Brakes slammed on for crucial new bike lane project

David Schout

The Department of Transport has paused the installation of a new cycling lane that would connect the inner-north with central Melbourne, for fear of the impact on local parking.

It is not known when works on the new southbound bike lane along Royal Parade, which would give CBD-bound cyclists a dedicated lane until Haymarket Roundabout, will now commence.

Locals were informed by the City of Melbourne in May that the project was due to start, however the Department of Transport then verbally requested the council to pause works on both Royal Parade and nearby Grattan St.

According to the council, the rationale for the delay was concerns about local parking impacts.

And, as Royal Parade is a Department of Transport (rather than City of Melbourne) road, the council complied with the request.

A council letter to locals on June 28 then announced the works had been delayed, to “ensure additional community feedback is considered in the design”.

The Department of Transport has indicated that the location of the proposed lanes, including proximity to the hospital precinct, meant it wanted to ensure there was no impact on the delivery of essential services.

“The City of Melbourne has put forward a proposal for bike lanes to be installed on Royal Parade, Parkville and Grattan St. Given these are arterial roads, we are following standard procedure by undertaking a review of the City of Melbourne’s proposal, including seeking additional information about the council’s plans,” a government spokesperson told Inner City News.

“We undertake careful and thorough planning when proposals like this are put forward, and we always seek to balance the needs of motorists, local businesses, the freight industry, public transport passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.”

The news comes after the council in June opted to pause the installation of CBD bike lane projects until July 2023 at the earliest.

Part of the rationale behind the move was to focus on projects outside the Hoddle Grid within the next 12 months, of which Royal Parade was one.

However, it is now not known whether that will be the case.

“We will continue working closely with the Department of Transport to upgrade key arterial bike paths including Arden St, Macaulay Rd and Royal Parade,” Lord Mayor Sally Capp told Inner City News.   

“Focusing on connecting key suburbs to the CBD will allow us to welcome as many people back into the city, as safely and efficiently as possible.”   

While the council’s protected bike lane projects had been rolled out relatively seamlessly in the past two years, with more than 19 km of new lanes installed, controversy around the CBD pause and now Department of Transport intervention threatened to halt momentum.

More than 1000 people expressed disappointment with the council’s move at a June council meeting, which also attracted protesters outside Town Hall.

However, Cr Capp said the council’s bike lane projects would continue apace.

“Bike lanes save lives and improve safety for all road users – and the City of Melbourne remains on track to deliver more than 40 kilometres of protected bike lanes across the municipality.”       

The adoption of the council’s Transport Strategy 2030 in September 2019 included a commitment to deliver 90km of protected bicycle lanes by 2030.

This included 50km on local roads (to be built by the council) and 40km on arterial roads to be provided by the Victorian Government.

In February 2020 the council committed to accelerate constructing 44km of protected bicycle lanes by mid-2024 “in response to the climate and biodiversity emergency” and has said it is on track to meet the target. •

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