Key bike lane projects to start this year

David Schout

The installation of protected bike lanes on Arden St and Macaulay Rd will begin before the end of 2022 after the City of Melbourne confirmed the projects were in their final stages of approval.

As bike lanes re-emerged as the city’s hot topic in June, councillors endorsed the prioritised delivery of protected cycle paths outside of the CBD for the 2022-23 financial year.

The council’s director of city strategy Sophie Handley confirmed that both the Arden St project (which will run from Wreckyn St to Moonee Ponds Creek) and Macaulay Rd (from Arden St to Eastwood St) were “in their final stages of design” and were awaiting approval from the Department of Transport.

Subject to that approval, shovels were expected to be in the ground before Christmas.

Both projects, which are on “high value routes”, are set to feature kerbside protected bike lanes that, crucially, will separate bike riders from motor traffic.

Physical barriers have been proven to both increase the confidence of current cyclists, and improve the chances of would-be cyclists getting on two wheels.

While the move was a welcome update for local cyclists based north of the CBD, the decision to defer the installation of bike lanes inside the Hoddle Grid for the next 12 months drew an indignant response from Melbourne’s cycling community.

Protesters gathered at the front of Melbourne Town Hall prior to a June 7 Future Melbourne Committee, and the relevant motion drew more than 1000 public responses.

Several submitters spoke publicly at the meeting, either in-person or via video link, with almost across-the-board praise for the council’s rollout to date.

Many spoke of an improved confidence travelling to and from the CBD on their bikes as a result of the lanes, and warned that any halt to the rollout would set a dangerous precedent.

At what turned into a marathon five-hour meeting, councillors voted in favour of pausing the CBD rollout following two years of “accelerated delivery”.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said the move would give people a chance to adjust to having the bike lanes in the city, and a chance to look at some of the issues raised by business owners and delivery vehicles about how it has affected their work.

An amended motion, voted for by 10 of 11 councillors, specified that the deferral would be restricted to the 2022-23 financial year only.

There was some confusion prior to, and during, the meeting about the nature of the motion.

Some pro-cycling supporters assumed it had meant a municipality-wide halt on the installation of bike lanes, while others — perhaps swayed by disingenuous reports — had even feared the city might remove some lanes and revert them to vehicular access.

The reality, however, was that the council’s budgeted $4 million allocation for bike lanes within the next 12 months would still be spent, merely outside the Hoddle Grid (the area bound by Flinders, Spencer, La Trobe and Spring streets).

The installation of key CBD bike lane projects to come — including on Flinders St — were still some way off being ready for approval, and the council had not (as was assumed by some) called a halt to works.

A report from management released five days prior to the meeting noting the “deferral” of the rollout in the CBD had set off a chain reaction of events.

“[It] generated the perception that the council had a raft of Hoddle Grid projects ready to go and for political reasons we would ‘defer’ them. Not so. Our significant shovel-ready projects are outside the Grid,” Cr Rohan Leppert Tweeted after the meeting.

The Lord Mayor noted an all-round communications failure at the conclusion of the meeting.

“As misleading as the headlines have been, as confusing as some of our own wording might have been, this motion this evening — and voting in favour of it — represents a balanced approach to safe access to and around our city for all modes of transport and the work that needs to continue to achieve that.”

Cr Leppert said, “the optics have been shocking.”

“Where this stupid episode all went wrong is when City of Melbourne thought it would be a good idea to sell the non-delivery of new bike lanes in the Hoddle Grid for a year as a ‘deferral’. That happened on Thursday, The Age headline didn’t help, and outrage followed,” he Tweeted following the meeting.

“The report before us noted the economic boon that cyclists bring to the city, and that bike lanes are busting congestion, moving people from cars to bikes. The recommendation to pause Hoddle Grid bike lanes for a year was not supported by the data and arguments in that report.”

The move to pause the CBD rollout irrespectively represented a strategic shift and was an admission from management that the rollout had perhaps been too-much-too-soon in Melbourne’s epicentre. •

Like us on Facebook