Captured here is a typical mid week evening along the Yarra Promenade running along the banks of the Yarra River in front of the Crown Melbourne casino. This is a Wednesday evening at 5:45pm avoiding the busy weekend entertainment crowds, and in the tail end of the evening rush hour. Roll stabilisation has been added to the video leaving the rotating frame indicating how far the bicycle leans.
It is a shared use space operated by the casino and sees excellent management across all aspects from its cleanliness and maintenance, through to co-ordination of events and works. However it is the only bicycle path route east/west across the city, and the alternative on-road bicycle lane (singular) entails a large detour to traverse the city on the other side and through more than a dozen additional traffic lights. With few alternatives, a large number of cyclists use this route to cross the city each day as shown above weaving through the scattered pedestrians.
Predictably there have been calls from pedestrians and the media to restrict or ban cyclists in this section, but without any suggestions of where cycling should occur instead (even with recent suggestions to ban cyclists from Flinders St, the main alternative to this route as seen in the last section of a quieter morning ride). As built the shared path ignores all the guidance for pedestrian and bicycle paths, to measure this a count of the people travelling at this time from the short video outside of peak we can approximate:
In a 6m (20 feet) wide corridor between the trees which after allowing for clearance from those trees and the planters they sit in leaves only 4.8m (16 feet) between the trees for a path. Compare with this report prepared by SKM for an Australian state transport department where they developed a validated model for path width design extending a previous model developed for VicRoads:
This work (complete draft here, with interesting data on cyclist-pedestrian passing gaps) produced design widths based on reducing the number of events where cyclists have to slow before passing other users. Although rather abstracted it captures the essential complaint of many pedestrians feeling uncomfortable when confronted with traffic moving amongst them having 50 times the kinetic energy, as many cyclists feel in traffic which can have a similar factor of 50 difference in energy. The report suggests larger volumes for shared paths than the Austroads guides but this example with the number for off peak use has been added with an “X” to show how far away they are from the applicability of a shared space.
The council are happy to claim this as a bicycle route while simultaneously distancing themselves from the design, as seen with the similar development further west by the Melbourne Convention Centre. Public documents from the councils planning committee (here and here) note that there is a public right of way that should exist within public space extending 30m from the edge of the river but that the space has already been encroached upon. Given the sustained usage patterns seen along this section it is disappointing to have the council still taking a soft touch and leaving the inadequate width path as is especially since it is carrying the majority of the east-west bicycle traffic.