, were originally planned to begin in 2020, however are now more likely to commence in 2021 •

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