News / Transport

Win for cyclists with new infrastructure set to stay

Council votes to retain separated lanes in Dawson and Albion streets after successful trials

Mark Phillips
Friday, August 12, 2022

A POP UP protected bike lane in Dawson Street will become permanent as Moreland Council beds down new cycling infrastructure in Brunswick and other parts of the city. 

Shared zones in Victoria and Albert streets near Fleming Park in Brunswick East will also remain in place along with a bike lane in part of Albion Street. 

The decision, endorsed at a council meeting on Wednesday, follows 12 months of trials which saw cycling increase in all four areas because of the extra infrastructure. 

A budget of $400,000 has been set aside to make the changes permanent. 

The pop up shared zones and bike lanes have been in place since June last year, following a council decision to allocate almost $1.7 million in its 2020-21 budget for walking and riding improvements in response to the COVID-19 state of emergency.  

The investment was aimed to encourage more people to walk or ride a bike for shorter trips and as an alternative to public transport. 

Demands on cycling and walking infrastructure have grown in recent years with the council budgeting to spend about $13 million on active transport improvements over the next half-a-decade. 

“Our experience tells us that continued investment in cycling infrastructure will encourage residents to see riding a bike as a genuine transport option in the long term,” said Moreland Mayor Mark Riley. 

Results of the 12 month trials found strong support for improvements to both walking and riding infrastructure, especially when they resulted in better safety. 

But the council has deferred a final decision on a highly-contentious separated bike lane in Kent Road in Pascoe Vale, opting to continue a trial for another 12 months. 

The ongoing problems with the Kent Road bike lane has diverted resources and delayed other projects, the council meeting was told. 

In contrast to a debate of more than an hour about the Kent Road trial – which has been the subject of heated disagreement between cyclists and motorists –  it took councillors just five minutes to rubber stamp the projects in Brunswick. 

The largest of the Brunswick projects is the separated bike lane along 540 metres of Dawson Street from the Upfield railway line to Brunswick Secondary College. This required the removal of 40 parking spaces on the north of Dawson Street. 

The final design of the separated lane will be modified to replace one-metre wide refuge islands with narrower bolt down barriers similar to those used in Exhibition Street in the CBD. Some changes will also be made to car parking to improve access and sight lines near the school and a child care centre. 

During the trial, cyclist numbers along the separated lane were considerably higher than elsewhere in Dawson Street, while car traffic volumes were mostly unaffected. 

The council has decided to go ahead with the Albion Street works despite feedback that the road is inherently dangerous and cyclists should not be encouraged to use it. 

A cyclist uses the separated lane in Dawson Street.

Fully separated lanes were not possible in the narrower Albion Street, which is also used by buses. Instead, yellow lane markers were installed on the south side of the road for a 200 metre stretch from Sydney Road to the Upfield line, which meant the removal of four parking spaces. 

The shared zones in Brunswick East removed three on-street car parking spaces from 60 metre section of Victoria Street and six spaces from a 110 metre section of Albert Street and also extended into nearby streets.  

Speed limits of 20kmh were enforced, pedestrians were given right of way over all other traffic,  and traffic calming measures were introduced, including colourful patterns on the roads. They resulted in speeds of 10kmh slower than elsewhere. 

“These shared zones have really brightened up the area and have proven popular with local residents,” Cr Riley said. 

“Moving forward, we will make some minor changes to ensure the space continues to be welcoming while improving movement through the space. We have seen reduced speed from vehicles in these spaces that abut Fleming Park, and most respondents to our survey indicated they felt the shared zones increased safety in this busy area.” 

An aerial view of the shared zone in Albert Street in Brunswick East. Photo: Moreland City Council

Faith Hunter, convenor of the Moreland Bicycle Use Group, said the investments would improve bike safety and increase bike usage in Brunswick. 

“It’s great that they’re permanent and it will definitely make it safer for people who cycle … and will encourage people who are interested in cycling but not yet doing it,” she said. 

“Improving safety not only increases the numbers [of cyclists] but it changes the people who are riding. You see more women and children and it makes cycling more acccessible and also transport accessible for people who don’t have access.” 

Ms Hunter said improvements to cycling infrastructure were often “frustratingly slow” and a proper east-west link through Brunswick had to be given more priority. 

A proposed east-west bike link on Glenlyon Road was recently added to the council’s 10 year capital works program for cycling and walking infrastructure, but no money has been allocated until 2027-28, when $80,000 will spent on design. 

The council’s 10-year plan also forsees about $1.1 million spent on a separated bike lane in the western part of Victoria Street, with work beginning in 2028-29 and $80,000 to investigate a separated lane on Blyth Street between the Merri Creek and Sydney Road. 

“We don’t have a safe east-west route for cyclists,” Ms Hunter said. 

“I know Victoria Street is on the 10 year capital works plan to have protected bike lanes but I would love to see that done sooner because it allows people from West Brunswick to safely get over to the Upfield path, and the shopping strip and the railway stations.  

“We need to start looking at Glenlyon Road or Moreland Road or maybe even Albion Street or somewhere as an east-west route.  

“Glenlyon Road is part of the principle bicycle network, it has schools and day care, shopping strips and intersects with four other cycling routes, so it makes sense.” 

Later this financial year, the council will spend $150,000 upgrading the Upfield shared path following increasing use by both cyclists and pedestrians which is pushing it to its capacity, particularly at so-called “pinch points”. 

The work will widen a 70 metre section of the path between Park Street and Brunswick Road to four metres and improve lighting. 

Over the next decade, the council intends to spend at least $2.9 milllion on separated bike lanes on major roads and another $4 million upgrading shared paths.

But because the council has no jurisdiction over arterial roads which are owned by the state government, no works are planned to make Sydney Road safer for bike riders.