By David Schout
Record feedback from Melburnians has suggested that the CBD is indeed overcrowded and dangerous for cyclists.
The City of Melbourne’s Transport Strategy Refresh received 1325 submissions about the city’s main transport issues and what it can do to improve it – the most feedback the council has ever received on an issue.
“Overcrowded” was the term most-used to describe how people experience walking, public transport and space in the city.
Almost seven in 10 comments (68 per cent) said the Hoddle Grid – where roads make up over half of total space – is struggling to cope with population growth.
A quarter of contributors suggested the congestion contributes to increasingly irritated drivers, who may then undertake risky behaviour.
The feedback was part of eight discussion papers released by the council between April and July last year, with results released in December.
Each paper focused on a different aspect of how we move around the city, and included walking, public transport, motor vehicles, cycling and parking.
The cycling discussion paper, titled Bicycles for Everyday Transport, proved by far the most accessed, with 366 respondents.
The most common experience was of “unsafe and intimidating” conditions.
Melbourne Bicycle Users Group spokesman Nik Dow said the comments reflected a desire to see appropriate cycling infrastructure installed in the CBD.
However, he said that at a policy level, there was still a long way to go.
“Talk is cheap and we have seen strategies in the past that didn’t deliver. We hope that this is going to change under the current council,” Mr Dow said.
Cr Nicolas Frances Gilley, the council’s transport portfolio chair, said the record engagement and feedback had struck a chord.
“People are absolutely saying ‘give us the space to walk, to cross the road, to be safe, to enjoy the trees and the architecture’,” he said.
“They want a city they can get around and enjoy and drink coffee on the sidewalk. We heard it loud and clear.”
Cr Rohan Leppert said the feedback was naturally CBD-centric.
“It’s the area we need to place our highest focus on because that’s where the biggest pressures for space are,” the Greens councillor said.
“Overcrowding is by far the issue that’s come through the consultation. All of the different areas in the discussion papers all come back to the underlying issue of overcrowding and how we make the most of the spaces that we have in the city.”
Cr Jackie Watts was the most outspoken in her comments on the findings, and included a parting shot at upper levels of government.
“If we are to reap the benefits of our international reputation for liveability, we really have to concentrate on transport and haven’t the people wanted to tell us all they know? If only the state government would listen as closely.”
The feedback from the 1325 submissions will inform a draft 30-year transport strategy due in the coming months, with a final strategy due mid-year.