Melbourne City Council this week has committed unprecedented expenditure on safe cycling infrastructure and footpath widening and improvements, in its strongest ever intervention in favour of transport modal shift.
On Tuesday, Council unanimously agreed to Greens Cr Rohan Leppert’s proposal to build fully physically separated bicycle lanes the length of Exhibition Street. This has been covered in The Age:
Exhibition Street is one of the city’s most dangerous cycling routes – 33 cyclists have been hit by cars or hurt in other incidents on the street in the past five years.
“Councillors have been flooded with submissions with stories of near misses and unsafe conflict on Exhibition Street, and it’s past time that we take this big step forward in making the city safer for all road users,” Cr Leppert said.
The project will cost $2.6 million, plus on-street parking revenue losses of $2.6 million annually once construction commences. This is the single biggest cyclist infrastructure project that the city has pursued since the Manningham St Bridge was constructed as part of the Capital City Trail more than 10 years ago.
Exhibition St proposed typical mid-block treatment. Image: The Age.
On Wednesday, Council’s new draft Transport Strategy was released for public consultation. The draft strategy proposes 50km of on-street bicycle lanes on City of Melbourne roads, and another 40km on State Government roads, within the municipality. It proposes the closure of parts of ‘little streets’ in the Hoddle Grid in the interests of pedestrian safety and efficiency, and the trial of a 30kmh speed limit. It identifies the mass transit projects that will be necessary to facilitate Melbourne’s astonishing population growth.
Nearly a million people visit the central city every day, and only a fraction of these do so by private vehicle. 90% of trips made within the Hoddle Grid are by foot. Yet, despite all of this, road spaces are still 80% devoted to private cars, and footpath congestion is at dangerous levels.
The strategy supports continued use of roads by essential services and private vehicles moving disabled and elderly passengers, and the facilitation of loading and unloading areas for businesses.
On Thursday, Council endorsed its draft 2019-20 budget. The draft budget includes significant expenditure on open space creation ($29m) and active transport improvements ($28m). Exhibition Street lanes endorsed on Tuesday are in addition to the budget’s other bicycle infrastructure commitments, the centrepiece of which is fully physically separated bicycle lanes on William Street. This will create two north-south safe cycling routes at either end of the CBD, and will be coupled with footpath expansions throughout the central city.
The budget includes more than $5 million for upgrades to Southbank Promenade, and the completion of Southbank Boulevard, allowing dedicated commuter cyclist routes on the Boulevard to reduce the conflict between pedestrians and cyclists on the Promenade.
The Greens have pushed for these projects for many years, and it is exciting that we have reached this pivotal political moment where the City of Melbourne is intervening – deliberately and ambitiously – to transform the central city into a safe, convenient and sustainable place for walkers, cyclists and public transport users.