Southbank Boulevard proposal

Melbourne City Council is proposing significant changes to Southbank Boulevard (behind the Arts Centre). This is in line, supposedly, with similar work they've been doing for City Road and a new Bicycle Strategy. These are all long-term plans and are presently far from concrete.

But this is interesting. City Rd and the Bicycle Strategy make explicit mention about what types of cycling infrastructure is to be developed. In particular, the City Rd plans make reference to an East-West bicycle corridor which includes 'Copenhagen style' separated lanes on City Road up to Balston Street which runs perpendicular to City Road. Cyclists are thus expected to take a network of back streets all the way through to Southbank Boulevard and to Linlithgow Avenue where a bi-direction 'shared path' operates (see below).

This is far from ideal. While it may be a challenge to fit cycle lanes on City Road, the idea that cyclists should be diverted from their ideal destination (which may very well be on City Road!) in the interest of safety and then put on an already crowded and poorly marked 'shared path' is not a very good outcome.

Here is what City Road currently looks like (near the cnr of Southbank Boulevard where bikes will be discouraged):

There are no plans to remove the car parking along the street. Most of the treatments along City Road are of small-scale and involve, for instance, removing slip lanes. These plans can be found here. City Road is not intended as a so-called 'destination street' whereby there are outdoor cafe patios and cars travel at 40 km/hr. It is a mobility street and necessarily so. But this mobility seems only to extend to cars and trucks. Indeed, many trucks which cannot fit into the Burnley Tunnel use this as a bypass to later use the Monash Freeway.

Why not remove the little on-street parking that exists here and turn it into a bicycle lane, as is proposed for the western section of City Road? This would benefit traffic as it would eliminate the delays caused by parallel parking (and the occasional failed first try) as well as provide a direct and thorough route through to the main Yarra trail. It would be a fantastic alternative to both the crowded and dangerous Southbank promenade walk (with its dawdling pedestrians forcing cyclists to weave in and out - a dangerous situation indeed) and the plan by Melbourne City Council which has cyclists stopping at multiple intersections and cross roads to get to the main Yarra Trail on the other side of St. Kilda Road.

Perhaps the most egregious part of this plan for City Road is the assumption that Lilithgow Avenue is in any way suitable for cyclists. As you can see (shown below), it is far from it. And having a shared path repeats the same mistakes that were made at the Southbank Boulevard - merely shifting the risk of colliding with vehicles to a risk of colliding with pedestrians.

If the relevant authorities were fair-dinkum about prioritising needed through traffic for trucks then there would be a special lane allocated to them. And also a cycle lane for those cyclists who have destinations along City Road or in adjacent streets. Linlithgow avenue could be a good cycle route - perhaps addressed by removing car parking here and replacing that space with a bicycle lane. But there are far more car parking spaces to be lost here than at City Road. City Road, however, may also lose a car lane which makes the decision a challenging one. Nobody is looking at car parking fees, densities and turnover rates or spillover/cruising effects so a proper CBA of either/or Linlithgow or City Roads cannot be properly undertaken.

A good step in the right direction but plenty more to do.