Voting for cycling in the November state election?

In the lead up to the November election, the Port Phillip BUG sought meetings with local candidates.  We also surveyed the local candidates, with only two responses, from the Greens and Animal Justice Party. We’ve looked at their party policies— unfortunately while individual candidates may be supportive of cycling, their party may not be.

Therefore I’ve covered firstly the party policies, and secondly the individual candidates.

Also see the Bicycle Network’s analysis (I’ve used their scores),  and Yarra BUG’s podcast.

PARTY POLICIES

Australian Labor Party:  C+

If the past performance is a guide to future results, then there is not much to look forward to here:   the Labor government has been missing in action on making cycling safer and more accessible.   

The main initiative promised at the last election was the creation of a new body responsible for active transport.  Active Transport Victoria has produced very little— it seems to be little more than a handful of media releases and an email address ( activetransport@ecodev.vic.gov.au  if you’re interested in asking them what they’ve been doing the last couple of years)

We’ve seen a few new cycle routes, such as those under the new Skyrail (unfortunately these are shared routes— definitely not best practice, or comfortable for pedestrians OR cyclists).   But very little in the way of making sure our principal bicycle routes are safe, and many missed opportunities to upgrade bike routes when other road works are being undertaken. 

In particular, plans for improving the key St Kilda Rd route have been put on ice.

New promises for this election:   Labor has promised to build separated cycle routes on St Kilda Rd.  While many local residents would prefer curbside lanes allowing them to safely access homes and workplaces, the plan for a cycle way in the centre of the road would be better than the current situation, and be particularly convenient for people travelling from the suburbs to the city.

Labor are also promising an upgrade of the trails network in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

Liberal Party:  C

Cycling doesn’t seem a priority for the Liberals:  they’ve announced a few tourism-related projects in regional Victoria, and they support minimum passing distance legislation, but there isn’t much else on offer.

More seriously, they would like to grade separate many road intersections.   This would be disastrous for cycling and walking— imagine the mess of St Kilda junction replicated across our city, for example at the intersection of Glen Huntly and Brighton Roads.    It could well be that conditions for cycling will decline under a Liberal government.

Greens:  A

The Greens’ policy includes a $250m commitment to cycling, which will cover (among other things) a 17km Elsternwick-to-Sydney Road separated cycling path, taking in St Kilda Rd and Swanson St on the way.  It is also promising that cycling infrastructure will be funded independently of road works.   

Animal Justice Party:

While the published policies are mostly about animals, in the response to our survey local AJP candidate Tamasin Ramsey said: On the basis of [our] values, we support creating dedicated and separated bike lanes. This gives equal consideration to cyclists, in an environment where cyclists are vulnerable to bike lanes that exist alongside moving traffic, that included a growing number of heavy and imposing vehicles. Supporting cycling is rational because it enhances human health (both physical and mental), engages people with their community, and often improves their engagement with the natural world, including appreciation of – and sensitivity to - other species. All of these factors contribute to the wellbeing of our neighbours and thereby support healthy neighbourhoods.

Now, to the candidates (this is not an exhaustive list— just the ones we were able to make contact with):

ALBERT PARK ELECTORATE

Martin Foley, LABOR (incumbent).   The BUG has met with him twice in last term of government, and while he is clearly interested in and supportive of cycling, we’ve seen very little follow up on the issues we’ve raised, with the notable exception of St Kilda Rd separated lanes.

Andrew Bond (Libs):   As a local councillor, he’s come along on a BUG ride to see local infrastructure issues.  He’s also personally supports the St Kilda Rd separated lanes (not matched by his party).  

Ogy Simic (Greens):  As a local councillor, Ogy has come along on our infrastructure rides and advocated for cycling improvements.  He’s sought out the BUG for comment on various issues and is a frequent bike rider himself.

Tamasin Ramsey (Animal Justice Party).   The AJP is not campaigning strongly on issues related to cycling, but Tamasin often commutes by bike and has a good understanding of the issues facing local cyclists.

BRIGHTON ELECTORATE

James Newbury (Liberals).  James was keen to meet with the BUG before the election.  He doesn’t have much experience cycling, although he does personally support the St Kilda Rd separated lanes project (not matched by his party) and seemed happy to listen to our concerns.  He has been a vocal supporter of a signalised pedestrian crossing of Glen Huntly Rd, at the canal.

Katherine Copsey (Greens).  As a local councillor, Katherine has been an advocate for cycling infrastructure, especially the St Kilda Rd separated lanes and other separated cycle ways, such as the Kerferd Rd improvements.   She has come along on both our infrastructure bike rides, and sought out BUG comment on various issues.   In her response to our survey, she writes: As an everyday cyclist myself I understand the difference dedicated bike infrastructure makes and am committed to advocacy and action so more people than ever can enjoy the freedom, fitness and fun of getting around safely by bike.

PRAHRAN ELECTORATE

Sam Hibbens (Greens), incumbent: In the last term of government Sam Hibbens was able to get the traffic flow on Union St changed, to allow cyclists to travel straight ahead. He had been an advocate for separated lanes on St Kilda Rd and improving safety on Chapel St.

Ogy Simic, Katherine Copsey and BUG members checking out Kerferd Rd.

Ogy Simic, Katherine Copsey and BUG members checking out Kerferd Rd.

Andrew Bond checking out the infrastructure on Fitzroy St

Andrew Bond checking out the infrastructure on Fitzroy St

Responsibility for election comment taken by Julie Clutterbuck, 93 Spray St Elwood.

Victorian State Election: candidate survey

We have an election coming up in November!

Port Phillip BUG has sent a survey to our local candidates (seats of Albert Park, Brighton, and Prahran, and the upper house Southern Metropolitan division). The questions are:

  • Separated cycles lanes are the safest option for cyclists. Will you (and your party) support separated cycle lanes on St Kilda Rd and prioritise installation by 2021?

  • There are many VicRoads controlled roads that are part of the Principal Bicycle Network. Will you (and your party) support VicRoads upgrading the routes in your seat to separated bicycle lanes?

  • Please provide a link to your cycling policy.

  • If you gain office, are there any actions you plan to take, in addition to your party policy, to get more people cycling, more often, and more safely? (Incumbents: you may include actions you've taken over the last term of office).

We’ll post responses here as we receive them. (If you are a candidate and haven’t received a survey, email portphillipbug@gmail.com and we’ll send you the link).

Port Phillip Council's new Transport Strategy: a massive leap forward

The Move Connect Live Integrated Transport Strategy rightly emphasises Active Transport, and backs this up with strategic and ambitions plans for action.

At the heart of the cycling strategy is a plan to build separated cycle lanes along 11 cycling corridors, with plans for 3 more after 2028.   

Proposed cycling corridors.   Original map  here.

Proposed cycling corridors.   Original map here.

This is excellent:  we've seen cycling strategies come and go with mealy-mouthed "action items" focussing on "encouraging behaviour change"  but study after study has shown that the single best way to substantially increase the number of people cycling is to protect them from heavier vehicles.

In the absence of protected lanes, the proportion of trips taken by bike is likely to remain under 3%, undertaken mainly by committed enthusiasts.       By building a network of separated lanes, cities like Seville and London have massively boosted their cycling rates.   Separated lanes also result in higher cycling rates among women, children, and the elderly.

The network proposed is reasonably comprehensive, although Fisherman's Bend seems rather under-served.   

Of course the success of this policy will be in the implementation, but comparing this strategy to our neighbouring councils shows that City of Port Phillip is light years ahead:  Glen Eira's recent Integrated Transport Strategy could come up with no better than to "plan and design a pilot cycle corridor improvement project with a protected cycleway to encourage an increase in cycling"; similarly, Stonnington's cycling strategy has a lot of auditing, liaising, encouraging participation, and "investigating opportunities", but the only plan for actual provision of safe cycling routes is improving some existing off-road trails.  Well done CoPP!

The strategy is not perfect.   Omissions include:

  • Fisherman's Bend needs to be included in the cycle network.
  • The following roads should be included in the network, for construction post-2028 if necessary:  Glen Huntly Road; Glen Eira Rd east of Brighton Rd.
  • The signalised crossing of the Elwood Canal with Glen Huntly Road has already been supported by Council, and should appear on either in the pedestrian or cycling section of the plan.
  • The off-road shared/cycle paths form important commuter links,  and should be included in the map to give a full picture.  These include the cycle lanes in Albert Park, the Sandridge cycle trail, and the Elwood Canal.  (The Bay trail is included.)
  • Route 9, labelled as Acland St/Mitford St/Beach St, seems to be mapped to Selwyn Avenue, rather than Beach St.
  • Route 7,  Sandringham Line/ Westbury St - Ripponlea to Windsor, should include connection to Glen Eira.  There is already a well used route to Glen Huntly Rd on both sides of the railway line east of the railway line, but there needs to be a safe crossing of Hotham St.   This route could include a contraflow lane on Lyndon St, which is currently one-way.

Otherwise, an excellent step forward.   

I encourage filling in the survey (before 30th July) to show your support (and identify any other gaps).

Cycling through the Montague-West Gate Freeway Intersection

Janet Bolitho prepared the following submission to the City of Melbourne.

The City of Melbourne wants to enable “residents on the periphery of the City of Melbourne and in neighbouring LGAs to access and travel through the CBD on a comprehensive network of high quality cycle routes“.

The Montague-West Gate Freeway intersection poses a significant barrier to cyclists accessing Docklands and the CBD from Port Melbourne and the south west.

This paper documents safety issues for cyclists accessing the City of Melbourne through this intersection.

Background and context

The Montague-West Gate Freeway intersection is one of the principal access points to Docklands, the City of Melbourne and the west from Port Melbourne and the south west.

The intersection is complex with numerous movements in multiple directions.

In a background report for the Department of Transport to the Fishermans Bend planning process,  GHD found that a total of 39,533 vehicles travelled through this intersection (two-way volume). 20,445 vehicles were recorded in the southbound direction and 19,088 vehicles were recorded in the northbound direction. [GHD for Department of Transport Fishermans Bend Traffic Study Final Report July 2013]

 This study is now five years old and traffic volumes would have increased since then with upgrades to the West Gate Freeway and population growth. Thee figures are quoted to give a sense of the volume of vehicle traffic through this intersection.

Cyclists were not included in that traffic count. Perhaps it was thought that cyclists would not use this intersection and prefer some alternate route. However, since this route is the most direct link between the west and the south west it is used by many cyclists who put their lives at risk every day.

Furthermore, the adopted and agreed Vision for Fishermans Bend is for a population of 80,000 people. With no fewer than 9 development applications of 40 levels in Normanby Road, immediately adjacent to this intersection, there will be significant further pressure on it. The Vision also has a target of 80% of trips to be made by active transport.

For the safety of current users and to keep faith with the vision for Fishermans Bend, supported by the City of Melbourne, safe access for cyclists must be provided through this intersection.

In addition to the issues documented below, many people who are familiar with the traffic light sequence cross against the lights since the wait time between signals is so long.

Some suggestions for immediate improvements are made, but a full safety and access audit needs to be undertaken.

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Councillors' tour of the Lake Ward

On Tuesday 12th June we took Port Phillip Councillors Katherine Copsey, Andrew Bond, David Brand, Dick Gross and Ogy Simic on a tour of some interesting sites in the Lake Ward in Port Phillip. (Councillor Tim Baxter and Albert Park MP Martin Foley sent their apologies.)  Lake Ward covers St Kilda, Albert Park, and Middle Park.   The handout with the route is here. I've added some of the extra things we noticed on the ride to the map below (in purple).

We started at St Kilda Town Hall.   The first thing we observed was the time it took for us to walk across the pedestrian crossing at Brighton Road.   These crossings seem optimised for cars, rather than pedestrians.    (A recent article describes this problem.)

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We headed up towards the Junction.   We briefly stopped at Inkerman St, where a single car parking place creates a pinch point in a merging zone.

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Going up the hill, we looked at how the St Kilda Rd separated bicycle lanes project can be fairly easily implemented as a Copenhagen lane on the edge of the road.   By contrast, the challenge of fitting protected lanes into the Junction are considerable.   However creating a safe way for people on bikes to get through this intersection will be crucial.

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We then headed down the bidirectional path on Fitzroy St.  This has been identified as one of the place where cyclists feel most unsafe in surveys by BikeSpot and VicRoads.   There is a protected lane for cyclists, but because drivers do not expect cyclists to be moving in a counterflow direction, they often fail to yield at intersections.   

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On the way we tried to use the council public bike pump outside Woolworths.  Unfortunately it deflated Councillor Bond's tyre!   Liz had a pump that we fixed the problem with.

A faulty bike pump.

A faulty bike pump.

Then on through the quiet back streets of West St Kilda to Middle Park shops, where we looked at the suboptimal crossing of Canterbury Rd at Armstrong St.   

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From Albert Park, we stopped at the intersection of Albert and Kerferd Rd.   The crossing here is yet another that doesn't allow sufficient time for pedestrians to cross.   There is some new marking for bicycles at this intersection, but the stretch under the tramway (travelling north) is still feels difficult for cyclist.  We looked at the option of converting the pedestrian underpass (just up Ferrars St) to a shared path, giving access to the service road on the north side of Albert Rd.

Looking out of the underpass.

Looking out of the underpass.

Council is planning to put separated cycle lanes on Kerferd Rd, after a trial in which they reduce the number of lanes to one.   

Kerferd Rd is very wide!

Kerferd Rd is very wide!

Our last stop was another parking place, outside Donovans on Marine Parade.   This parking place/loading zone forces on-road cyclists to merge with traffic, while creating a little door zone.   We note that as this is an accessible parking place (for people with a disabled permit) it may be of high utility and should be relocated rather than removed.

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Thanks to our councillors and council officer Kathleen Kemp for coming along.  Many thanks to Simon for the photographs.

Sandridge Trail

The Sandridge rail trail is a shared use path that connects Station Pier in Port Melbourne and City Road, just south of the CBD.   It's a pleasant and convenient route, but it falls short of being a high quality off-road route. 

Interactive map is  here.

Interactive map is here.

This path is well used by people cycling and walking.  

This path is well used by people cycling and walking.  

Shared path.   When I rode this path on a sunny morning it was well used by cyclists and people walking, particularly older people.   Shared paths are not ideal.  People walking dislike cyclists riding past at moderate cycling speeds (20km/hr), while enforcing a "code of conduct" for pedestrians (e.g requiring that they stay left at all times, avoid walking in groups, and strictly controlling small children and dogs) destroys the pleasure of the walk.   On the other hand, requiring cyclists to ride at slow speeds while passing pedestrians decreases the utility of this as a transport route.    The best practice here would be to create separate paths for walking and cycling, where space allows.

Path loses priority at Bridge St.

Path loses priority at Bridge St.

No crossing at Bridge St.   This needs either a zebra crossing (raised) or a signalised crossing with bike/pedestrian priority.   At the very least, it should have a "keep clear" zone to prevent vehicles from blocking the route while queuing (the gates of the tram crossing are just to the left of the view above).

I'm not sure what works are being done here at Ingles St-- hopefully a better crossing!

I'm not sure what works are being done here at Ingles St-- hopefully a better crossing!

Rails blocking the path.   At the tram depot, the path is blocked by yellow rails that are supposed to force cyclists to give way to trams leaving the depot.     These rails slow cyclists down and are extremely difficult (if not impossible) for people towing trailers, or riding long wheelbase bikes, or riding trikes.    A better solution would be to have gates that close when trams approach, leaving the path unimpeded at all other times.

At the first tram depot crossing.

At the first tram depot crossing.

At the second depot crossing. This gentleman told me that he'd recently slipped and fell on the tram tracks.

At the second depot crossing. This gentleman told me that he'd recently slipped and fell on the tram tracks.

Poor connection to the city.   The trail just ends at City Road, with no clear safe connection across the river to the CBD.

Almost at the city, but not quite!

Almost at the city, but not quite!

Canal Ward update

Some good news:  Following our bike tour and Ed Cook's petition, Port Phillip Council has supported a crossing with signals on Glen Huntly Rd.    Moreover, they have contributed $50000 towards the cost.  The remaining cost will need to come from VicRoads, and council has written to the roads minister Luke Donnellan requesting this. 

Furthermore, the list of comments and sites was given to Council's Transport Safety Engineering Team.   Here is the list of their responses.

As we have become accustomed to, VicRoads seems to be the biggest hold up, with many comments along the lines of "We'll ask VicRoads if they can do this".   

It's also worrying that they consider a 1.5m wide bike lane (on Brighton Rd) sufficient to avoid the door zone--- Austroads guidance is that on a 60kph road, there should be a buffer of 1-1.5m between cyclists and passing trucks.   So it seems that we can be buffered from the doors, OR the trucks, but not both!

Thanks to everyone who helped.  The Lake Ward tour will be coming up in June.

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Councillors' tour of bike infrastructure in the Canal Ward

On Thursday 8th March we took Councillors Katherine Copsey, Tim Baxter and Dick Gross for a tour around the Canal Ward to look at the infrastructure that makes riding a joy... or a nightmare.  (Handout with map and site descriptions here.)

 

It was a beautiful day for a ride!

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We observed the absence of a safe crossing on the Canal path at Glen Huntly Road.

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And discussed the promised counter-flow bike lane on Blessington St--- when will this happen?

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Thanks to our hard-working councillors Dick, Katherine and Tim, and to Simon for the photos, and to our volunteers Georgie and Rochelle for keeping everyone on track.  

We'll tour the Lakeside and Gateway wards later this year.

The case for Glen Eira Road/Neerim Road as a "safe cycling route"

... in response to Glen Eira's Draft Integrated Transport Strategy

(This is a little out of our council area, but it's my commute so I thought I'd respond.)

Glen Eira Council is currently seeking community feedback on their Integrated Transport Strategy.

The document has some good aspirations, including a shift to 50% active transport modes (public transport, cycling, walking).  However the proposed actions are too feeble to deliver them.

The most glaring absence to me was the absence of Glen Eira Rd/Neerim Rd from the proposed network of "safe cycling streets". 

Draft "safe cycling streets"

Draft "safe cycling streets"

The Glen Eira Rd/Neerim Rd route ought to be included, because:

*There is a very large distance (2.7km) between the nearest east-west routes, Inkerman Rd to the north and Dover St to the south,  which would require a deviation of several kilometres for some cyclists.   Since the most suitable trips for mode switching to cycling are those trips under 5km, this is a large distance.

*This route was part of the Principal Bicycle Network.   It is already a well-used route, as shown by the Strava heat map below, demonstrating the need for a cycling route here.

* Glen Eira road is eminently suited for a main cycling route:  it is very wide, has no tram tracks, and even with fully separated lanes, could still fit a lane of parking along one of the sides of the road.  

* Neerim Rd is currently very narrow, with bikes forced to take the car lane.  Removing parking along this lane to allow a bike lane would increase traffic flow for cars.

* This route has many schools along it (Ripponlea Primary School, Caulfield Grammer, Shelford, Glen Eira, Mt Scopus etc) with poor provision for safe cycling for the students.  It's not clear how the 'Safe School Zones' will work for these schools with no east-west "safe cycling routes" closer than a kilometer away.

*While ideally a completely protected cycling route (as described in the strategy) would be ideal here,  a significant improvement could be made by merely removing parking, or even by removing parking during peak hours.   In this way it would be easy to stage the introduction of improved cycling facilities.  

Make comments on the Glen Eira Integrated Cycling Strategy here

This route is well used.

This route is well used.

We need a crossing where the canal path meets Glen Huntly Road

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At this point, the canal bike path is cut by a busy road, and is difficult for vulnerable users to cross.    There is a crossing 40 or so metres down the road, staffed by a crossing guard during school times.  This is great when it is staffed, but of no use outside those times.   

This problem is recognised by CoPP:  in 2012, the Sustainable Transport Plan stated:

Issue: Elwood Canal is a major attractor of pedestrian movements however there is no formal pedestrian crossing provision at the entrance to Elwood Canal on Glen Huntly Road

Proposed solution:  Design and construct new pedestrian operated signals along Glen Huntly Road near to the entrances to the Elwood Canal path.   


When we met with VicRoads in May 2017, we found that VicRoads "recognises the importance of providing a signalised pedestrian operation near Elwood Canal and Elwood Primary School on Glen Huntly Rd.  In consultation with the City of Port Phillip, VicRoads has developed a proposal to provide a pedestrian operated signal at this location. This proposal will be reviewed for funding consideration in a future program."

We also raised this issue with local MP Martin Foley in August 2017 but have not heard anything from him on this.  

Update 6/3/18:  one of the parents at Elwood Primary School has started a change.org petition to council.

Advocacy success: Union St, crossing of Punt Road

This happened a while ago, but we are very excited that the Union St crossing east of Punt Road (heading westbound) now allows bicycles (only) to continue straight ahead!  This came about from a bike ride we led MP Sam Hibbens (Prahran electorate includes St Kilda East) on.  He took it to the Road Safety Minister and VicRoads made these infrastructure changes.  It enables cyclists from Balaclava, East St Kilda, Windsor and Prahran to ride Westbound along Union Street and directly connect with St Kilda Road – avoiding chaotic St Kilda Junction, one of the worst parts of St Kilda Road.  Tell your friends, and let us know what you think!

Submission on Draft Domain Precinct Plan

Metro Tunnel is asking for comment on the Draft Domain Precinct Plan.

The Port Phillip Bicycle Users Group supports the proposed design for cycle facilities shown in the draft design.   

There are two proposed locations for separated cycle lanes on St Kilda Rd--- either centrally located, or at the edges of the road, Copenhagen style.

There has been no public consultation as yet on these options.

The Bicycle Network supports the centrally located lanes.

However, the Port Phillip BUG would like to see both options fully modelled and go to public consultation.   We are concerned that the central option treats the cycle lanes as a freeway, good for commuters from the suburbs accessing the city, but neglects many people who have midblock destinations along the length of the road.   

The Domain station proposal shows Copenhagen style lanes, but states that the design is also compatible with centrally located lanes.

While the location of the lanes is still uncertain, it would be prudent to make certain that centrally located lanes are compatible, by providing alternate plans showing the central lanes.

We also request that VicRoads not waste any more time and promptly hold consultations on both options.