Doubt on bike lanes

Right: "Downhill racers" are exposed in LaTrobe St at the Melbourne Central car park entrance.

Right: “Downhill racers” are exposed in LaTrobe St at the Melbourne Central car park entrance.

Physically separated bicycle lanes can be more unsafe than on-street lanes, according to City of Melbourne urban design guru Professor Rob Adams.

Speaking at the Future Melbourne Committee on September 18, Prof Adams said traffic exiting and entering car parks adjacent to such downhill lanes caused accidents.

He was justifying to councillors why a new downhill bicycle lane in Market St was better left unseparated from the roadway.

“The reason for that not be separated, and we pushed for this quite strongly, is the stats on downhill slopes show places like LaTrobe St, where you’ve got entrances coming out of car parking, have actually been the cause for some accidents,” Prof Adams said.

“And that’s the case that our engineers have looked at.  So, it would have been nice to achieve a separated lane here, but the advice is this is a better outcome.”

Asked later whether the council planned to modify the so-called “Copenhagen” bike lanes in LaTrobe St, Prof Adams said no.

“I think the answer to that is: At this stage, no,” he said.  “There’s no reason to change them.”

“But what has become apparent is, where you get a lot of cross-overs from adjacent properties, the sightlines are reduced by having those right up against the kerbside.”

“So, the traffic engineers were concerned.  You’ve got a downhill run here.  You’ve got a driveway with cars coming out of it and, therefore, move it out [into the roadway].”

“But, at this stage, no.  There’s no proposal to change LaTrobe St.”

“I think, as a fulltime cyclist, a lot depends on cyclists to not go flat out down a lane because it happens to be downhill because you are unsighted.”

“And, you know, you need to take some safety precautions yourself.  But, the accidents, while increased, are not at a level that actually cause concern yet.”

Earlier this year, the City of Melbourne released a discussion paper which found that the amount of confident riders would increase from 22 per cent to 83 per cent if physical barriers were installed rather than just painted lanes.

The paper, Bicycles for Everyday Transport, also found that conflict with motorists, constant blocking of bike lanes and a lack of showers and lockers in the workplace discouraged people from cycling.

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