Let's not fool ourselves, the Swanston St super stops are being installed to make trams more accessible to passengers and Swanston St less accessible to motor vehicles.
The near elimination of private and commercial motor vehicles from Swanston St will make it a more pleasant space for pedestrians and cyclists, but the tram stops themselves will do nothing for cyclist–passenger interaction. By design, foot traffic and bikes are on conflicting paths—just like every at other tram stop that doesn't have a safety zone.
Visual cues: misread or faulty?
The super stops lack the usual visual cues that help passengers be aware of other through traffic. At a normal tram stop, the overwhelming visual cue is "road". Passengers can step down in (relative) safety and most people generally cross quickly and directly to the kerb. But at the super stops, the dominant visual cue is something like "train station", and you don't think about through-traffic on a train station platform. This means people wander in all directions and at all different paces, helpful line markings and signage notwithstanding. And (as I have noted previously) the pedestrian-friendly design practically encourages people to walk along rather than across.
More misread cues
It wasn't until today that I realised that the super stops are also signalling the wrong thing to cyclists as well—and as a result some riders believe they have absolute right of way here.
Here's what happened. I was a tram passenger today and at the State Library I noticed a cyclist riding through the stop and past the tram that I was boarding. Normally I'd just shake my head and sigh at such selfishness.
But then the rider shouted at someone for crossing his path to board the tram—a perfectly legal and reasonable thing for a passenger to do. The (usually dormant) angry cyclist in me emerged, leaping to my fellow passenger's defence. A brief heated exchange followed, including these gems:
Treadly&Me: You're supposed to stop when a tram has its doors open.
Selfish Cyclist: The stop is back there.
T&M: No it's not! This is the stop here.
SC: But it says "Keep Clear".
T&M: That's got nothing to do with it. Learn your road rules or walk.
SC: [mumbled swear words]
As you can see, it was a dazzling display of repartee and wit. But the point is that this guy clearly felt that the "Keep Clear" stencils grant riders priority. They don't: Swanston Street is and always will be street. Road safety rules still apply to everyone. This includes the one about stopping behind a tram with its doors open.
But I'm sure my Selfish Cyclist is not the only cyclist who thinks there's something special about the super stops.
"It'll never work…"
We need to adjust our expectations about the new Swanston St tram stops. Stop thinking that this work is being done for "us"—because it's not—then we're much less likely to be disappointed when the new super stops "don't work".
Of course, they aren't going to "work"—at least, not for cyclists. And they were never intended to.