Some balance to the blog today with a look at infrastructure working well in Melbourne by cycling into and across the city from South Yarra Railway Station on Toorak Road, starting a sunny and warm morning before the rush hour peak.
Shown at 10x realtime the 20 minute journey covers 5km turning up St Kilda Road (across the Princes Bridge) and then traversing the city along Fliders Street. For the step by step run-through this begins on a part time bicycle lane which reverts to parking outside the morning peak hour traffic, noting that St Kilda Road also has median tram tracks running in both directions which become a shared traffic lane when cars are parked in the bays. The minor roads here have pedestrian tables at the intersections to slow turning traffic but no pedestrian priority.
After the bicycle lane has finished the road returns to a typical configuration with parallel parking mid-block and interactions tapering out to use the full width. These changes in lane direction and width are somewhat uncomfortable for cycling by needing changing between sharing and solely occupying the lane. The tram tracks depart for a north/south running road before arriving at a signalised pedestrian crossing. Already we can see pedestrians almost equalling the density of road users here and mostly being commuters themselves.
Turning right onto St Kilda Road the sub-standard bicycle lane sandwiches between parked cars and the 60km/h (30mph) traffic, various groups have tried to push for the lane to be relocated behind the parked cars without success and on street parking remains seen as a necessary function of this road. There are many unusual features to this road, the most obvious being the trees lining median strips either side of the central running trams, which also divide the other traffic between lanes running along side the trams and the lanes running alongside the footpath, greatly complicating intersections. Equally atypical the bicycle lane is continued through most of the intersections until reaching an open scramble to access an advanced stopping box at Southbank Boulevard, with a merge of the left turning traffic and the continuing bicycle route.
This then enters the “Arts Precinct” of Melbourne with the largest of Melbourne’s performance and exhibition spaces, before merging all other traffic into a single lane crossing Princes Bridge. Still the pedestrians are outnumbering cars up to here, before reaching one of Melbourne’s largest railways stations at Flinders Street Station. The multiple pedestrian crossings are all signalised to maximise traffic throughput as the steady flow of pedestrians interchanging between trains and trams would otherwise prevent any throughput, notably these areas of Melbourne are so heavily covered with trams no public busses exist.
The top of St Kilda Road continues as Swanston Street which is closed for through traffic other than trams, pedestrians, and bicycles (each with their own phases on the lights) and other traffic is forced to turn left or right. With the large densities of pedestrian traffic in the city and median running trams the road lanes are squeezed at these large protected tram stops where the alternative had been trams stopping traffic in all lanes and unloading their passengers into the cleared traffic lane. Although all the city streets are 40km/h (25mph) there is no automated enforcement and traffic is uncomfortably fast from a bicycle.
Here on the perimeter of the city heading away from the centre of town there is little pedestrian activity as they were trunked quickly into the city near the train station. Returning back onto bicycle lanes the video concludes at the very poor intersection of Flinders Street with Docklands Highway, where the cyclists can be seen choosing to illegally use the pedestrian crossing due to a lack of other options (worthy of a future post).