I guess I should have commented on this already, but pedaller's forced my hand—I can't let a Sydneysider have the last word on Melbourne cycling infrastructure! The Age recently reported on a trial of Copenhagen-style segregated bike lanes:
Melbourne is to get its first taste of European-style bike lanes that separate cyclists and car traffic by putting a parking lane between them.
The bike lanes, which will run along either side of Swanston Street from Melbourne University to RMIT, will cost more than $500,000.
This isn't actually news—Bicycle Victoria announced this a year ago (indeed, The Age used the same photo as one that can be seen on BV's web page) and I've mentioned it in passing a few months back. Indeed, the real news in the article appears to be that:
Work on the scheme, aimed at reducing the number of cyclists being hit by cars on that stretch of road, is set to start at the end of the year.
Putting aside the wisdom (or not) of installing bike lanes, it's good to have a city council that is sufficiently aware of the cycle traffic on its streets and supportive enough to provide dedicated facilities. But then there's the question of what those facilities should be and where they should be located. In other words, how best to spend that precious allocation of money.
It seems odd that this particular section of Swanston St has been selected for the treatment: it's a wide stretch of road (in both directions it already has a dedicated tram lane, a generous general traffic lane, a not excessively dangerous bike lane, and a car parking lane). All it really needs is improvements to the surface, which is cracked and frankly a bit dodgy.
Personally I wonder if the money could be better spent putting in entirely new facilities (especially on access routes from the western suburbs) or doing improvement works at spots where it's really needed (e.g. the Yarra Trail under Swan St bridge, although that would probably have to come from a different bucket of money). Judging by the comments on the BV Forums, I'm not the only one with doubts about this.
A specific concern that I have is the swarms of pedestrians that pour off trams at Lincoln Square and Grattan St—they already seem to have trouble seeing approaching cyclists and I doubt that putting the bike lane behind a row of parked cars is going to make bicycles any more visible. I expect there will be an increased the risk of collisions due to unsuspecting pedestrians stepping out from between parked cars.
Then there is the problem of pedestrians using that bike lane as an extension of the footpath, which already happens in front of RMIT University and is likely to become more common when pedestrians are shielded from the motorised traffic by a row of parked cars.
That said, I don't want to dismiss it out of hand. I'm going to remain open-minded about this experiment, and accept that it's a trial (a pretty expensive trial, but there you go). As a trial, I presume there will be adequate evaluation and follow-up before more such lanes are installed, however The Age article makes me think this decision might be a fait accompli:
Under the City of Melbourne's cycling strategy released last week, installation of similar lanes on main cycling roads across the city is likely.
Anyway it's a route that I ride daily, so clearly I'll be very interested to see how it goes.
The BV forums are not restricted to BV members only, so I don't think there's any obligation on the organisation to give particular priority to what's being said there over other sources of information and feedback. That said, the issue appears to have been raised in at least four separate threads since October last year (that is, after the announcement was made):
- Copenhagen-style bike lanes
- Call for Melbourne to copy Copenhagen Model
- Copenhagen-style bike lanes in Melbourne, and most recently
- Copenhagen Treatment
I've got no insight into how Bicycle Victoria developed its position on this initiative but I don't think the membership was canvassed about it specifically. At any rate, BV is clearly strongly supportive of the idea.
as a bike rider who has lived in melbourne most of my life, i have to say these bike lanes are a great idea. I am now living in copenhagen and for the past 8 months had loved using the copenhagen bike lanes. As a bike rider it is so safe, they are well used by locals and in the city we even have our own set of traffic lights. Instead of spending more and more money on freeways and putting in extra lanes in hoddle street l think bike lanes would reduce so much congestion on our roads... i am actually dreading coming home next year trying to tackle the city and brunswick street again after being spoiled here.