Equipment and On Road Behaviour, Laws and Rules. Cycling Promotion and Advocacy
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Just thought I'd share a letter I just send to the City of Melbourne/City of Yarra/Vicroads. If anyone feels similarly, please make your views known to the powers that be!
Recently I have started cycling to work, from Hawthorn to Williamstown. And every trip is same – the journey from Hawthorn to the City, mostly along Victoria Rd/Pde is dangerous, frequently impeded by traffic and virtually free of any cycling lanes, and as a consequence I’m one of the few who brave the trip. But from the city to Williamstown the ride is a sheer joy, with plenty of dedicated bike paths, and a consequence, I would typically pass at least 100 other cyclists (nearly all going towards the city, as would be expected). While I have tried to use Albert St (that runs parallel to Victoria St), which does have good bicycle lanes in parts, it’s not sufficiently better to be worth the detour (for a start, there seem to be more traffic light changes, and the wait to cross Hoddle St seems interminable). Victoria St/Pde is the only convenient thoroughfare for many people needing to travel from east to west past (or to/from) the city (for example, my partner works in Footscray, and has tried almost every route possible), and it hardly needs to pointed out frequently suffers from considerable congestion. There’s little reason to think such congestion is going to decrease – unless current car drivers can be persuaded to use other forms of transport. Encouraging them on to bicycles would seem to me to be a no brainer – e.g. a number of cities in Europe (most famously Copenhagen) have successfully managed to significantly reduce traffic by this means. The addition of safe and dedicated bike paths to this route would be a huge step forward for Melbourne, and I’ve no doubt that within 10 years they would be as popular as those on the west of Melbourne, removing countless cars from congested roads in the process.
I'm all for more bike infrastructure, so good on you for writing to the council, but frankly unless one takes the view that every road should have a bike lane I think it's reasonable that Victoria Pde doesn't. Other than the two freeways it is probably the primary road serving the city from the east, and is always really busy.
As you note in your letter there is already a parallel road just one block south that has had lots of money thrown at it for bike riders (FWIW I'm not a fan of Copenhagen lanes, but that's another discussion). I don't think I've ever ridden along Albert St during peak hour, but unless it is chockers with cyclists I don't think there's much of an argument for suggesting changes to Victoria Pde which might further slow down cars.
Frankly for every cyclist who rides from the eastern suburbs deep into the west there must be at least 100, and probably more, who head for the CBD or nearby (St Kilda Road, Melb Uni, etc) and whilst that doesn't help you much, it's not unreasonable that at this point in time bike infrastructure is primarily designed to service those riders.
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But it's purely getting into (and well, past) the city that's the issue - once you reach the western edge of the city, there's plenty of bike routes (some are even rather overdone, e.g. Hyde St through Yarraville has a parallel "sidewalk"-style bike path AND a good on-road bike lane). And apparently at least there is some sort of plan to assist getting from the east to the west side of the city, via bike lanes along Latrobe St (which is fine - I'm happy using Elizabeth/Albert St, if I can then cross through the city along Latrobe to get to Footscray Rd. But the plan is a year off and by then my office will have moved). However there are all sorts of reasons why Victoria St/Pde is often the only suitable road for getting into/out of the city if you live out east, and it would be my argument that unless you want to explicitly ban bicycles from a particular road (and provide a reasonable alternative), then a basic minimum of steps should be taken to ensure that drivers are aware that bicycles use the road too.
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