VicRoads has re-started its project to reconfigure car-choked Sydney Road through Brunswick and Coburg, again raising hopes that struggling shopping strip can be revitalised.
As part of the Sydney Road Improvement Survey, VicRoads has released a number of concepts for the street seeking public feedback prior to moving to more detailed design.
Some of ideas proposed have been closely examined previously and have been found to provide little benefit.
One concept, option 3 — removing car parking from the street — has great prospects for making the street safer for bike riders, quicker for tram travellers, and enticing for visitors and shoppers.
Since Melbourne's early days this inner suburban strip has served as vital corridor from trams and people on foot and on bikes.
It provided a huge variety of retail, services and hospitality outlets.
But now it is failing: the narrow corridor of asphalt has been asked to do too much, and has been overwhelmed.
It has become a dooring hot-spot for bike riders; on some days trams are crawling at walking pace; merchants, battling the overwhelming competition of online retail, have lost confidence; and the rapidly growing local populace are missing the sense of place, identity and focus that the community needs.
Bicycle Network has been working with VicRoads and other stakeholders over recent years to work towards a new configuration for the street.
Although some interest groups are fiercely protective of car parking on the street, believing it is essential for traders, evidence shows that not only do most shoppers not arrive in the street by car, but that there is plenty of car parking close by for those that do.
It's important to remember that wherever you have car-parking on a narrow shopping street, there will be doorings.
And wherever you have car parking in a narrow tram street, drivers attempting to park will endlessly hold up trams.
A fast tram service is also vital to the future of Sydney Road. It is a vital connection to the massive education and employment precinct in Parkville.
A number of changes to the surrounding environment makes the timing of these changes even more pertinent.
With the densification resulting from development in the former industrial precincts along the Upfield line, trams and bikes will be critically important to the transport needs of local residents.
Accesible tram stop upgrades will force major changes to the street and will provide and opportunity for creative and bold place making in the street.
The level crossings removals project, and other developments along the Upfield line in the coming years, will also inevitably displace bike riders, bringing urgency to the need for changes to make Sydney Road a safer route.
Bicycle Network CEO Craig Richards said that this is an opportunity to transform Sydney Road into a place for people.
“Right now Sydney Road is failing everybody who uses it, and it has to be fixed.
“It’s alarming that Sydney Road remains one of the top five dooring hotspots for people who ride, yet little has changed since the tragic death of Alberto Paulon in 2015.
To revitalize our shopping strips, on-street parking must give way to separated bike lanes, wide footpaths, open space and accessible tram stops," Mr Richards said.
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