Cycling advocates are hoping that a halt on new bike lanes in Melbourne CBD announced Friday will be short-lived, warning of the risks posed by gaps in the network.
The Melbourne lord mayor, Sally Capp, said Friday there would be a “pause” on the construction of dedicated cycling lanes in the CBD. The City of Melbourne council said it would instead prioritize upgrading cycling infrastructure on arterial roads.
The council has built over 19km of protected bike lanes over the past two years.
The announcement – which coincided with World Bicycle Day on Friday – follows backlash from businesses, motorists, the state transport union, and residents, with some arguing the lanes made parking and delivery vehicle access difficult and increased city congestion.
But Melbourne Bicycle User Group spokesperson Nicholas Dow said the pause would create a cycle lane network with gaps.
“You don’t get the ridership, you don’t get the benefits of fewer car trips and less congestion on the roads,” he said. “They’ve given up because of the political backlash – not because their ideas are wrong … these bike lanes have all been in the transport strategy for some years.”
Dow said there was a major safety issue to be considered for cyclists, and he urged the council to “show leadership” on the subject.
“You get a safety issue when you throw someone coming on a protected line, and you throw them out into the middle of traffic,” he said.
Greens councilor Rohan Leppert said building more bicycle lanes was the “single most effective congestion-busting policy”.
“I hope the recommendation is a genuinely temporary pause,” Leppert said.
On Friday, Capp told ABC radio the council had accelerated the rollout of the bicycle lanes in the CBD during the quieter months of Covid.
“We’re now pausing that. There’s no doubt that as people return to the city, they feel they’ve been surprised by the bike lane rollout; they need to adjust,” she said. “We’re giving people time to reacquaint themselves with the city.”
Capp said the pause would allow the council to determine the “mechanics” of how the bicycle lanes interacted with other transport modes.
She said most complaints related to Queens Bridge Street in Southbank, but that existing bicycle lanes would remain.
Mike McNess, the Transport Workers Union Victoria & Tasmania branch secretary, said the CBD needed more safe loading zones for delivery drivers, particularly in Exhibition Street. He said the installation of the lanes did not involve adequate consultation with the transport sector.
Capp said regardless of the pause; the council was on track to meet the targets in its 2030 transport strategy, which, included building more than 40km of new protected cycling lanes in conjunction with the state government.
A Victorian government spokesperson said it worked in various locations to ensure a “safe place for everyone on the road” regardless of transport mode.
“The City of Melbourne’s bike strategy matters for them,” the spokesperson said.
The pause will be discussed at a council committing meeting on Tuesday. Council staff has recommended that “protected bike lane projects outside the Hoddle Grid and those associated with major [state government] projects will continue to be delivered as per council’s cycle infrastructure program”.
Staff also recommended the council allows for “adjustments to existing bike lanes inside the Hoddle Grid to improve safety, smooth traffic flow and facilitate movement by pedestrians and public transport”.