The St Kilda Road bike lane project has taken an unexpected turn with news this week that the bikes lanes will be along the kerbs for about a kilometre through the Anzac Station precinct.
The previously announced concept for the future bike lane configuration of the grand boulevard envisaged the bike facility down the middle of the road alongside the trams, with the motor traffic in the side lanes.
One reason was to avoid the conflict caused by the fact that most of the car traffic turns off to the left of St Kilda Road while most of the bikes go straight ahead.
The new design stage for the roads in the station precinct is about the get underway, and Bicycle Network will be keen to learn how conflicts and delays will be avoided if bikes are kerbside of the traffic.
It is not yet known why the switch was made, or by whom.
The project is being undertaken by Rail Projects Victoria (RPV) and their contractors Cross Yarra Partnership (CYP).
The announcement by Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan blind-sided those who had been working closely with the government over a number of years to develop the future St Kilda Road bike facility.
The announcement describes a fully accessible tram super-stop sitting in the middle of the road, connecting passengers to the underground station below.
"To keep cyclists safely separated from other traffic, ‘Copenhagen’, or protected kerbside bike lanes, will be built on St Kilda Road in each direction between Dorcas Street and Toorak Road,” the announcement says.
"Cyclists will be able to ride two abreast, protected from the risk of car dooring by a one-metre wide concrete separator. Parking spaces will be built alongside the concrete separator, next to two traffic lanes.”
"The new layout will be safer for cyclists by physically separating them from traffic, also keeping pedestrians safer as they get on and off trams at what will be one of the city’s busiest tram stops in the centre of the road – with fewer lanes to cross when heading to and from Anzac Station."
Getting bikes to and from a centre road facility to the kerbside lanes in the station precinct will be an interesting challenge.
While kerbside separated bike lanes are successfully used in Melbourne and around the world, they can’t effectively be deployed on streets with large numbers of driveways or busy laneways. There are numerous such crossings on sections of St Kilda Road.
However if and when the switch across, and the left turn conflicts are eventually handled, it is essential that bike riders along the street are not stalled by interminable traffic signal delays while motor traffic whooshes by unhindered.
The very idea of building major strategic cycling corridors across Melbourne is to provide safe and convenient trips that are time-competitive with other modes.
Curiously, it has also been announced that Major Road Projects Victoria is preparing a business case that will provide options for safe cycle lanes along the broader St Kilda Road corridor.
"Further planning is underway that will provide options for safe cycle lanes along the rest of the St Kilda Road corridor, leveraging the new separated lanes delivered by the City of Melbourne.”
Actually, these plans and business cases have already been done. More than once. Now that we have multiple agencies—RPV, MRPV, DoT—all with an oar in the water, there is increased risk of muddled accountability and delay.
More information should emerge later this year when an updated Development Plan for the precinct will be released for public comment.