police officers standing on a footpath

Teamwork to clear traffic

The taxis of Melbourne have been getting a good run recently (as previously here and here) and continue pushing their luck parking anywhere they see fit. Despite an exclusive taxi rank along side Flinders Street Railway Station with space for 6 taxis to queue 24 hours a day without restriction they will queue additional vehicles in the road and wait in the bicycle lane on Princes Bridge.

taxi blocking bicycle lane at pedestrian crossing

Here during the evening a bicycle is detouring onto the footpath at the busy pedestrian crossing as the taxi blocks the entire width, it is an offence to ride a bicycle on the footpath (3 penalty units), as it is an offence to stop in a no stopping area (3 penalty units). Later into the evening a bicycle is travelling along the same route.

bicycle rider without lights using a bicycle lane

Only to be faced with a queue of more than 6 taxis all merrily ignoring the no stopping signs.

taxis queuing in a bicycle lane under no stopping signs

Where this gets interesting is that the police were out in force at the Railway Station and adjacent Square, but in fine tradition for Victorian police officers they were standing around chatting to each other rather than observing the area for problems. Victorian drivers know this pattern and are audacious enough to break laws in plain sight of Police officers, as the enforcement of traffic laws is almost non existent. Here is a short video of 2 officers to provide context of their relative positions.

Another group of 4 further officers are off screen but still in line of sight to the taxis, also standing in a group making casual discussion with each other. As always we try to bring you a punchline and this ones a doozy, the Police were prompted into action by request of a passing carriage driver and then rushed to clear the lane of taxis; So the horse drawn carriages could have a clear run past the traffic. The Police instructed the taxis in turn to leave rather than issue fines (possibly why they return with such disregard?) and quickly the way was clear and carriages were running as normal.

horse drawn carriage using bicycle lane

Similar to the bicycle rider ahead this carriage is lacking the required lights but the use of the lane is clearly an offence:

153 Bicycle lanes
(1) A driver (except the rider of a bicycle) must not drive in a bicycle lane, unless the driver is permitted to drive in the bicycle lane under this rule or rule 158.
Penalty: 5 penalty units.
(2) If stopping or parking is permitted at a place in a bicycle lane, a driver may drive for up to 50 metres in the bicycle lane to stop or park at that place.
(3) A driver may drive for up to 50 metres in a bicycle lane if the driver is driving a public bus, public minibus, or taxi, and is dropping off or picking up, passengers.

158 Exceptions to driving in special purpose lanes etc.
(1) The driver of any vehicle may drive for up to the permitted distance in a bicycle lane, bus lane, tram lane, transit lane or truck lane if it is necessary for the driver to drive in the lane
(a) to enter or leave the road; or
(b) to enter a part of the road of one kind from a part of the road of another kind (for example, moving to or from a service road, the shoulder of the road or an emergency stopping lane); or
(c) to overtake a vehicle that is turning right, or making a U-turn from the centre of the road, and is giving a right change of direction signal; or
(d) to enter a marked lane, or part of the road where there is room for a line of traffic (other than motor bikes, bicycles, motorised wheelchairs or animals), from the side of the road.

In this rule
permitted distance means
(a) for a bicycle lane or tram lane 50 metres

but here the Police are complicit in clearing the space for the carriage drivers to use at their request. The arguments have gone back and forth on this since the lanes were installed with disingenuous suggestions from the carriage operators that if they used the unrestricted lane then cars would pass them on the left, which is an offence and the same offence they commit by using the lane. But its clear they want the competitive advantage over the taxis with their misappropriated express route across the river. The council defers all enforcement to the Police who stand behind their motto:

Uphold the Right

As the law seems irrelevant to them, they’ll uphold the much more fluid “right”.

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