Cycling in Melbourne Australia
Hi Melbourne Cyclists, a quick self-introduction.
I write a fortnightly blog for Fairfax Media on cycling, which you may have seen on The Age website.
I've been a member of the Sydney Cyclist website pretty much since it began (I think I was member #51 or the like). Although I live in Sydney, my blog goes out nationally, so I try to keep the topics broad and the examples general.
I'm busy lining up a blog on dodgy cycling infrastructure. This has partly been spurred by several emails to me of late, especially from pedestrians, saying "I walk along xx street and there's a nice cycle path there that the cyclists don't use".
It's my contention that bad cycling infrastructure is merely a cause of further friction between cyclists, motorists and pedestrians, who tend to fight with each other about it rather than tackle the authorities.
One commenter in particular mentioned Harbour Esplanade, Docklands, between Bourke & LaTrobe Streets. I've since been told by a cyclist that the problem with that path is that there are "rumble strips" on the surface that make it annoying to ride on. Can anyone confirm?
One clear example of bad infrastructure would be the favourite bike "lane" in the door zone, but I have written on that one before and want to cast the net wider.
But do you have any ideas and examples?
I'm also hoping to run a picture gallery, so, two ways you can facilitate that if you're interested:
1. Give me a good map reference of said woefulness, or even a google map link, and I can check it out via Google street view if that's current, or maybe try line up a pic of it.
2. If you have pictures of bike infrastructure woefulness in Melbourne you can mail them to me, but I should at the outset that I will not be able to pay for them. So, your call.
Weigh in here, email me (onyourbikeblog at gmail dot com), looking forward to your views.
Browse through any of mine in
My current challenge, as it has been every winter for the last ten years, is negotiating the following http://www.flickr.com/photos/47322737@N00/4908411943/in/photolist-8...
I commute from the south eastern suburbs to the CBD in Melbourne via the Anniversaly Trail, Gardiner's Creek Trail, and Main Yarra Trail, my 2 cents on "poor infrastructure":
Southbank is just a plain disaster zone. I hate to see the statistics the number of pedestrian/bike incidents, and there are certainly plenty of riders who don't help the problem with excessive speed. Crazily busy mix at peak hour. What is the status of the mooted 'Northbank' dedicated bike lane (on pontoons)? Budget probably reallocated to the new East-West tunnel link.....
The Docklands rumble strips are a very minor inconvenience, and are there for a good reason; to slow /alert cyclists to the pedestrian crossings. Again, enough idiots on bikes who decide to cut in front of pedestrians already crossing these crossings, though of course equal number of pedestrians who cross away from the crossings without looking..... I'm pretty happy to actually have a wide dedicated bike path, with plenty of visibility to see in advance straying pedestrians. Sorry, but there are far larger and more significant bike issues than those rumble strips; try hauling your bike/bike seat/child or bike/trailer/kids up the Gipps Street Stairs on the Capital City trail......
(not my photos, but just FYI):
Michael's article today in the Age, with (obviously) a fair Sydney slant:
Ups and downs: the only way to get onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge bike lane. Photo: Dean Sewell
There's nothing as disappointing as cycling infrastructure - often expensive or space-consuming - that's not being used by cyclists.
Firstly, it confounds the non-cycling population, especially if people on bikes are riding next to the infrastructure. "What's the point," the non-cyclist may ponder, "spending my taxes on stuff that just gets ignored?"
The same unused facilities can be even more frustrating for those who are cyclists, because in many cases there is a reason the bike amenities aren't being used. Often, they're just not user-friendly, or are so poorly designed they're downright dangerous.
I've compiled a shortlist of key fails for cycling infrastructure. If you get around a bit on a bicycle, it's likely you will have seen some, if not all, of the following classes of shonky construction. And if you don't cycle much, maybe these explanations will help you see things through the eyes of a two-wheeler.
Bike lanes in "door zones"
I'm repeating myself a bit here, because I've written on the door zone of death before. But this problem cannot be overstated – running a line of white paint next to a line of parked cars is asking cyclists to risk injury and death. And when cyclists wisely stay out of a door-zone lane, motorists often see this behaviour as selfish and illegal. But councils just keep building them.
The disappearing bike lane
So, you're riding along in a nicely demarcated lane, with no doors liable to be flung open in your path. Then the road narrows, or you reach a pinch point, or there is a zone for parking. Without warning, the lane disappears and you're squeezed into a lane of fast-moving cars. Rather than protect cyclists when road conditions change, many bike lanes simply sacrifice the safety of cyclists first.
Stairways (not to heaven)
It's true that some people cycle for exercise. Others cycle simply to get around. But no one should have to take part in a cyclo-cross unless they sign up for one. In Australia's most famous example, thousands of cyclists push their bikes up several flights of stairs every day to cross the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Ongoing campaigns for a better solution have come to nought. Imagine if motorists had to get out and push their cars through the toll gates?
Shared use of scarce space
Mostly, cyclists and pedestrians can get along, and why shouldn't they? In the event of a collision, both are at risk of being hurt. But things get tricky in commuter zones that are packed with people using both forms of locomotion. Often, these areas have been designated as "shared use" as an easy, cheap alternative to proper infrastructure. When things go wrong, pedestrians and cyclists spend their energy arguing with each other. Instead, we should rather unite to demand better facilities.
Obstacles and obstructions
Examples would include poles in the middle of a path, bus shelters you have to squeeze around, temporary signage that blocks the way, "rumble strips" designed to slow you down even though it's a bicycle-only lane, and minuscule ramps that feed on and off footpaths. Fine for trundling along while shepherding a three-year-old on training wheels; not so great if you're actually trying to get somewhere.
If it takes twice as long to use the dedicated cycle path, confident cyclists are just going to use the street. There have been ongoing frustrations with the cycle ways in Sydney (conceived by the city council but designed and built by the Roads and Maritime Services), which often leave riders stranded at the lights. Or how about the five minutes it can take a law-abiding cyclist to cross this intersection?
It's great that more cycling infrastructure is being built – such as the new dedicated lane over Melbourne's Princes Bridge. Catering for bicycles is a sensible and cost-effective thing to do that will serve us well in the future. As Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pointed out recently, a cyclists who commutes 20 minutes to and from work saves the economy $21 a day.
Going by car, meanwhile, does nothing but cost the economy, and the few hundred dollars spent on annual registration (excluding CTP or TAC insurance) hardly offsets the billions spent on road construction and maintenance every year.
But it's a pity when money is wasted on ill-conceived bicycle facilities. A little consultation with local cycling groups could go a long way towards creating infrastructure we are all keen to use.
Do you battle with bad infrastructure in your area? Have you ever campaigned for improvements?
Many thanks for the feedback and pictures (big props to Adrian) - really helps me to get a more national perspective.
I've been following the Princes Bridge saga with interest, hope that common sense prevails despite the noise and posturing.
BTW if you didn't already, give the link a click. It sounds self-serving, but more traffic to cycling articles helps me to write and promote more articles on cycling.
I agree - we definitely need to see more coverage of cycling.
Possibly a topic for a future article for you is about the fact that there are few or no celebrity or leadership supporters of cycling as a means of transport. Wouldn't it be nice is Robert Doyle actually used the Princes bridge bike lane himself? (OK, if his route doesn't go that way, I would be happy enough for him to be visible somewhere else riding to work.)
How many business leaders regularly cycle to work? What about other well-known personalities? It would be interesting to put few prominent people on the spot! Surely you don't need a Toorak tractor to get into the CBD?
My whole ride from Oakleigh to work on Dandenong Frankston Rd is a joke. I have to ride up North Rd towards Huntingdale Station where there is NO bike lane. Dismount the bike and walk through the underpass to access the bike lane on the other side of the station. This bike lane has zero markings all the way to Clayton and runs behind factories just after Huntingdale station where there are NO lights and in the morning is pitch black, I run 3 lights on the front of my bike just to combat this one section.
I then follow the bike path to Carinish ST and follow that till it gets to Centre RD and then onto Rayhur ST, the bike infrastructure ended at Clayton Station. Half way down Rayhur I jump to the other side of the train tracks and take back streets all the way from Westall Station to Springvale Station as here also there is NO bike infrastructure.
The bike lane starts again at Springvale Station along Lightwood RD and runs to Heatherton Rd roundabout Noble Park where it stops again. I keep going straight following the train tracks past Noble Park Station following Douglas ST where one of the worst Pinch points exists as it goes over a storm drain. I finally make it to Yarraman Station where I can access the Eastlink Trail which takes me to Dandenong Bypass and then Hammond RD. I use Hammond RD because in Dandenong Council's ultimate wisdom they have never put a bike lane down Dandenong Frankston RD so I have to battle the trucks and tradies down Hammond RD because Dandy Frangers RD is a Death Wish waiting to happen.
I am lucky that I travel to work the opposite direction to the traffic so until I hit Hammond RD it can be very light but after numerous complaint letters to all councils involved including their facebook pages i always receive the same answer, it's somebody else's problem.
Pardon the convoluted answer but like I said, my whole commute is an Infrastructure disaster.
Shepherd's bridge has to feature in any "rogue's gallery" of bad cycling infrastructure.
The shared pathway that snakes along the Webb bridge is another example.
I have assembled some stuff at http://www.crapcyclelanesofmelbourne.blogspot.com.au/ . I tend to return to older postings and add updates to them, rather than changing the dates in urgent-blogger style.