Melbourne’s pop-up bike lane progress may take a step backward

World Bicycle Day celebrations in Melbourne were soured today with the announcement that the rollout of safe, separated pop-up bike lanes in the CBD may be paused.

The call comes after the council caved into opposition from talkback radio, and industry figures such as Victorian Chamber of Commerce.  

The call also comes in spite of an independent transport review, which found that 43% of morning traffic in the Hoddle Grid is through-traffic, cars passing through the city. The link between bike lanes and traffic congestion is simply nonsense.

“A big part of the feedback about bike lanes is that people felt they were taken by surprise,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp told The Age today, “because the city was so empty we took that as the opportunity to do capital works like bike lanes because we wouldn’t cause disruption when people came back. But then when people started coming back they said, ‘Hey, what are these new things?’”.

Councillors will come together at the Future Melbourne Committee meeting on Tuesday, June 7 to make decisions on the pop-up bike lanes.

What do we think?

Needless to say, we believe that, should the council go ahead with this decision, it would be disappointing  and a major setback to bringing the city into the modern and sustainable age, where there is more equity across different transport modes. Indeed, one City of Melbourne Councillor referred to the removal of bike lanes as ‘economic vandalism’.

Perhaps the most unfortunate part is that the argument against these bike lanes is predicated on inconvenience for people driving motor vehicles.

Separated bike lanes are more than just a convenient way for people to get around. Separated bike lanes protect riders from dangerous crashes. What might be a minor prang between two vehicles could be life or death for a person riding a bike. People that ride bikes don’t have a protective shell, seatbelts or airbags. They are, by definition ‘vulnerable’. Pausing the roll-out of safe infrastructure does nothing to ensure the safety of existing riders, let alone new ones.

Another argument missed is the impact more bike riding can have on our city’s carbon footprint. Victoria’s Emission Reduction Targets are currently under consultation. Each person that swaps a motor vehicle trip for a bike trip is providing long-term sustainable and economic benefits for Melbourne. We can’t do this without the facilities that allow new riders to feel safe in doing so.

Morgan Koegel, Senior Campaigner at the Climate Council, told us: "Few people realise that fossil fuel powered transport is the fastest growing source of emissions in Australia, even more so than our household energy and land use."

"Australia needs a national strategy to move away from petrol-guzzling cars to bike-riding, walking and zero-emissions public transport and electric vehicles."Government investment in quality infrastructure, like bike lanes, must be a priority. People need to be empowered with options to ride and walk, or use public transport."Continuing the roll out of a network of connected bike lanes across the Melbourne CBD (and around Australia) is critical to reaching state and national emissions-reductions targets.”

We need to acknowledge that every time a person decides to travel with a bike, that decision has rewards for society: one less car on the road, a reduced transport-related carbon footprint and an economic benefit (for example, through better worker health, less lateness and absenteeism). Riding a bike for transport is where the real societal impact happens.

Other cities and countries across the world have acted on this. Unfortunately, in Melbourne we are facing opposition from conservative figureheads that is preventing us from what is arguably the logical choice.

However, it is not over yet. The decision is yet to be approved by council. There is still a chance to support the city bike lanes.

Let’s speak up about pop-ups

Do you use the city bike lanes? Do you feel like this is an unfair decision? Join us in letting City of Melbourne know your thoughts.

However, let’s not point the finger at council. Let’s not add fire to an already heated debate. We should be telling council that we, as riders, support the lanes. The projects are on pause, but Lord Mayor Sally can’t wait. City of Melbourne wants to deliver these lanes for the community. So we should have their back. Show them that we want these lanes to get around the city safely and more often.

Here are some ways you can get involved:

Write a letter
You can send a letter to the Lord Mayor Sally Capp and show your support for the pop-up bike lanes.

Lord Mayor Sally Capp,
City of Melbourne
GPO Box 1603
Melbourne VIC 3001


Attend the next Future Melbourne Commitee meeting
The next meeting for the Future Melbourne Committee is June 7th. You can make a verbal or written submission, or you can ask a public question.

The council meeting details, including how to register and participate, are here.

Submissions and questions must be in by Tuesday June 7 at 2pm.

Would you like to read more?

There is bountiful evidence that suggests many of the arguments against bike lanes are baseless. Have a look through Bicycle Network’s recent articles.

Melbourne’s bike lanes: A history of misguided opposition
Many of Melbourne’s popular bike lanes were initially met fierce opposition. This is nothing new. The case studies in this article suggest that bike lanes become an accepted part of the landscape with time.

More evidence that bike lanes have minimal impact on congestion
Recent studies by RMIT/Swinburne researchers disprove the common argument that bike lanes cause massive congestion.

‘Bikelash’ for new lanes is only temporary, new study finds
Bike lane opposition is a short term phenomenon, as this recent study shows. Give it time and the nayesayers will get bored and leave.

Infrastructure Victoria defends bike lanes
Infrastructure Victoria, the state’s independent authority on the built environment, have also voiced a strong argument for the bike lanes.

Traders wildly wrong on shopper parking
A recent study demonstrates that traders have misconceptions about the transport mode of their customers, many in the study were not drivers but walkers and riders.