Pop-up bike lanes to ease looming congestion

By David Schout

The City of Melbourne will install 12 kilometres of pop-up cycling lanes to help the city deal with expected traffic chaos as COVID-19 restrictions ease. 

Facing reduced public transport capacity and gridlock on the roads, workers are being urged by the council to jump onto two wheels to ease the commuter strain.

The temporary lanes will be created by removing on-street parking in busy pedestrian areas, which will also allow for wider footpaths. 

Details on the locations of the new lanes had not been finalised by CBD News’ deadline, although the state’s peak cycling group Bicycle Network advocated their installation on Exhibition, Elizabeth, Little Collins and Little Bourke streets.  

The group has recorded a significant increase in numbers on bike paths throughout Melbourne during COVID-19, and said the move should be a permanent one.

“Bike rider numbers have boomed in Melbourne so it’s great that something is being done to make sure we can keep riding and maintain physical distancing,” CEO Craig Richards said. 

“When restrictions begin to lift we won’t be able to use public transport like we used to. Bike lanes will be a vital part of our new transport mix.”

The decision by Town Hall follows moves by other cities such as Vancouver, Milan, Berlin, Auckland and Paris to install pop-up cycling infrastructure. 

The RACV has also backed the move, calling on other councils to follow the City of Melbourne’s lead. 

“We are concerned that the road network will be overwhelmed with people driving for more trips, causing delays that cost business and frustrate commuters,” senior planner Stuart Outhred said.

“To mitigate this, there is likely to be a need for people to avoid travelling at peak times, to work from home where possible, and ride or walk, especially for short journeys.” 

It reiterated the need to instil safe options for cyclists, and said the move simply made sense. 

“This is a low-risk, low-cost approach to allow people to walk or ride bikes by reallocating road space,” Mr Outhred said.

The council has, for some time now, been strong advocates for commuters swapping four wheels for two. 

However, research conducted as part of its 10-year transport strategy released last year suggested four in 10 people found cycling in Melbourne “unsafe and intimidating”.

As such, it committed to increasing the level of protected cycling lanes from 6km to 50km by the end of 2030. 

Pro-cycling Lord Mayor Sally Capp has said the long-term project would “increase rider safety and encourage more people to ride bikes” •

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