Oct 242017
 

The Masterplan

St Kilda Rd is divided along most of its length between City of Port Phillip (CoPP) and City of Melbourne (CoM). St. Kilda Road is the main commuter route for people who ride bikes from the south eastern suburbs into the city, with over 3000 cyclists per day. It is the second most dangerous street for cyclists in Melbourne, with 174 crashes between 2006 and 2015. There is a narrow bicycle lane, with ‘car dooring’ a major concern on this route.

For about 10 years now a masterplan has been in preparation by CoM, CoPP has been working hard to get safe bike lanes and VicRoads has done the preparatory work to make it happen.

History

Current St Kilda Rd bikelanes: 

The masterplan has never reached the stage of a draft for public comment, but has always included protected bike lanes. About eight years ago, this was leaked to the media who door-stopped the then roads minister (now treasurer of Victoria) Tim Pallas about the idea. His off-the-cuff reaction was to reject safe bikelanes in favour of “easing congestion” for cars. The masterplan then gathered dust for about four years before the Balieu Government was elected in 2010 and indicated they were willing to take a fresh look at St Kilda Rd. City of Port Phillip, City of Melbourne and Local liberal member Clem Newtown-Brown pushed hard for safe bicycle lanes on St Kilda Road.

After forming government in 2014 Labor promised to investigate protected bicycle lanes. During construction of the Domain Station, motor traffic in St Kilda Road is constrained, creating a once in a lifetime opportunity to construct safe bike lanes while traffic levels are low. VicRoads spent six months and over $300,000 investigating options for protected bicycle lanes. The study outcomes haven’t been released but Vicroads has looked at protected lanes in the centre of St Kilda Rd, adjacent to the tram tracks.  This time it was the Premier who was asked on talkback radio and replied “we won’t be having any of that”. Although the project hasn’t been officially cancelled, the Premier’s comment makes progress unlikely.  City of Port Phillip stated http://www.portphillip.vic.gov.au/apr-2017-media_6957.htm that they would prefer footpath adjacent protected lanes.

Centre-of-road Lanes

No details are known for the design of centre-of-road lanes. If done well with effective separation from cars, with controlled turns at all intersections to remove conflict with motor vehicles, centre-of-road lanes would be much better than the current door-zone lanes. We believe however that a superior option exists which should be considered. Please read on and give us your comments below.

Melboune BUG’s proposal

Melbourne BUG’s proposal is for bike lanes adjacent to the footpath, with a buffer between bikes and cars provided by the nature strip (grass and trees) as well as the car-parking lane. This is possible because the trees in St Kilda Rd are old and due to be replaced, so new trees can be located closer to the centre of the road. Putting a protected lane in the usual position, next to the kerb, is problematic owing to the large number of driveways, so while the current door-zone lane hides bikes from cars leaving driveways, a kerbside lane will hide bikes from cars leaving the road. Putting the lane next to the footpath, with effective delineation to deter pedestrian ingress, will create space for a car to wait out of the traffic lane before or after crossing the footpath and bikelane. Cars will cross the bike lane at right angles, with good visibility. The footpath and bikelane could be raised to present “piano keys” to cars, slowing them on the approach.

Locating the bike lane adjacent to the footpath recognises that bike riders are vulnerable road users, more similar to pedestrians than to cars. Whilst the current users of St Kilda Rd might include many who are commuting into the City, we know that most people will only cycle short distances. They aren’t doing it at the moment because they don’t feel safe, but provided with safe lanes they will be more likely to. Using a bike to access addresses along St Kilda Rd will be encouraged by these lanes. Centre-of-road lanes are possible in a small number of roads in Melbourne. Changing driver behaviour will be more successful if road layouts are well understood and predictable. Making St Kilda Rd different to 99.9% of Melbourne’s roads is not ideal.

Dockless Share Bikes

The emergence of dockless bikeshare will also encourage short trips by bicycle. The huge success of these bikes is a game-changing opportunity to take cycling mainstream. Massive uptake of share bikes will make short trips by bike common and an attractive way to get to nearby destinations.

We believe that focusing on what current cyclists want is only part of the story, and there are many people not currently using bikes who will find ubiquitous dockless sharebikes very convenient. We base this forecast on the experience of other cities as well as Melbourne’s experience so far.

 A centre-of-road lane works against short trips by making it harder to access mid-block destinations.

Trams

Trams on St Kilda Rd will continue to dominate movement for longer trips but share bikes could take over for short trips. Also, surprisingly, trams can’t cope with the load against the peak direction, as anyone trying to get into the City in the evening peak would know. Imagine watching full trams bypass your stop, and seeing a share bike sitting on the nature strip next to the safe bike lane.

Evaluate both options

Our position is that government should evaluate both options with costed designs for each and public debate about their relative merits.

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 Posted by at 11:12 am

  10 Responses to “St Kilda Road”

  1. This would be a good outcome, but I think it will be difficult to get support for removing so many mature trees. Perhaps a staged plan would work, where we begin with a usual Copenhagen lane (bike lane protected by parked cars and a curb) and as the trees need to be replaced, put in your design (bike lanes protected by trees).

    Another concern that I had with the centre-lanes was that cyclists leaving or arriving mid-block will find it difficult to safely and conveniently access these lanes. I don’t think this risk has been modelled by the designers.

    Julie Clutterbuck (president, Port Phillip BUG)

    • Agree, CoM had previously told us that moving trees is possible because they prefer to replace groups of trees at one time to create even-aged stands. CoPP more problematic because they replace individual trees.

      Given CoM practice of replacing e.g. a block at a time, the new lanes could go in a block at a time, the tree replacement isn’t caused by the bike lane and the bike lane waits on the trees. A temporary protected lane in the meantime is a good idea as it could be implemented cheaply and as a bonus would provide some stats on relative crash risks.

      CoPP has to decide whether to keep to their tree policy or vary it in order to achieve their aim of avoiding centre-of-road lanes. Replacing the trees one-at-a-time makes our proposal impossible regardless of waiting on tree replacement. One way to reconcile these conflicting policies would be to leave gaps when an old tree needs to be removed, don’t replace it. Ultimately when most of the old trees are gone, the new configuration can be installed with new trees planted.

      Thanks for making the point about local “mid-block” access, which is perhaps not clear enough in the article, although it is a big part of why we are proposing footpath-adjacent lanes.

  2. I hope something gets done, not just for St Kilda Rd (but look north of the city, and it’s wasteland as well….Sadly, this is just ongoing bureaucracy at it’s finest. Uptake for any improvements in infrastructure for bikes will always be slow because there is no cost recovery in place (unlike highways and tolls, arterial roads and car registration etc). It will take many hundreds more accidents and dare I say, fatalities before any real notice is given. The whole St Kilda Rd pass is a death trap, right up from the bike lane straddling between St Kilda Rd and Queens Rd at the south end junction to the dooring zone that is prevalent across so many arterial road bike lanes…. Engineering madness!!. Bikes and cars don’t mix well in the Australian road landscape, particularly when capacity is absorbed for carparking roadside whilst rider numbers increase as well as the general public psyche. Retro fitting is proving always to be a round table discussion that drags on for years. Fact is, Australia is regressive on much of it’s transport planning, policy and any political will to spend on a balanced approach (let alone for 4% ridership in Melbourne). Let’s build more freeways and get raped by behemoth tolling companies like transurban.

    • Fully agree with your comments about transport planning in general.

      With St Kilda Rd much of the problem lies with State Government politicians, as we outlined. VicRoads is willing and capable of providing good designs if Government wants them to, for example the recently released design of Hoddle St / Swan St intersection includes protected bike lanes that we are happy with.

  3. Melb Bug plan sounds good, although I think it’s super important that the lanes are wide enough to support different cyclists travelling at different speeds.
    I hate having cyclists right up my bum trying to overtake me. They want to ride fast and I want to ride a generally slower ‘European’ pace. My slower speed frustrates them and their faster speed creates a perceived pressure from behind for me to speed up. I feel like this can actually make everyone speed up, which is not really what we want as a cycling city. We should be encouraging the leasurely, practical pace, not the Tour de France road-bike pace. And conversely sometimes I want to overtake slower riders, so I understand that it can be frustrating to be stuck in a single-file lane. When you ride places like Royal Parade during peak hours you end up with these pelotons of riders, all riding at different speeds and getting in eachother’s way. The faster riders then have to dangerously overtake on the right, getting in the way of parallel traffic, and slower riders hug the left side of the lane to get of their way, inadvertently placing themselves deep in the door lane. Separated lanes solve these door-zone and parallel car traffic issues, but if built too narrow they’ll simply be unworkable and I wouldn’t be surprised to see some riders end up on the road with the cars so they don’t get stuck in the bike traffic!
    With a large project like St Kilda Rd lanes, that will hopefully be in place for many decades, it’s super important to get it right. Build lanes for the volume we want to see, not just what we have now. The wider the better!!

    • Yes and yes! Minimum width needs to allow for comfortable overtaking, and yes we need to allow for future volumes, not just today’s traffic.

  4. Like City of Port Phillip, I prefer the “footpath adjacent protected lanes”, provided the traffic lights will cover the bike and car lanes, otherwise cycling becomes to tedious and slow to be practical.
    PS a diagram of the proposals on this page would be useful, I find the descriptions a bit confusing 🙂

    • We’ll try and do some drawings, agree a picture worth 1000 words.

      At intersections, bikes and peds would get the same green cycle. Some good User Experience (UX) design will be needed to make the separate crossings stay separate, perhaps with the bike lane departing from the footpath for the last 20 meters. The example of the separated bike crossing at South Bank across Queens Bridge St is how not to do it, but there we have no separate bike path on either approach, so the pedestrian confusion is natural.

  5. I like the idea.
    Bike riders – well at least some of them – will want to travel quickly down St Kilda road. Will this allow it? How will bikes be treated at intersections?

    • See our response to other comments, bikes should get the same cycle time as pedestrians, i.e. more than adequate. Some red arrows to keep turning cars out would also be a good idea, especially where there is a separate turning cycle for cars, which already exists at many St Kilda Rd intersections.

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