By David Schout
Motorbikes will be banned from pedestrian hotspots in the CBD under a City of Melbourne plan to reclaim space for pedestrians.
On February 18 the council voted in favour of a plan to ban footpath parking in eight locations within the Hoddle Grid, including overcrowded areas outside Southern Cross, Flinders St, and Flagstaff stations.
To compensate motorcyclists in these areas, the council plans to convert 36 paid-for on-street car spaces into 151 free motorcycle spots, and a further 150 in coming years.
The move is part of a wider effort in the council’s 10-year transport strategy to accommodate pedestrians, who make up an overwhelming majority of commuters in the central city.
Almost nine in 10 trips within the CBD are done on foot, and surveys have suggested many felt overcrowded during peak periods.
“Overcrowded spaces are unpleasant, uncomfortable and put at risk our reputation, liveability and economic productivity,” the council report stated.
“During the morning and lunchtime peaks, 14 per cent of central city footpaths are so crowded that people have to walk on the kerb or roadway.”
Transport portfolio chair Nicolas Frances Gilley said while motorbikes were space-efficient forms of transport, Victorian laws that allowed them to park on footpaths (the only state in Australia to do so) made things tricky.
“We welcome motorcycles to the city, but as our city becomes increasingly busy we need to reduce overcrowding on certain busy footpaths,” he said.
“While a motorbike or scooter might not be in the way when it first pulls up early in the morning, a row of motorbikes parked throughout the day can create a real hazard during the commuter and lunch rush when people are often forced onto the road to get past. Overcrowding creates a real challenge for people with reduced mobility and those using wheelchairs.”
Under the plan, 176 parking spaces would be removed from busy footpaths, the majority of these in close proximity to Southern Cross (92 spaces removed) and Flinders Street (33) stations.
Cr Frances Gilley said the replacement with 151 on-street spots was a win-win.
“We’re creating more safe space for people and providing an alternative place for motorcycle riders to park. As a rider I understand the need for dedicated motorcycle parking and I look forward to using it.”
But the move was not received well by the Motorcycle Riders Association (MRA), which said the plan “did not add up”.
“In spite of a serious lack of rider education on and enforcement of riding-on-footpath and pedestrian obstruction rules, the system has worked very well for 40 years,” spokesman Damien Codognotto said.
“The (council’s) failure to provide adequate on-street and off-street parking and its failure to educate new/visiting riders and courier/fast food companies on footpath rules puts pressure on our footpaths. This pressure is not the fault of riders who commute and/or visit our CBD, it is the fault of city planners.”
Mr Codognotto said the MRA was tired of being blamed for blocking disabled parking bays when rubbish bins were at fault “in the vast majority of cases”.
He also said the group’s calls for secure off-street parking with lockers for protective clothing, like those provided for bicycle riders, had been ignored.
The council expected to lose almost $870,000 each year by converting paid-for parking spaces into free spots for motorcycles.