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Bike fumes

Bicycle lane being built on Swanston Street Melbourne
August 27th

Since late May Melbourne’s primary bicycle route, Swanston Street, has been partially closed to bicycles. Swanston Street is Melbourne’s chaotic central main road. Trams and taxis fight it out with taxis, private cars, J-walking pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages, and cyclists.

The closure is due to the much heralded installation of a traffic-free and bicycle-friendly street, with large Copenhagen-style bike lanes as well as tram lanes and stops. All well and good, but after the tram tracks were relaid in three days, precious little has happened on site. Signs simply tell cyclists to dismount and proceed along the clogged footpaths.

On one ridiculously difficult commute, when the western footpath was closed off too, cyclists were directed by security to find their way North through Melbourne Central’s private labyrinth of escalators and shops. I asked the City of Melbourne what was going on and was told that I should have taken Russell or Elizabeth Streets. Not that there were any signs suggesting this detour.

climate action protest rally melbourne
Early June during a climate action rally

This is the first of several blocks to receive this treatment, and works are forecast to be complete somewhere around the end of next year. So for more than 18 months this street will not be a functioning route for cyclists. Yet it’s all apparently for them.

On the council’s webpage for the redevelopment, they state that, “Stage one closure is scheduled to occur in the first half of 2011. This means traffic in all these sections of the street will be restricted to just trams and bicycles.” Somewhere en route bicycles were cut out of the equation, at least until 2013.

Melbourne was last month elected a “bike-friendly” city, the second city on the planet to be awarded this status after Copenhagen. Perhaps the Union Cycliste Internationale didn’t visit – they should have looked at Rio instead. Less than a month later, Victoria’s Auditor General found that the state’s strategy to promote cycling as a mainstream alternative had failed. “The strategy was developed in haste without sufficient understanding of either current cycling journeys or what was required to ‘mainstream’ cycling as a form of transport.”

Saying “disappear for 19 months” to the thousands of cyclists using Swanston Street every day underlines this lack of understanding. The revamp is a long term city marketing exercise more than a solution for cyclists. A bit of lateral thought, and a less generous deadline for the contractor could have achieved both.

Bike porn:

KK RUSH HOUR FINAL VERSION from Copenhagenize on Vimeo.

Posted by Peter on 27.08.11 in 

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