Less than 1km of bike lanes delivered in last year as rollout languishes
New council figures showed its rollout of protected bike lanes was falling well short of promises.
The City of Melbourne delivered just 700 metres of new protected bike lanes in the past 12 months, as its “fast-tracked” program struggled to keep up with lofty projections.
Despite proposing 11km of new lanes across the municipality in the 2022-23 financial year, small projects on Princes Bridge in Southbank (300 metres) and Albert St in East Melbourne (400 metres) were the only lanes completed.
The council had committed to delivering physically separated lanes in the last 12 months on key corridors including Arden St, Macaulay Rd, Grattan St and Royal Parade. However these projects were “carried forward” to this financial year, with the council’s list of delayed cycling infrastructure growing by the month.
In February 2020, after declaring a “Climate and Biodiversity Emergency”, the council said it would deliver 44km of protected lanes in four years rather than the 10 years it had initially planned for.
And while the ambitious goal appeared on track when the council delivered 11.7km of lanes in 2020-21 – aided by quiet city streets during COVID-19 lockdowns – the rollout has languished considerably since.
In 2021-22 it delivered just 4.9kms of new lanes and, with less than 1km delivered during the past 12 months, was yet to reach the halfway stage of its much-publicised goal, which has been used as proof of its commitment to cyclists and the environment.
The results, revealed in the council’s latest budget papers after Greens councillor Rohan Leppert pushed for further details surrounding bike lane funding, showed it was not delivering on its pledge.
“The proof of the pudding is there in the last three pages – unfortunately we’ve only managed to build 700 metres of separated physical cycling infrastructure this financial year,” he said on June 27.
The council did not comment as to why only 700 metres of lanes had been completed in the last 12 months, or whether its bike lanes goals would be revised, in questions put forward by North West City News.
It is understood unspent funds allocated to bike lanes in 2022-23 would be carried over, meaning the allocation to install protected lanes would rise to more than $7 million in 2023-24, rather than $4 million designated in the latest budget.
In June 2022 councillors controversially voted to pause the installation of bike lanes within the Hoddle Grid for the entire 2022-23 financial year.
The move drew a significant public response, particularly from the cycling community who believed the council was wavering on its bike lane message.
But the council denied these claims, and said the “pause” would allow it to focus on delivering protected lanes to the area immediately north of the CBD, including on Arden St, Macaulay Rd, Grattan St and Royal Parade.
However, these key projects are yet to commence, and the council has indicated it was being hampered by the state government.
“We planned to progress the delivery of these three bike lane projects in 2022–23, however, the Department of Transport and Planning has not yet provided approval,” it noted in its latest budget response.
The Department did not respond to questions as to why those projects were yet to be approved.
Cycling advocacy groups were reluctant to criticise the council for the bike lane delays, and said blame also needed to be apportioned to the state government.
Spokesperson for Bike Melbourne Nicholas Dow said the “important point” was that the council funding for delayed projects was carried over and not lost.
While the council was set to fall well short of their 44km goal by mid-2024, it was not something the group was concerned about.
“It was ambitious, but we don’t complain about ambition. The more the better,” Mr Dow said.
Of course, we’re disappointed things haven’t gone faster. But the council is doing their best to get those projects out the door as soon as they can.
Bicycle Network CEO Alison McCormack was also willing to cut the council some slack.
“The City of Melbourne has a big job in front of it to deliver on the promise of its ambitious plans for transport in central Melbourne, and it can’t afford to dally,” she said.
“We accept that infrastructure projects have recently faced challenges from shortages of materials and professional staff that have pushed schedules out of shape.”
“But looking ahead we are optimistic that Lord Mayor Sally Capp and her team are committed and capable of getting these vital projects up to speed and delivering on their promises.”
“Bicycle Network continues to provide input to the council’s active transport planning and we believe Melbourne’s bike riders have much to look forward to once these projects become a reality—hopefully sooner than later.”
Notably, the council has committed to installing 4km of protected lanes along the entire length of Flinders St (from Siddeley St to Spring St) by June 2024, a project Cr Leppert has termed “the biggest and most complicated road reconfiguration we will see in this term of council”.
Detailed designs for this project were due to be revealed by June 30, however this had also been delayed. •