Campaign launched to rethink separated bike lanes

By Sean Car

A group of Peel St residents and business owners have come together to oppose the way in which the City of Melbourne’s new separated bike lanes are being implemented in the central city. 

The “Save Peel Street” campaign was launched late last year by Peel St resident and business owner Sam White and his neighbour David Kerr, after they and other locals discovered council plans to replace car parking with two-metre-wide bike lanes. 

While the council is understood to have issued a letter to locals in the area in September last year, many residents and business owners claimed they never received the notice of the council’s plan to implement the bike lanes 28 days from the letter’s issue. 

Gathering the support of some 100 residents and business owners in Peel St, the group wrote to Lord Mayor Sally Capp on numerous occasions requesting a meeting to address issues around a loss of car parking, congestion, safety and the bike lane designs. 

And in a letter addressed to the group on December 17 last year, the council’s acting general manager of capital works and infrastructure Joanne Wandel said that following consultation with the group, the council had agreed to retain 36 off-peak car parks. 

A council spokesperson told CBD News that while 43 existing on-street car parking spaces would be removed, there would only be a net loss of 20 car parking spaces in the vicinity of Peel St and an overall net increase of full-time resident priority spaces. 

“Following consultation, many modifications have been made to the designs so that an additional 47 parking spaces could be retained or added in the vicinity of Peel St compared to the original designs,” a council spokesperson said.
“The car parking spaces outlined in the final designs allow for as many resident parking spaces to be retained as possible, balancing the need to provide a variety of parking options such as loading zones and short-term parking spaces for local businesses, mobility impaired residents and for drop-offs.”
“The width of the bike lanes will reduce during off-peak periods to accommodate part-time parking spaces being retained on Peel St. The final designs include the minimum width required for the bike lanes.”

While the changes along Peel St were due to be implemented late last year, the council said works between Haymarket Roundabout and Victoria St would now begin next month, followed by works opposite Victoria St. 

But while the changes represent a small win for the local community from what was originally proposed by the council, residents and businesses say the new off-peak parking restrictions will still impact deliveries and residents with mobility issues. 

With priority now given to cyclists during peak times before 10am and between 3pm and 6pm, the council’s new widened bike lanes have been designed to encourage more cyclists to the city and allow for riders to overtake. 

A retail business owner on Peel St told the council that the 3pm to 6pm no stopping restrictions represented a “huge blow” to what was a peak trading time for customers and deliveries. 

While Peel St is identified in the Melbourne bicycle network as a “critical route” by the City of Melbourne and the Victorian Government, Mr White and Mr Kerr argue wider bike lanes at the expense of vehicle access is not an equitable solution. 

“Nowhere can you say that is this is an equitable outcome for a street that has had parking for 60-plus years and that actually has a working and existing bike lane already,” Mr Kerr said. 

“What they’re trying to do in a way is create an entirely separate road network to our roads. It’s like saying a motorcycle can go on the road but a motorcycle can’t go on this designated road, yet cyclists pay nothing for registration.”

The City of Melbourne is installing protected bike lanes across the central city and surrounds as part of a program to deliver 40 kilometres of new bike lanes in partnership with the Victorian Government.

While the Save Peel Street campaign was launched off the back of immediate issues along Peel St, Sam White said the group would soon be turning its attention to safety and congestion issues caused by the new bike lanes across the city. 

With his business providing services to buildings throughout the CBD, Mr White said there were numerous instances where the implementation of the bike lanes had not been properly thought out. 

One example is the intersection at William and Latrobe streets, where he argued new designated bike lanes had made it difficult for vehicles to move at all, with new wide bike lanes inhibiting vehicles travelling in all directions and making hook turns.   

“Squeezing cars out is not the issue, it’s about the functionality of commuters causing congestion and disorientation,” he said.

The group will soon launch an online campaign calling on the council to review its bike lane program.

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