Plans to clear footpaths of motorbikes

By David Schout

The City of Melbourne has flagged re-marking on-street car parks as motorbike spaces in an effort to alleviate clogged CBD footpaths. 

The move is in response to overwhelming feedback from city residents, workers and visitors of overcrowding when walking around the CBD.

The council estimates that 1300 motorcycles come into the city daily, but the city only accommodates 280 on-street parking spots. 

The lack of parking has meant many motorcyclists are forced to leave their bike on footpaths, something legal only in Victoria. 

Lord Mayor Sally Capp said walking was by far the most popular form of transport around the city and pedestrians should be better cared for.

“Our biggest congestion issue in the CBD is actually on our footpaths,” Cr Capp said on a March 7 3AW interview.

“We have 89 per cent of the trips around the city done by foot. The majority of those people are coming out of our train stations and off our trams.”

Four to six motorcycles can be parked in the space required for a single car, and Cr Capp said the council wanted to see a more “balanced” share of spots to free-up footpaths.

“The feedback we’ve had from the public is that we need to do more to balance the ways that we use our footpaths and to address the different ways people are coming into the city.”

The council is currently undertaking a wholesale review of its transport strategy and last year asked for community feedback to shape its 30-year plan, a draft of which is due in the coming months.

A record 1325 submissions were made during the process – the most it has ever received on any topic.

More than half the respondents on the “walking paper” (one of eight discussion areas) said they had experienced “overcrowding on footpaths”.

The most popular suggestion to combat congestion was to “widen footpaths”.

Motorcyclists, however, will still be able to park their bikes on footpaths under road laws, provided they park just “one motorcycle length from the building line to allow free passage of pedestrians”.

But an increase in parking spaces for motorcycles is likely to coax riders off the footpath given that, unlike for cars, on-street parking is free in the CBD.

While Cr Capp stressed the parking equalisation measures were just one of several “ideas”, the council has previously made clear its intentions to alleviate footpath overcrowding.

Cr Nicolas Frances Gilley, the council’s transport portfolio chair, said in December that the 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.”

Council research estimate that drivers make up 30 per cent of people travelling around the city. However, they take up around 60 per cent of space.

The move is likely to anger motorists, who will feel a further squeeze in the CBD.

The council has made no secret its desire to reduce the number of cars in the CBD, a form of transport it sees as space-inefficient.

Cr Capp said the council’s data indicated the “majority” of CBD car parks weren’t full at any one time, and it was time to make things fair. 

“There will always be spaces for cars in our city. The transport strategy and the feedback we’ve been getting is really about addressing the balance. The majority of the 950,000 people who come into the city per day, come by public transport and then they’re walking around the city.”

The draft transport strategy will be put before council in the coming months.

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