bicycle lane through a tram stop

Super stops on Swanston Street

The city of Melbourne has radically changed Swanston Street over the past 5 years, breaking the north-south route for traffic with the installation of full width tram stops and prohibitions on vehicles passing through them. At 8:00pm just before sunset, this video captures a typical Friday night in the busy city.

From the top of St Kilda Road most traffic is diverted around Swanston Street with the lane markings sending traffic left or right. Outside of peak times some permitted vehicles use the kerbside lane for parking such as these horse and carriage operators which pushes cyclists out to share the other lane with trams. With the sun dipping over the horizon the street lights have come on:

parking on Swanston Street

Obscuring the unproductive “Watch for Bicycles” sign (again used where there are no guidances to suggest it is necessary or productive) is a fantastic example of complex parking signs, even roadsigns that require immediate processing have these convoluted conditions placed on them:

many roadsigns each with numerous conditions

Each of which appears to be a repetition of the previous signs conditions and instructions but leads to a confusing mess. Decoding them, no vehicle may turn right, any vehicle may turn left, bicycles and trams may go ahead, and specially permitted vehicles may go ahead outside of peak times. As with the previous example of the complex parking signs the public is needlessly informed of the permitted operating hours of a few special vehicles, so that the bodies providing the permits are not obliged to enforce them as that is now a traffic offence.

During a poor attempt at a track stand while waiting for the traffic lights to change a pair of cyclists catch up and at the next red light one of them impatiently jumps the stop line through pedestrians crossing against their red light.

cyclists and pedestrians alike ignoring traffic lights

The length of the street is littered with street furniture, mostly of the practical seating kind but sadly much of it is private areas for food outlets. They push against the kerb leaving inadequate space for pedestrians to pass each other and frequently pedestrians will spill out into the road or these stealthy bicycle lanes through lack of space. Three of these “super” stops for trams are shown, “super” as they allow multiple trams to stop simultaneously.

bicycle lane through a tram stop

As is convention with trams in Australia, all traffic including bicycles are obliged to wait behind the tram while the doors are open, which works well when the tram drivers open and close their doors as required for the volume of passengers and not so well when the tram drivers pull up at a red light and then leave their doors open until the light goes green even though there are no passengers getting on or off the tram. So quite why the bicycle lanes are so far from the kerb of the tram stop remains a mystery, when the extra width could have been productively used widening the footpaths.

Finally of note are the 30km/h (19mph) speed limits imposed on this street, very unusual in Australia and very welcome in a place that should have pedestrian priority.

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